How to Have Your Healthiest Holiday

Posted on March 5, 2024

As the schools around Hong Kong close for the summer, many families will be leaving for their annual holidays.  Without doubt, says Naturopath Jeanette Lilly Blanks, much effort will have been put into planning and preparing for this trip and nothing would be more frustrating than to fall prey to a miserable cold, flu or gastro-infection while on holiday.

The co-founder of Stanley Wellness Centre says “as the axiom goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.  So here are some top tips to help bolster immune system health and decrease the chances of getting sick on your holiday”:

Airplane Travel

The closed environment of an airplane with recycled air can circulate airborne bacteria and viruses within the cabin; airplane bathrooms can also harbour potentially harmful bacteria.   Protect yourself from picking something up by:

  • Wearing a face mask – A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Infectious Disease concluded that face masks are highly effective in preventing the spread of infections.
  • Washing hands regularly with soap and water – the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggest the best way to prevent the transmission of disease is to properly wash hands with plain and soap and water and dry them well with a disposable towel.
  • Staying hydrated – dehydration can adversely impact the body’s production of first-line defence immunoglobulins, leaving the body exposed to potential bacterial invaders.  Drink plenty of plain water throughout the flight.
  • Inhaling essential oils –protect the sinuses and airways from bacterial or viral colonization by inhaling or diffusing anti-bacterial /anti-viral essential oils.  Many essential oils help prevent colds by neutralizing airborne pathogens, as well as boosting the body’s immune defences to fight a cold once an infection has started.  Essential oils with antibacterial and/or antiviral properties include: rosemary, tea tree, clove, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, eucalyptus, peppermint, frankincense.

Let Food by Thy Medicine

Feeding your immune system a diet of whole foods, rich in colorful organic fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses, unrefined oils and oily fish provides the vast array of essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients your body needs to achieve optimal immune health.

Essential immune boosting nutrients include:

  • Essential Fatty Acids (omega-3, 6, 9): walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, linseeds, unrefined olive, nut & seed oils, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna), fish liver oils
  • Vitamin A: whole egg, milk, fish oils, organ meats, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, apricot, mango & dark leafy greens
  • Vitamin C: most fruit & veggies, including broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, dark green leafy vegetables, herbs
  • Vitamin E: whole egg, nuts & seeds, avocados, dairy products, whole grains, wheat germ, unrefined cold pressed oils, green leafy vegetables, soya products, shellfish, squash & pumpkin
  • B6 : fish, meat, poultry, eggs, whole grains, nuts & seeds, dark green leafy veggies, bananas, avocados, molasses & mushrooms
  • Zinc: oysters, herrings, yeast, liver, eggs, beef, beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, spinach, poultry, mushrooms, whole grains
  • Iron: eggs, liver, meat, black strap molasses, soy beans, whole grains, dark green veggies, apricots, fish & shell fish, dried fruit & cocoa
  • Copper: green leafy veggies, liver, seafood, whole grains
  • Selenium: sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, whole grains, meat, eggs, mushrooms, tuna & oysters
  • Magnesium: dark green veggies, nuts, pumpkin seeds, mackerel, whole grains, pulses, avocados, bananas, figs, milk, dark chocolate

No time for a salad?  Drink your nutrients!

Super charge your immune system with nutrient-rich juices.  Juicing supplies the body with a broad combination of concentrated nutrients, which are easily digested and absorbed.  Remember to drink freshly made juices, they are higher in vitamins and contain more potent immune-enhancing enzyme activity.

Try these Immune Boosting Juice Combinations:

  • beetroot, carrot & apple
  • carrot, orange, apple and ginger
  • apple, orange & pineapple
  • kiwi, orange & strawberry
  • orange & grapefruit and kiwi
  • tomato juice, watercress & carrot
  • carrot, broccoli, bell pepper and sweet potato

Encourage ‘good bugs’ in the gut to ward off the baddies!

Probiotics, AKA ‘good gut bacteria’, act as a first line of defence against potentially harmful bacteria, fungus, and parasites that find their way into our digestive tracts by way of the mouth.   Maintaining the beneficial bacterial populations in our gut strengthen the immune system and help to ward off respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.  Beneficial bacterial populations are adversely effected by anti-biotics. Be sure to replenish your populations after every course of anti-biotics.

Try these foods high in probiotics:

  • ‘Live’ yogurt
  • Keifer
  • Kombacha
  • Lacto-Fermented foods: kimchi, Japanese natto, sauerkraut
  • Sourdough bread

Plants were man’s first medicine.  Boost the immune system with plant power!

Before there was such a thing as pharmaceutical medicine, humans relied on plant medicine to heal the body.  Herbs contain many potent chemicals that have direct actions on body systems.  Many herbs have a particular affinity for strengthening the immune system, respiratory system, digestive tract and sinuses.  They are generally prepared in a liquid form and are convenient for travel.  Keep a dropper bottle of the following herbs to hand as an insurance policy against illness.

  • Echinacea – immune stimulating, shortens the life of a cold
  • Elderberry – provides protection against viruses and clears up congested sinuses
  • Thyme- is a very potent respiratory system anti-bacterial
  • Ginger – stimulates the immune system and kills bacteria in the gut
  • Garlic and onions – – immune stimulating, kills bacteria in the lungs and gut
  • Sage – when brewed as a tea and gargled, kills tonsillitis-causing bacteria

Don’t sabotage your good health! Avoid foods that weaken the immune system

  • Sugar – sugar robs the body of the vitamins & minerals that are essential to immune system function.
  • Fried foods– oil used for frying creates free radicals, which impair immune system function and promote inflammation.

  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils –decrease the volume of essential fatty acids available to immune system.  They are found in abundance in processed foods.
  • Preserved, processed foods & sodas – contain large amounts of phosphates, which change the pH balance of the body and weaken the immune system.  Avoid deli meats, packaged foods, flavour enhancers and fizzy drinks, which are exceptionally high in phosphates.

About the author:

Jeanette Lilly Blanks is an UK and Australian-trained naturopath and medical herbalist.  She works with a broad range of health conditions and has a particular interest in children’s health.  Since 2005, shehas  maintained practices in London, Singapore and Hong Kong.  She is also the co-founder of the Stanley Wellness Centre, a multi-disciplinary complementary health practice located in Stanley.

Stanley Wellness Centre
+852 2372 9700

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