While I always recommend rescheduling your flight if you’re sick, sometimes you don’t have a choice and you need to recover fast.
Nothing is more uncomfortable than traveling with a fever, congestion, or even a headache. The high altitude wreaks havoc on your sinuses and the recycled air is not conducive to supporting your immune system.
With viral infections – such as the cold or the flu – antibiotics are useless because there’s no bacterial infection to kill. Plus, antibiotics kill all of the bacteria in your gut, including the healthy “good bacteria” that is especially needed for travel-related digestion issues. And while over the counter medicine can help reduce the symptoms, they don’t necessary speed up healing – but merely provide you with temporary relief.
So if you are looking for natural ways to help yourself recover faster, without damaging your gut flora, check out my 8 tried and true tricks to get you on that flight feeling like a normal human being.
Sleep It Off
This is the best natural way to help your body fight any illness. Sleeping allows your body to make more white blood cells, which help attack viruses and bacteria in the body. Take the day off from work to rest and sleep for as long as possible. Plus, lack of sleep actually suppresses your immune system so keeping good sleep hygiene is also the best preventative measure against getting sick.
Unless it’s warm outside, it’s hard to actively think about drinking water. But dehydration when you’re sick can not only make you feel worse, but actually delay recovery. Water helps flush out the toxins and germs that your body is trying to get rid of on its own. I like to brew a giant pot of hot water and fill a large stainless steel bottle with it to continue brewing tea throughout the day. You can also use the hot water to dilute your cold, filtered water into warm, room temperature water for easy drinking. To avoid getting bored with water, rotate in your favorite herbal tea, coconut water, or infuse your water with fresh lemon juice (extra vitamin C!) and sliced cucumbers.
Sometimes you need an extra boost to feel better. My two favorite natural supplements are Echinacea and Oil of Oregano. Echinacea has long been used for enhancing your own natural immune response. I swear by this supplement and have healed myself with this while traveling to Peru. Note that Echinacea should not to be taken too often (i.e. daily), but rather as a potent remedy to help your body heal naturally. Oil of oregano has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties making it the ultimate natural antibiotic! Both of these herbs can be taken as liquid or capsule form – I personally prefer the latter because they’re tasteless and travel well.
When you’re sick, your body is already preoccupied with fighting off an infection. Don’t make it work harder by feeding it unhealthy, inflammatory foods such as processed sugars or trans-fats. These foods will force your system to work overtime to put out the cold/flu and process the crappy food you just fed it. Instead, opt for high-quality bone broth, fresh garlic, ginger, turmeric, organic veggies, organic, local honey, and chaga mushroom. My go-to dish is “pho” – a delicious and healthy Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, vegetables, garlic, ginger, and broth.
Healthy gut, healthy body! It’s becoming more apparent with the latest research how important it is to have a healthy gut. From anxiety and depression, to skin issues, to inability to absorb nutrients, it is more important than ever to populate your stomach with healthy bacteria. I personally enjoy kombucha, cultured non-dairy yogurt (such as almond or coconut), and sauerkraut, but there are other options such as kefir, kimchi, and other fermented foods. I also supplement with a daily probiotic with 15 billion CFU’s to fulfill any gaps in case I don’t eat anything cultured on certain days.
I recently discovered the power of essential oils and truly believe in their healing properties. Invest in a quality diffuser – and use the essential oils to help you feel better. I used to make own blends but found this great essential oil blend set that does it all. An added benefit to diffusing is that the moisture from the water adds humidity to your room, which is helpful for congestion. Essential oils are a natural, safe way to disinfect the air to both prevent illness and speed up healing.
Need instant relief? I ALWAYS carry this aromatherapy inhaler from Olbas in my bag. Made with oils of menthol, peppermint, and eucalyptus, this natural inhaler provides fast decongestion and sinus relief – a lifesaver when you’re flying in planes. You can also use this for issues with allergies, low humidity, or air pollution. Trainer Tip: I use this right before working out or taking a yoga class to allow my body to take fuller, deeper breaths.
Herbal Face Steam
If you’re looking for something stronger than a diffuser, I recommend creating your own personal “steam room” by pouring boiling hot water into a large microwave-safe bowl, adding in 5-10 drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil to the water, and then hovering your face over the bowl with a towel covering your head to trap in the steam from the water. I prefer doing this at a table so that I’m not kneeling on the ground, but find whatever position is most comfortable for you and steam for up to 10 minutes.This will help open up your sinuses, allowing you to breathe through the congestion and find relief.
While I wouldn’t recommend running or high-impact training, some low-intensity movement can actually be productive for recovery. A short walk outside for fresh air or gentle yoga/stretching at home can help increase circulation and lymph drainage. Plus, breathing in nature can boost your mood and general well-being, which can translate into faster recovery given the benefits of a positive outlook. I’m a firm believer that there’s a powerful mind-body connection between feeling good mentally and feeling good physically.
Flying in an airplane can be stressful; and being sick before a trip only aggravates that experience even more. Next time you’re starting to feel a tickle in your throat or under the weather, try out these suggestions to naturally find comfort and heal faster. You owe it to yourself to go into your flight feeling your absolute best so that you can enjoy the journey. Is there anything you do to help yourself recover? Share below!