If you're reading this site, chances are you love travel. And along with the obvious perks of roaming the globe (experiencing other cultures, trying new foods, scouting awesome souvenirs to bring home) there is the inevitable wear and tear on the body that comes from being on the road. To that end, we wondered: what steps can be taken to ensure optimum health during travel?
A few days ago, we shared advice on how to avoid catching your seatmate's germs on a long-haul flight. Here, we chat with Dr. Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Center Director at The BodyHoliday, a health and wellness resort in St Lucia, about the benefits of travel, the "right" way to drink, and other useful travel health tips.
What healthy snacks should travelers pack on long-haul flights?
"A granola bar, roasted chickpeas or any other nuts. I prefer chickpeas due to their low fat content compared to other nuts. Also, a bag of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin or flax seeds, and dried fruits. Hummus and salt-free chips work, too. I would avoid all salted snacks to avoid postural edema, or water retention."
Is it possible to enjoy a lavish hotel breakfast spread while also staying healthy?
"A good mix of fruits and fiber is ideal for breakfast. The focus should be on foods that are rich in nutrients. After a long fast during the night, morning is when our absorption is at its peak. One or two glasses of warm lime juice as a wake up drink will help in speeding up the metabolism and works as a cleanser. It's also wise to avoid any kind of pastries for breakfast."
Any tips for fighting off colds/flu while traveling during the winter?
"If you happened to get a cold or flu right before your vacation, there are ways to treat this for a speedy recovery. Avoid ice cold drinks completely and keep drinking citrus teas (lemon-, orange-, or ginger-infused) frequently. Stay away from dairy products and take a hot shower or hot bath twice a day. Pack your first aid kit with Vitamin C, Echinacea, Vitamin D, garlic tablets, oregano oil and probiotics. Expose yourself to the early morning sun. A plunge in sea water also helps."
Can travel in general provide any specific health benefits?
"Rest and recuperation during a vacation can lead to many important health benefits. One of the most important is de-stressing and recharging your batteries, which is a good long term-investment for your health. Other activities such as sun bathing and spa treatments compliment this benefit by improving the health of your skin and promoting skin function."
Should travelers make a point of keeping up their fitness routines while on vacation? What if their hotel has no gym?
"Exercise is key to our day-to-day living. It is even more important while you're on vacation, when metabolic levels drop due to mental and physical rest. Good cardio training in the gym or outdoor activities such as cycling, swimming, or walking are ideal."
If you're going to drink while on vacation, is there a healthy way to do it?
"To me, the only healthy option in drinking alcohol is to drink in moderation. I would also suggest some tips to drink and stay healthy:
- Avoid drinks that are high in sugar
- Avoid salted snacks which will increase your cravings and also speed up liquid absorption, leading to water retention
- Drink plenty of water to avoid hangovers
- Be sure to cut yourself off well before bedtime – alcohol has proven to disrupt the sleep cycle by cutting down on REM sleep
- Red wine is usually loaded with anti-oxidants, which could be considered an aspect of 'healthy' drinking."
What about yoga to help alleviate aches and pains for people who travel a lot?
"Yoga helps to bring a sense of calmness for your mind and a top-to-toe toning of muscles in the body. It provides an all-round physical and mental workout. Breathing techniques and meditation release stress and improve immunity, while certain practices (sun salutations, Kapal Bhati) can even help with weight loss."
What are some typical complaints you've heard from travelers who want to stay healthy while traveling, but lack the will power to pull it off?
"Sugar cravings are one area where travelers need assistance. Acupuncture has proved to be very helpful in doing this. Some of the unhealthy habits emerge out of depression or anxiety. I have seen many guests requesting to have a personal training session or spa treatment in the middle of the day during lunch hours instead of indulging in a heavier meal."
What are the specific health benefits of staying at a place like BodyHoliday over, say, another hotel that has less of a health focus?
"The benefit of staying at The BodyHoliday is that you have the freedom to do as much as you can or as little as you want. Our fitness activities are supported by daily spa treatments and a nutritious diet, which can also be customized to fit your dietary requirements. We also run specially designed programs that fit the specific needs of the guest."