No doubt that everybody wants to stay healthy while traveling, particularly while COVID-19 is such a large concern in many parts of the world. Staying healthy on the road actually starts at home. I interviewed Kelly Blanchard, a longtime certified LMP and healthcare worker regarding her own practices and what she does to boost the immune system, both for travel and daily life.
From vitamins to beneficial foods, essential oils to self-care routines, there are countless ways that we can all give our bodies the best immune support possible. Read on (and give a listen) to get ideas for easy tips to stay healthy and support your immune system. And check out our article about keeping kids healthy too!
Note: I am not a health care professional and the following is not to be considered professional medical advice. Kelly, who is interviewed here, does work in the healthcare industry in close contact with primary care providers, but she is not an MD and provides her advice from a place of both personal and professional experience, yet not as professional medical guidance.
What you'll find...
- Signs of a Strong Immune System
- Daily Actions for the Best Immune Support
- Ways to Boost the Immune System Naturally
- Travel Options to Protect our Health
Signs of a Strong Immune System
Yes, I like to think that I have a strong immune system because I don’t get the flu every year like a lot of people do, but that’s not the only way to know if you’re immune system is strong.
If you can travel and come home just as healthy as when you left, you might have a strong immune system… or you just are really good at steering clear of people and washing your hands. If your kids go to school and none of you ever get the cold bug that’s making its way around… you might have a strong immune system or you might just be lucky.
Just because you think you’re plenty healthy and strong doesn’t mean you don’t need to treat your body well and boost your immunity at every chance.
Indications that you have a strong immune system are actually visible when you’re body is fighting off a bug. For example:
- getting a runny nose or becoming phlegmy is a sign that you’re battling a sickness, that your immune system is working
- getting a bit sick but then getting over it quickly (less than a week) shows that your body can do its job and keep working
- even a fever can be an indication that you have a strong immune system.
The key to it is understanding if you’re fully recovering or not and how well.
And that’s when I turn it over to the doctors in the world to help people understand how to best manage their health and recovery when they aren’t able to bounce back to normal quickly or feel like they’ve been impacted beyond what they might expect. The thing to know is that when your immune system is working properly, you’ll still get sick from time to time, but you can recover.
Again, if you have concerns about recovery or being immunocompromised, talk to your doctor. That’s what they’re there for.
Daily Actions for the Best Immune Support
Keeping your immune system strong is your first line of defense against many illnesses and disease all through life. Getting into the practice of eating the right foods and using supplements that benefit your body is step one to keeping healthy. And yes, it’s a daily life thing to maintain healthy habits and to treat your body well, not just something you do leading up to a trip or while you’re on vacation.
Best Vitamins for Immune Support
Before anything else… Always eat before taking vitamins. Because vitamin supplements are so concentrated, no matter what vitamins you take to boost your immune support, if you take them on an empty stomach it’s very likely you’ll feel nauseous or even throw up. So cut that problem off at the pass and eat before taking your vitamins and supplements.
Zinc lozenges are a great vitamin supplement to support your immune system. Zinc is known to help fight cold and flu bugs, and is recommended by doctors to bolster the bodies defenses. Zinc lozenges are an easy chewable vitamin supplement that even kids can take (following guidelines from a doctor or product directions).
I don’t love lozenges, so I prefer to drink my zinc. This Immune Boost mix is awesome for getting vitamins and it doesn’t taste funky.
Foods to Boost the Immune System Naturally
If you’re not into doing a daily vitamin supplement or want to chew up immune support gummies each morning, you can always work on building out your diet and meal plans to incorporate the best foods to support your immune system. Garlic, spinach, turmeric and eggs are easy foods to incorporate into your daily diet to ensure you’re getting the right vitamins. Consider cooking as one of the best home remedies for immune support.
Fresh garlic is great for supporting the immune system because it is full of antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and aging. It’s also been used to help the body rid itself of or ease heavy metal toxicity. And it’s delicious.
Spinach is high in iron which supports blood health and helps your body circulate oxygen properly. It’s loaded with vitamins C and B which support immunity and cell growth, and it’s also high in potassium, which helps your bones stay strong. And it’s great for your eyes.
If you’re not into greens but want the benefit, here’s an option for the vitamins and support without actually eating spinach straight up.
Turmeric is another food you can add to many dishes, especially breakfast eggs, to give your body a boost. Turmeric is good for both immune support and mental health. Curcumin, the compound found in turmeric, is known to help with inflammation, which is often what makes people not feel their best. I know for myself and helping to easy the pains of diverticulitis, I regularly integrate turmeric and I’ve seen its effects consistently.
Farm fresh eggs are a wonderful addition to your diet, and they provide a ton of nutritional value and vitamins that you don’t get from regular eggs. The color of the yolks in
Warm lemon water is another easy tip to boost your immunity. Lemon helps to make your internal biome more alkaline which makes it difficult for certain bugs to take hold. There’s also a ton of vitamin C in lemons. I love this health quote from LifeHack.org: “Vitamin C is like our immune system’s jumper cables, and lemon juice is full of it.”
Herbal Supplements Known for Immune Support
Herbal remedies have been around for thousands of years. Growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 90s, herbal and homeopathic remedies were NOT something I was aware of outside of being told that they were all hoo hoo. Now, as an adult that can read for myself and have my own life experiences, I know that there’s something to herbal remedies. Gentle healing is better than harsh chemicals.
Note: as you read articles and scholarly work around herbal medicine, there are endless disclaimers about things not being proven or stating that herbal remedies aren’t medication. Well, take those disclaimers with a grain of salt, as the modern pharmaceuticals and the 20th century still have a strong hold on people’s ability to accept the medicines and help the earth gives us.
If you read up on herbal medicines you’ll see a lot of mention of echinacea and elderberry. Echinacea is known for combatting viruses, such as the common cold, and used to be THE go-to herbal remedy for lots of other things too… until pharmaceuticals started manufacturing other drugs and antibiotics. Just because there are chemical options doesn’t make echinacea any less effective than it was long ago.
Another really popular supplement to boost your immune system is elderberry. Like with turmeric, elderberry is known for its ability to help ease inflammation… which is so often the cause of discomfort, pain, and illness. It’s full of antioxidants that help keep your insides clean and ready to fight infection. Elderberry is a great immune booster.
There are many more, but these two herbal supplements are considered some of the best and most accessible choices for immune system support.
Ways to Boost the Immune System Naturally
What you put into your body is super important, of course, but so is how you treat your body. From how you choose to be active to the environment you’re in, many factors have an impact on the strength of your immune system.
Sunshine to Boost Vitamin D
One of the best immune boosters is sunlight. Yes, you want to be wary of too much sun and sun protection is very important, but also getting the right amount of sunlight does wonders for your body. Even just five minutes of sunshine can help the body produce vitamin D, which acts as an immunity booster, and continues to do good in many ways,:
- Vitamin D helps strengthen bones
- it’s thought to fight MS and autoimmune disorders
- Sunlight helps your body produce serotonin (makes you feel happy)
- it helps you sleep better
Sunlight is good for humans just like it’s good for plants. The right amount can have lots of positive effects, but too much can be harmful.
Remove Stress that Wears on You
Stresses in life can start to wear on you. Physical, mental and emotional stress sends your body into panic mode. By relieving stress you’re allowing your body all of its resources to fight illness. Stress relief is a great natural immunity booster!
Massage is a great way to help relieve stress. In addition to reducing physical tension, massage increases blood flow and helps your body to release toxins (so drink lots of water to flush them out!)
Travel, normally, would also be a great way to reduce stress as it helps you break from the pressures of daily life and gives your mind a new perspective. Also, travel tends to include fun experiences that cause your body to release endorphins that give you energy and make you happy. The act of traveling can be a wonderful stress reducer, thus supporting immune strength.
Travel also opens you up to new germs as you visit new places, so be sure to manage yourself well so you can stay healthy while traveling.
Sleep to Boost Immunity
Your body uses sleep to recharge, yes, but did you know that when you sleep your body is also producing and releasing proteins that your immune system uses to fight infection and inflammation? It’s true that sleep does more than just reset your mind for the day, but sleeping is actually a natural remedy for boosting immune support. How cool is that? Taking a nap helps you fight off sickness!
When we’re babies we totally get it and sleep extra when we don’t feel good. And then we turn into adults and feel like we have to press through to show our worth, all the while making our bodies work extra hard to fight off bugs that could leave us much quicker if we just had some rest.
You have my permission to use the argument that naps make you a better worker anytime.
Travel Options to Protect our Health
When you think about health and safety and how travel has changed in 2020, you have to be cautious about transporting or picking up germs along the way. A lot of people are taking the approach of road trips instead of flights these days. Just like when we moved across the country in 2020 we drove and stayed in a camper the whole way to minimize our interactions with others and keep both our family and those we might meet safe.
Choosing to stay away from others, both at home and in travel, is a selfless thing we can choose to do. When you consider those you may interact with, including older family members, it’s important to take into account the germs you may be bringing into their home. Opting for a road trip over flying gives you more control over your interactions and limits the germ exposures.
Health Precautions You Can Take When Traveling
Taking time to minimize things, from the busy travel schedule you think you need to the working on the road, freeing up your mind-space and destressing is, in itself, a health precaution. I mentioned above how stress wears down the immune system, so changing how we approach travel to let it be a more calm experience can help us stay healthy out in the world.
Note: being intentionally calm and minimalistic in travel does NOT mean letting your guard down. It means letting stressors roll off your back and away versus holding onto them and investing energy in them.
Washing hands is one of the best things to come out of 2020. Everyone’s awareness of hand washing has become heightened. As a parent, I realized that before this year I hadn’t put a solid effort into teaching the kids to wash their hands frequently. Yes, we have always washed up, but being intentional in the amount of time you’re working the soap across your hands and really getting your hands clean, that’s new for us. And that behavior is here to stay.
Allow yourself to be exposed to controlled germs. While we are anxious about getting the wrong germs, the dangerous ones such as COVID-19, there are good germs too. Still being active in the world around us, albeit not necessarily close interactions with other humans, does have a positive impact on the body’s immune system. Exercising caution around other humans is important, but learning about and understanding how germs affect us is new for many and is a good thing to embrace.
If you take anything from all of this talk about boosting your immune system and thinking about health as a part of your daily life, consider this: you are responsible for your own health, but can also have an impact on the health of those around you. In all you do, consider the most vulnerable of those around you and act in their best interest. Yes, be conscious and work to strengthen your immunity, but remember that others around you may be having their own health struggles or are immunocompromised.
I love talking about health and sharing what I do for myself and my family, and I love having friends who work in or directly with healthcare providers. If you have additional information about what you do to support your own immune system and heath, please send us a note or leave a comment. Thank you for being a part of this important conversation about health!