Keeping Healthy on Holiday

by Paula Werrett, Nutritional Therapist, Dip ION, MBANT

It’s that time of year again – you’ve been looking forward to it for months, but then your holiday is spoiled because you pick up the local tummy bug or eat something that disagrees with you?

It’s not really surprising that we get ill on holiday – long flights, staying in a new environment, eating unusual food and recovering from long periods of stress can all make us more vulnerable to infection when away from home. Fortunately there’s a lot you can do to minimise the risk of becoming ill while on holiday.

1. Be Careful What You Eat

When you are staying in an exotic location, it’s tempting to tuck into all those exciting new foods, but being a little cautious about what you eat could mean that you enjoy your holiday more in the long run. Foods to be careful of include tap water, fresh fruits and salads that have been washed in local water, ice cubes and foods sold by street sellers. Always ensure that meat is very well cooked and where possible opt for freshly cooked foods (such as omelettes) rather than foods that have been sitting around as part of a buffet.

2. Keep well hydrated

It’s easy to get dehydrated when we’re on holiday mainly because we drink more alcohol than usual and are exposed to extended periods in the sun. Symptoms of dehydration include (in addition to thirst), headaches, lethargy, dizziness, clammy hands and a furry tongue. If left unchecked dehydration may eventually lead to heat stroke so to maintain fluid levels drink plenty of bottled mineral water and go easy on the alcohol. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink as by that time most people are already very dehydrated. If you are intending to drink more alcohol than usual consider taking a liver tonic such as Milk Thistle to minimise any unpleasant side effects.

3. Take Probiotic Supplements and Grapefruit Seed Extract

Probiotic supplements can boost immunity in the gut helping to protect against traveller’s diarrhoea. Solgar produce a version which don’t need to be refrigerated and so are ideal for taking away. Similarly grapefruit seed extract can provide protection against bacterial or parasitic tummy infections. For maximum protection take both these supplements all through your holiday period.

4. Boost your immune system with Echinacea and Vitamin C

Echinacea and vitamin C are potent immune boosters that can help protect you against airborne bugs and viruses that you may be exposed to on the airplane or at your holiday destination. Taking these supplements for a few weeks prior to departure as well as during your holiday will provide you with the best immune protection. It is helpful to take the vitamin C in a powdered form and if you feel like you are getting a cold while away, take 500 – 100mg in a glass of mineral water every 2 hours until symptoms subside.

What to do if you do get ill

If the worst happens and you do get ill, then get plenty of rest, eat lightly and drink plenty of bottled mineral water. If vomiting or diarrhoea is severe or continues for more than a day or two seek medical advice and take rehydration preparations (such as dioralyte, or electrolade) to replace lost electrolytes. It may also be helpful to pack some dry crackers in your suitcase so that you have something bland to nibble on while you are recuperating.


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