Five Easy Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

We were so young and naive when we started traveling. We though long and hard about what we thought we would need and were so confident we had everything when we set out. However, we have since come to realize we have a lot of things that we don’t need and don’t have a lot of things that we do need. Simple things. Like itch cream. There are a lot of biting bugs in Cambodia and it never occurred to us to buy itch cream. We have learned a lot by trial and error and that includes how we stay healthy while traveling. Of course, they are great tips even if you are not traveling and they can be used in everyday life to help you stay healthy!

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is so important for so many reasons and staying adequately hydrated will help you enjoy the most of any travel activities that you have planned. One word of caution, make sure you can drink the water in the countries you visit. We have learned that drinking tap water is a very North American thing, many other countries simply do not do it. In countries from Panama and Brazil to Thailand, Cambodia and Turkey, we could not drink the water at all and had to rely exclusively on bottled water. Water helps prevent constipation and staying adequately hydrated helps flush out toxins and keeps your kidneys and liver functioning well. It also helps prevent headaches, boosts your mood, keeps joints and cartilage well lubricated- all important things when you are spending your days on your feet touring the sights of a new town or country.


Keep Your Gut Happy

Hippocrates had it right when over 2000 years ago he stated that “all disease begins in the gut” so be sure to keep your gut happy and functioning well. When eating while traveling you expose yourself to many new kinds of bacteria. Not all of them are bad, they are just different and while your body has learned to adapt to the bacteria you are exposed to on a daily basis at home, it may not know what to do with the new bacteria. This can lead to a whole range of digestive unpleasantness. Fortunately, keeping your gut healthy will help it fend off any offensive bacteria and will keep everything in working order. Fiber is an important part of gut health, not only does it provide food for the healthy bacteria in your gut, but it also acts as a broom, sweeping the bad stuff out of your intestines and keeping them healthy. Yogurt or other fermented foods (kimchi, kombucha) also provide your gut with strong, healthy bacteria that act as defenders of the gut and help keep you healthy when traveling!

Use Common Sense

Avoid foods that you would avoid at home. When eating out, make sure your food is hot, hot, hot and steer clear of anything at room temperature. Avoid unpasteurized dairy, anything with mayonnaise that has been sitting out, and buffets. Stick to clean, busy restaurants. Crowded restaurants (and even food carts, in our experience) are the way to go, lots of people mean they have faster turnover of food, meaning foods are not sitting out in the temperature danger zone (read:bacteria breeding ground) for long periods of time.


Get Your Fruits and Veggies

(You knew this was coming, right?) All the sun, pollution, questionable food, and other environmental toxins we are exposed to create free radicals, the damaging ions that can lead to chronic diseases. Think of a iron fence, over time it is exposed to free radicals and it rusts. Essentially free radicals do the same thing in our bodies, but much faster. Fortunately a diet rich in fruit and vegetables helps to mop up the free radicals and prevent them from doing damage. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of fiber and prebiotics to keep your gut in tip-top shape.

Veggie basket

Find Out About Food Safety

Food hygiene standards vary from place to place, so be sure and check out what is safe and what is not in a country before you visit. As a general rule, we try to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables unless we can wash and peel them ourselves. The tap water here is not safe to drink, so we have to ensure everything is washed well (there are a lot of pesticides used here!) in bottled water and then peeled. We don’t trust this task to restaurants or food carts. When we do eat out we look for cooked veggies with the hopes that cooking them cooks out the bacteria. The food hygiene standards in many places we have visited were not even close to what I would consider good. I have often found myself wondering: How long has that meat been sitting out at that food cart? When was the last time the chef at this food cart/moped washed her hands (since, as well equipped as those mopeds are, there is no sink, and definitely no soap)? Be aware of what could potentially be a problem, from the water to the farming practices, being informed about safe food practices in each country is a good way to prevent unexpected, potentially vacation ruining diseases. Most countries have websites with guides for visitors, look for one before taking your next trip!

Banh Mi Stand Ho Chi Minh

Now, a caveat- while this is how we would ideally travel, often times life gets in the way and we have found ourselves indulging in spring rolls with raw vegetables in Cambodia (because they are so good!). We try to know our risk and balance the risk and reward. We also figure we are on a long term trip, so introducing our system to the new bacteria is inevitable. If this were a shorter trip, we would be much more careful!

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