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Staying Healthy on the Road: Travel Tips

For an interview by Women's Radio Network, feel free to click here.

In December 2011, I took my first major international trip in years.  For 2 ½ weeks, I travelled around Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.  Not only did I have the most amazing time freely floating where ever the wind took me, relishing the fresh and flavorful food, and basking in the decompressed glow of time away, but I also got to test out first-hand all the travel advice I give my patients.  And much to my great relief, it all works!

Travelling offers unique challenges to our health:  different food, different micro-organisms, different air, irregular sleep, and long plane flights, to name just a few.  So how do you prepare for the expectedly unexpected?  Do you worry about all the things you might catch?  If you did that, you would probably never leave home.  Instead, you support your immune system so it can keep you healthy no matter what little critters you encounter.

Both Eastern and Western Medicine agree that it is in the digestive tract where we receive the nutrients necessary to bolster and support all bodily functions including fighting off disease. And from the stomach, according to Chinese Medicine, the Lung Channel begins. This is to say that the health of your lungs, a major component of your immune strength, depends completely on the strength of your digestion.

Tips for Healthy Digestion While Traveling

  •  If there are questions about the cleanliness and safety of the local water:
    • Drink only sealed bottled water.  If that is still questionable, drink only carbonated beverages—micro-organisms cannot live in carbonation;
    • Eat only cooked foods;
    • Eat only fruit with peels;
    • Avoid ice cubes in drinks.
  • Avoid all dairy products (advice that is true for travelers and non-travelers alike).  Simply put: cow milk is for cows, goat milk is for goats, and human milk is for humans. And we all stop drinking it after we are infants. Dairy is replete with loads bacteria and viruses that survive the pasteurization process and is very hard on our digestive system and as such can distract our overall immune function further compromising our health.
  • Avoid coffee (advice that is true for travelers and non-travelers alike).  Coffee/Decaf is highly acidic and inflammatory and is linked to various cardio-vascular disease and other inflammatory conditions.
  • Minimize your sugar intake (advice that is true for travelers and non-travelers alike). Sugar feeds all micro-organisms.  If you feed the bugs, the bugs stick around and grow stronger. 
  • Keep the bowels flowing.  Eat plenty of fiber and drink plenty of water.  Irregular bowel function is one the first signs of a digestive imbalance which can then hamper your immune system’s ability to fend off a new attack.   

Tips for Healthy Lung Function While Traveling

The mucus membranes of your sinuses and your lungs need to stay moist so bugs cannot grab hold and set up camp.  And when we fly, the dry air can easily dehydrate us setting the stage for two heavy duty pathogens:

  • Mold:  Anywhere you find cool air and condensation like in the air conditioning systems on planes, you stand a good chance of encountering mold—a pathogen that is incredibly toxic to our health. 
  • Heavy metals in the jet fuel.  Diesel jet fuel contains several heavy metals that can profoundly compromise our immune system.

Both of these pathogens can affect us so quietly that we overlook them when experiencing jet lag, when we “catch a cold” two days into our trip, or when we notice symptoms like headaches or fatigue following plane flights.  And if you have any previous exposure to them through mercury-based dental amalgams or water damage from leaks at home, then you may be even more susceptible to their ill-effects from a new exposure on a plane. 

Tips for flying:

  • Close the overhead vent blowing on you;
  • Drink a liter of water every 2-3 hours;
  • Take travel size bottles of saline rinse to rinse your sinuses every hour.  Look for NeilMed or Ocean at your local drugstore.  Salt kills most microbes, it can draw down sinus cavity inflammation and the rinsing also keeps your sinuses moist.
  • Be careful touching things on the plane and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  Bring products like Purell.

Acknowledging Reality

If you are traveling to far off exotic lands, be sure to consider health warnings from the US State Department, Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

Travelling is all about having a good time and seeing the world. And the health bottom line is that it is hard to avoid catching a bug here and there.  But you can certainly do what you can to strengthen your health so if you do catch something it does not ruin your trip or knock you out for a few days.

How I Can Help

Prior to any plane flights, domestic or international, I recommend that you come in for 3 to 4 acupuncture treatments to boost your immune system and clear any health issues that may hamper your wellness while away.  Then just before you hit the road, I’d give you a brand new Chinese herbal formula that adapts your current course of herbal treatment to your immediate goals of traveling.  In this new formula, we will protect your immune system by:

  • Regulating your digestion;
  • Moistening your lungs to protect against dryness on plane flights;
  • And include broad spectrum anti-microbial herbs to fight off any potential infection you may encounter.

Travel safely and travel in good health!

For some sagely overall travel tips, please visit We Said Go Travel.


© Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The information presented here is not medical advice, is not intended as medical advice, and is intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of this information.

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This site and any articles on this site are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice and are intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of the information on this site and any articles.