Volume 20 Issue 10 2012-03-09
The long-awaited spring break is just around the corner, and vacation plans are at the top of many students’ minds. Whether you’re taking advantage of travel specials or recharging with a staycation, here are some tips to keep you healthy and happy during your well-deserved break.
No one wants to get sick right before a holiday. Unfortunately, you’re often especially vulnerable when you finally allow yourself a bit of relaxation. Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) is a popular preventative, but these are some other immune-boosters worth checking out:
• Astragalus. The roots of the astragalus plant (Astragalus membranaceus) are prized in botanical medicine, especially traditional Chinese medicine, for their immune-strengthening properties. Astragalus differs from the well-known Echinacea in that it doesn’t boost white blood cell activity; rather, it regulates immunity by strengthening a deficient or weak immune system. The result: the chances of getting sick are significantly reduced. Because botanical medicine works over the longer term, you need to start taking this botanical in advance (dose is approximately 500 mg/day orally).
• Vitamins C and D. Vitamins C and D are necessary for immune function; they both boost immunity and act as important “catalysts” for several immune system reactions to occur. Each day take 1000 mg vitamin C and up to 5,000 IU Vitamin D.
• Oil of oregano. If you feel you’re on the verge of becoming ill, you can look to oil of oregano for its preventive properties. This potent antibacterial/antiviral extract tastes as powerful as it smells. Recommended dosage is up to nine drops per day, starting at three drops to ensure you have no reaction. A word of caution: don’t overdose, and don’t continue supplementation of oil of oregano for more than six weeks continuously, since it can disrupt normal bowel microflora (the “good” bacteria in your intestines).
• Eat right. As always, don’t forget that good nutrition is key to good health. Recent research shows that eating the recommended five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables per day helps prevent infection from colds, flus, and other illnesses.
Travelling during spring break? Consider the following when packing your suitcases:
• Travellers’ diarrhea. If you're headed somewhere warm, you might run the risk of contracting travellers’ diarrhea or a similarly unpleasant stomach bug. There are several ways to help prevent this. First, watch your water consumption; water should either be boiled or from a reputable source. This not only applies to the water you drink, but also to water that you may consume in other ways (like the water you use to rinse your toothbrush or the water used to wash the apple you snack on at the hotel). However, mistakes can happen, and in some situations—like eating out—you have little or no control. The probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii is a specific probiotic strain that actively helps prevent travellers’ diarrhea. It’s a transient strain, meaning that it doesn’t colonize in the intestines on its own. Therefore supplementation with the probiotic is necessary several days prior to, and every day during, your trip. The usual dose is 250 mg per day.
• Got sun? Chances are that you’ve already packed your swimsuit, flip flops, and sunscreen. Protection from harmful UV rays is important, but not all sunscreens are good for you. Be wary of some typical sunscreen ingredients, like the hormone disrupter oxybenzone, and try to avoid the phthalates (which can cause birth defects in males if quantities accumulate in pregnant women). Instead check out more natural sunscreen products Active ingredients like zinc and titanium dioxide can help block UV rays while being easy on your body.
• Bruising and swelling. If you’re planning an active vacation, you’ll want to be prepared in case you suffer a minor injury. Bring along the homeopathic remedy arnica (Arnica montana), which will help counter the symptoms and pain of a bruise or minor injury. Use a 200CH potency, and dose three pellets, three times per day (total of nine pellets daily). Don’t just swallow the pellets; allow them to melt under your tongue.
Enjoy your break, and stay well!
Katie D’Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.