When it comes to traveling, my top advice is the same advice I give across the board for the best results: planning. Obviously, this is important when it comes to packing the right clothing but it also applies to the pills you pack too.
Troublesome symptoms can potentially ruin your vacation or leave you feeling vaguely unwell for days after your trip. If this has happened to you before, you are more likely to apply my planning advice but you may have only considered packing pharmaceuticals when it comes to nausea, constipation and pain relief.
These over-the-counter medications have become readily available being sold in stores other than pharmacies such as grocery stores and gas stations, which have made them the first choice for minor ailments only furthering to increase sales. Yet they regularly lead to abuse, addiction and long-term side effects. Luckily there are many natural alternatives to these common medications.
Although there have been times I have travelled with my entire supplement regime, I realize that not everyone wants to or has the room to do the same. There are many options when it comes to natural remedies and more could have been added but I have narrowed down the list to the most effective and essential holistic travel supplements.
Each of them have been backed by science and used personally to great success. I suggest you bring them on every trip to keep you feeling your best so that you make the most of your experience.
Probiotics have received a lot of attention recently and for good measure. They provide the gut with good bacteria to establish a healthy balance and support digestive and immune health. A quality probiotic is suggested daily for overall health and relief from many symptoms but it is extra recommended during travel.
Most quality probiotics are stored in the refrigerator, which is generally not convenient when on vacation. For that reason, choose a shelf-stable probiotic. But also look for a traveler’s version of a shelf-stable probiotic. These products will have specific strains (namely Saccharomyces boulardii), which crowd out bad bacteria that lead to symptoms of traveler’s sickness such as diarrhea.
Like probiotics, digestive enzymes are recommended in your daily supplement regime for the relief of numerous symptoms. You may even already be taking them. But whether you are or not, it is recommended to pack a formula that includes betaine hydrochloride to get the extra support your digestion needs when exposed to foods you may not typically eat.
Remember that your digestive strength is indicative of your overall health and this includes symptoms not traditionally related to digestion such as headaches. When traveling, digestion is commonly “off” and taking digestive enzymes can help support it in its weakened state to prevent or reduce the occurrence of symptoms.
Nausea and I have had a complicated relationship that goes back as far as my early childhood. I am prone to motion sickness and if you are familiar with nausea then you know it comes in waves, sometimes out of nowhere and FAST. Having a chewable and therefore fast-acting form of ginger on hand is crucial when traveling. I have found concentrated forms in the supplement section (rather than natural candies or pieces) to be most effective.
This richly pigmented black powder is incredibly absorbent and has the ability to pull toxins from the body. While there is not a slew of science relating it to digestive upset, it has been used for years to help with gas, diarrhea and food poisoning – all of which are very likely while traveling – especially in the tropics. I used activated charcoal capsules on my recent trip to Belize and they were not only effective but fast acting.
With all the flashy superfoods and supplements hitting the wellness scene, it is easy to forget about or downplay the power of vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant has the ability to reduce inflammation, support immune health, and reduce the risk of disease.
If you are reading this blog, you likely have at least one symptom and therefore your digestive system needs some support (see digestive enzymes). Because of this, it is ideal to have a powdered variety so that your system does not need to breakdown the capsule or tablet. Some formulas have added electrolytes, which is perfect for traveling (especially in hot climates) where dehydration is likely and if diarrhea is present, lost electrolytes can be replaced. These packets are easy to tuck around in your suitcase.
Note: vitamin C is almost always sourced from corn so if you have or suspect an allergy/sensitivity or are avoiding corn, look for products denoting corn-free on the label.
Oil of Oregano
A handy item in any first aid kit, oil of oregano is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, giving it the ability to kill off most anything. I recommend liquid over capsules, as the bottle is small; it is absorbed faster and more efficiently and if diluted, can be applied topically. Whether liquid or capsules, this potent substance is best taken at the first sign of illness or infection.
Because of its anti-bacterial capacity, ensure you take oil of oregano at least 2 hours away from your probiotic so as to not kill the beneficial bacterial strains of the probiotic.
To summarize, take the probiotics, digestive enzymes and vitamin C daily whereas take the ginger, activated charcoal and oil of oregano as needed.
Bonus: Snack Bars
This is the only food item on my holistic travel essentials list but snack bars (or balls) can be a lifesaver – especially when traveling outside of North America or Europe and if you have food sensitivities. Look for products with natural and minimal ingredients or make your own. As a bonus seek varieties that are high in protein and low in sugar.
These snacks are useful on the airplane or if you don’t know when and where your next meal will be or they make an ideal breakfast substitute in a pinch. Having these snacks on hand can help you stick to your travel budget but more importantly to avoid the discomfort of getting hangry or symptoms that can ruin one of your precious vacation days.
Safe and happy travels!
McFarland, L. V., & Goh, S. (2019). Are probiotics and prebiotics effective in the prevention of travellers’ diarrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 27, 11-19. doi:10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.09.007
Toth et al (2018 Nov 15) Ginger (Zingiber officinale): An alternative for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting. A meta-analysis. Phytomedicine, 50:8-18 doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2018.09.007
Senderovich, H., & J. Vierhout, M. (2018) Is there a role for charcoal in palliative diarrhea management? Current Medical Research and Opinion, 34:7, 1253-1259, doi:10.1080/03007995.2017.1416345
Pavlovic, V., & Sarac, M. (2011). A short overview of vitamin C and selected cells of the immune system. Central European Journal of Medicine, 6(1), 1-10. doi:10.2478/s11536-010-0066-x
Baser, K. C. (2008). Biological and pharmacological activities of carvacrol and carvacrol bearing essential oils. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 14(29), 3106-3119. doi:10.2174/138161208786404227