Travel Bugs

Immune | June 8, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


Travel Bugs

Nobody wants to get sick whilst they are travelling but unfortunately the risk of this happening is high, often ruining a good holiday or interfering with work schedules.

Why does it happen

travel bug crowdsObviously traveling on a plane, a crowded bus or train or enjoying a cruise with a thousand others will increase your susceptibility of catching a virus.

New viruses or illness from other parts of the world can attack an unsuspecting immune system and an exhausted body may have no fight left in it.

What can you do?

Build immunity before you travel

Having a healthy immune system is the best thing to do to stop opportunist bugs from thwarting your plans. There are a few natural therapies that can help.

Probiotics. Taking a probiotic or/and increasing your intake of probiotic rich foods can help build up your intestinal mucosal defences system. Probiotics have the ability to block pathogenic bacteria and toxins from adhering to the intestinal wall, supporting barrier function and stimulate the immune response from the intestinal cells.

Probiotics are defined as ‘live microorganisms which, when consumed in adequate amounts as part of food, confer a health benefit on the host’. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces are three extensively studied and commonly used probiotics in humans and animals.

Probiotics support the health of the intestinal wall, supporting intestinal cell survival, enhancing barrier function, and stimulating the protective responses from intestinal epithelial cells[1]. Probiotic foods include yoghurt, tempeh, natto, kefir, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut.

travel bug relaxRelax before you go - sound ridiculous I know but giving yourself some down time from your work or busy life schedule before you actually travel can help your immunity. Having to organise packing, pets, work commitments and the house will actually give you more stress.

One study found that stress can make you more susceptible to the common cold [2]. So allow extra free time to get prepared.

Write a list. Being organised will help you feel less stressed. Write down what you have to do, what you have to purchase and from where, and who you have to contact. Tick off as you go.This will give you the confidence that you are covering all aspects of your travel.

Are you eating enough fruit and vegetables? Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals; micronutrients needed to support the health of the body. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an intake of five to eight portions (400-600 g) daily of fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, poor cognitive performance, and other diet-related diseases, as well as for the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies. Antioxidants and phytochemicals from fruit and vegetables are considered the nutrients needed for the prevention of disease[4].travel bug hand wash

Don’t forget to wash your hands at every opportunity!

Seems simple but it can make a big difference to avoiding virus contaimination. Get in the habit before you travel.

What to take with you

It is often more advantageous to take an arsenal of supplies for prevention and "just in case”, but you don’t want to have to take extra baggage for everything you might happen to need. So some wise picking is needed

Tea tree or eucalyptus oil, wipes or sprays. These are handy for so many things. Give your room a going over when you first arrive or any time the need arises, can be used for sniffles, or as a rub for sore joints and muscles, or as a first aid treatment for cuts and abrasions. Many essential oils and plant extracts have been found to possess, in vitro studies, antibacterial and antifungal activity and a wealth of in vitro data supports the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil [5,6,7].

travel bugsElectrolytes - not only in case of diarrhoea and vomiting but also handy if visiting a hotter environment to help prevent dehydration.

Ginger is not only good for travel sickness but also for any nausea or upset tummy. This can happen because of a change of diet or over indulging in food and beverages [8].

Probiotics You can easily get probiotics that don’t require refrigeration nowadays and there are some specific varieties for travellers available.

Zinc and C these two products may be useful to stop a virus in its tracks so a ‘must have’ as a first line of defence. Look for lozenges or chewable forms and suck when travelling in confined spaces with lots of people (planes, trains, buses and tour groups)[9]. 

Nasal sprays can be particularly helping to keep moisture in the nose which helps prevent bugs from entering. Choose one with eucalyptus or tea tree for added protection.

Multi vitamin if you feel your diet will be compromised taking a multivitamin can help cover some potential deficiencies.

Herbs to help

It is always helpful to have something on hand if you do start to feel unwell. A health food shop or pharmacy is not always close. Some choices include:

Echinacea is always a first choice for any infection in the body. One study Echinacea purpurea was found to prevent the common cold, to reduce the length of infection with the common cold and reduce post viral complications [10].

Elderberry has a beneficial effect by the stimulating immune response and preventing viral infection. It can be taken as liquid, capsules or lozenges as a defence against infection [11]

Olive leaf possesses antioxidant and antimicrobial activities making it a useful herb to take whilst travelling[12].

Build your immunity, reduce your stress, and choose a few specific supplements to take with you. Stay well and have a wonderful trip!


  1. Probiotics and immune health
  2. A cohort study of stress and the common cold.
  3. The Effect of Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption on Overall Diet: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
  4. The Health Potential of Fruits and Vegetables Phytochemicals
  5. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties
  8. Is ginger beneficial for nausea and vomiting? An update of the literature.
  9. A combination of high-dose vitamin C plus zinc for the common cold.
  10. Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold.
  11. Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions.
  12. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of individual and combined phenolics in Olea europaea leaf extract.


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