Avoid food poisoning, travel sickness and a host of other common holiday ailments with our ten tips for a healthy holiday.
A well-planned diet and a first aid kit of supplements won't necessarily spare you from holiday health upsets - but they will reduce your risk of some common complaints. Have a look at your holiday itinerary, and consider adding the relevant items to your shopping list.
1. Plan ahead
If you're travelling abroad there's a lot to think about. Start preparing for your trip by reading up on the latest health and safety advice for the country you're planning to visit.
Travellers' diarrhoea may affect people travelling to areas that they are not familiar with. It is usually the result of a viral or bacterial infection caused by consuming contaminated food or water and can affect as many as 6 out of any 10 travellers. If you are prone to stomach upsets, you might want to take a probiotic supplement before, during and after your trip. Look out for one containing acidophilus or bifidus cultures, or a mixture of the two.
Motion sickness isn't much fun, so avoid large meals for at least two hours before travelling. Eat light, non fatty food and avoid anything that might upset your stomach. Try these bumper oat cookies - studies show fresh or preserved ginger may be effective at preventing and treating the nausea associated with travel sickness and mild vertigo. It takes effect almost immediately and has none of the side effects of conventional drugs, such as drowsiness or blurred vision. Chamomile tea can also help calm an upset stomach.
4. Drink plenty of water
If you're flying, remember that the air that you breathe on the plane is drier than normal, so it will increase your risk of dehydration, making jet lag worse. Drink plenty of water, at least 200ml for every hour you're in the air. It's probably best to stick with still water rather than fizzy, which can leave you feeling bloated.
Don't stop when you get to your destination – drinking plenty of water is essential in the first few days of your holiday as that's when you are most susceptible to sunstroke. Symptoms include fatigue, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting. Check by looking at your urine – it should be a light yellow colour. If it's dark yellow, you need to drink some more water.
5. Don't drink alcohol and fly
If you have problems sleeping on a long-haul flight, avoid the temptation to use a few drinks as a sedative. You'll feel the effect of alcohol faster and you're more likely to get a hangover. Drinking alcohol and caffeine can make jet lag worse. Opt for plain water, juice, decaffeinated tea or coffee or pack a few herbal teabags in your hand luggage just in case!
Magnesium is a good general tonic for calming the nerves, which can ease travel sickness. Find it in whole grains, nuts, legumes, dark geen leafy vegetables and shellfish. Peppermint (in all its forms) is also a helpful antidote for travel sickness. Try drinking peppermint tea or inhaling the oil from a tissue.
7. Eat to beat jet lag
The right foods can help you adjust to a new time zone and reduce jet lag after a long-haul flight. If you need to get to sleep, avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar. A meal rich in the amino acid tryptophan (such as cottage cheese or turkey) may help in the production of serotonin – a neurotransmitter in the brain that can help sleep. If you need to stay awake, choose a protein-rich meal such as an omelette and remain hydrated. Taking naps for over four hours makes it harder to adjust. Soon after you arrive adjust your watch and other routines such as eating and sleeping to local time arrival.
Studies suggest that selenium can help prevent sun damage to skin cells. Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium - just four nuts provide more than the recommended daily amount. Beta-carotene (found in red and orange fruit and veg), lycopene (found in tomatoes) and lutein (found in kale, payaya and spinach) may also help to protect your skin. Don't forget – diet alone won't be effective, so don't forget to pack the sun block and use it regularly, throughout the day, when exposed to sunlight. See the NHS website for more information on sunscreen.
9. Prevent sunburn
Sunburn results from over exposure to the sun. It can range from mild redness to severe blistering of the skin, shivering and a temperature. Sunburn is best avoided because it speeds up ageing and increases the risk of cancers. Aloe vera, chamomile and calendula creams all soothe the skin and help speed up the healing process. Look for preparations containing at least 20% aloe vera to be sure you are getting the benefits of its properties. Prickly heat can turn a hot summer's day into an itchy nightmare. Some people find that taking a supplement of quercetin, a natural antihistamine, helps prevent prickly heat by dulling the allergic reaction that causes it. Foods that are naturally rich in quercetin include apples, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, green beans, leeks and peas.
10. Wear insect repellent
Although many people swear by eating lots of garlic and taking a vitamin B supplement to stop mosquitoes and midges from biting, there is no scientific evidence to show that either are effective. Experts believe that whether or not you're a tasty meal option for mossies and midges comes down to genetics, not what you eat, so wearing an insect repellent is wise! Topical treatments can ease pain and itching and also help skin to heal. Lavender or tea tree oil can soothe itching.
This article was last reviewed on 15 January 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
A qualified nutritionist (MBANT), Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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