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Pack these snacks, says nutritionist


Travelers have a bunch of pathogens to dodge this winter, including the “tripledemic” of infections brought on by Covid-19, flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

But there are steps people can take to scale back their possibilities of getting sick, say health specialists at Spain’s SHA Wellness Clinic.

The secret is to develop “a resilient immune system that may defend itself from attack by viruses and bacteria,” said Dr. Vicente Mera, SHA’s head of genomic medicine.

What to eat

“A very powerful thing is nutrition,” Mera said.

But drastic weight-reduction plan is not crucial, he added. Moderately, travelers can simply eat whole, plant-based foods, which might help decrease inflammation, he said.

Fiber in plant-based foods also helps the gut microbiome “fight pathogens that enter or are activated through the digestive tract,” he said.

Dr. Vicente Mera, Melanie Waxman and Philippa Harvey of SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain.

Source: SHA Wellness Clinic

Eating a nutrient-dense food regimen is the highest suggestion from Melanie Waxman, an integrative nutrition specialist and eating coach at SHA Wellness Clinic.

Meaning eating “a lot of vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs, beans, sea vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and fermented foods,” she said.

What to pack on a plane

Waxman said travelers should snack on alkaline foods to combat acidity that is often brought on by air travel. She beneficial these easy-to-pack foods:

  • Toasted nori snacks: “Great for travelling as they’re light and straightforward to hold in small packs. Nori is alkaline and provides a very good source of vitamin C, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, protein and minerals.”
  • Quick miso soup: “Incorporates all of the essential amino acids … and restores useful probiotics to the intestines … great for flights and in hotel rooms as you simply have to add boiling water to the sachet.”
  • Spirulina powder: “Full of calcium and protein. It has a high chlorophyll content … is very useful after spending hours in airplane cabins. The flavour might be strong so add it to a refreshing vegetable juice … [or take] as a capsule.”  
  • Plum balls: “A beautiful travel companion, as they’re extremely alkaline, filled with minerals that help increase energy, aid digestion, boost immunity and improve liver functions … the balls are available in a container and are easy to pack in a cabin bag.”

A fermented plum, called umeboshi in Japanese, might be added to a cup of tea on a flight. It’s a “very sour plum that has been fermented for no less than three years,” said SHA Wellness Clinic’s Melanie Waxman.

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Waxman recommends drinking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of water before breakfast. The vinegar is “a robust immune booster … filled with probiotics,” she said.

For breakfast, a “wonderful” alternative is oatmeal topped with berries, chia seeds and flax seeds, she said.

“Oats actually help the body produce melatonin more naturally,” she said. “Oats contain amino acids, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium and sophisticated carbs … berries pack a punch of vitamin C, and the seeds provide extra omega-3 and protein.”

Jet lag

To combat jet lag, Waxman recommends taking more vitamin C.

She recommends eating sauerkraut, each before and after flying. “Fermenting cabbage causes the vitamin C and antioxidant levels to skyrocket,” she said.

Fresh vegetable juice can be great for immunity and jet lag recovery, she said.

Getting enough sleep

Sleep and immunity are closely linked, Mera said.  

“Restful sleep strengthens nature immunity,” he said, adding that poor quality, or quantity, of sleep increases the probabilities of falling sick.

Individuals who average lower than six hours of sleep an evening, or 40 hours per week, have “a serious risk of illness,” he said.

Exercise — but don’t overdo it

Moderate exercise strengthens the immune system, Mera said.

But “half-hour a day is good enough,” he said. “Prolonged intense exercise can suppress the immune system.”

To avoid suppressing the immune system, travelers shouldn’t exercise to the purpose of exhaustion, said Dr. Vicente Mera, head of genomic medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic.

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Examples of useful exercise include running, walking, swimming and cycling, he said.

Supplements, for some

Studies indicate that certain supplements — corresponding to vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, garlic, echinacea and green tea — may strengthen the body’s immune response, Mera said.

But, he said, they don’t seem to be crucial for everybody.

“It only compensates for nutrient deficiencies, which often occur when nutrition is insufficient, or the immune system could be very depressed,” he said.

Other recommendations

To strengthen the immune system, Waxman also suggests Epsom salt baths (“magnesium is well absorbed through the skin”), using essential oils (“especially lavender, eucalyptus or tree tree oil”), drinking loads of water and cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

Mera added that relieving stress and anxiety is critical to immune health. He recommends meditation, yoga, tai chi and mindfulness to higher manage emotions.

Philippa Harvey, head of SHA’s traditional Chinese medicine department, said travelers should start taking steps to strengthen their immune systems about per week before traveling.

“In TCM when someone is healthy and blissful we are saying they’ve good qi, pronounced ‘chee'” she said.

She recommends eating foods which can be in season, especially garlic and ginger within the autumn and winter.

She also recommends exercise and acupressure to remain healthy.

“Before we travel, a pleasant brisk walk in fresh air is the only solution,” she said.

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