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Tips for Healthy Holiday Travel

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 231 - July 2016

If you have been saving up all year for a relaxing break, the last thing you want is to spend your well earned time off feeling unwell. It pays to start thinking ahead when it comes to fending off those annoying viruses, infections and upset stomachs that can be all too common in the holiday season.

A study by Professor Glenn Gibson, head of microbiology at Reading University showed that taking probiotics for five days before and during travel abroad resulted in a 30 percent reduced likelihood of picking up bugs. This makes perfect sense since 70% of the immune system is in the gut and friendly gut bacteria play an important role.[1] Probiotics also help clear up travellers’ diarrhoea.

Penny Crowther 231 Tips for Holiday Travel

The average aeroplane cabin is teeming with a large variety of bugs from all over the globe. Since the air is constantly recycled (for hours on end on a long haul flight), exposure is constant. The air on aeroplanes is also much drier which reduces the protective function of the mucus membranes of the ear, nose, throat and lungs, the first line of defence against invading germs. Beneficial flora are found on these body barriers as well as in the gut. There should be adequate amounts of healthy flora to form a thick protective layer over the barriers.  This means infection causing pathogens cannot gain entry and activate the immune system. This is another good reason to take probiotics.

A natural antibacterial spray in the mouth helps combat germs entering through the nose and throat. Look for one containing Echinacea, propolis and thyme. Alternatively, pop a bottle of tea tree oil into your luggage and gargle frequently with a few drops of the essential oil in some water.

You may not equate stomach acid with the immune system. However, as well as being a digestive aid, stomach acid acts as an antibacterial agent, killing off unwelcome bugs. If stomach acid is on the low side, this means less resistance to infection, not to mention digestive problems. For example, bloating will be aggravated if flying due to reduced pressure in the cabin which causes the expansion of gas in body cavities. Try this simple home test to give you an idea of your stomach acid levels.

Mix a level teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in a glass of water and drink it in one go. If you have sufficient stomach acid, you should burp within around 5-10 minutes. This is the result of the sodium bicarbonate reacting with the acid to produce carbon dioxide. A lack of burping indicates that stomach acid is on the low side of normal.

To top up stomach acid levels, sip 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of room temperature or hot water with meals. This is a natural home remedy for improving digestion and creating the right acid alkaline balance. Use in salad dressings or put 3 teaspoons into a cup of lukewarm or boiling water and sip, during and after a meal. If you experience any discomfort stop taking it immediately and do not take it if you have ulceration.

It’s important to get raw, unpasteurised cider vinegar which will be slightly cloudy. Find one that is naturally fermented and not filtered or pasteurized which means it contains a substance called ‘mother’. This is why it is a cloudy colour instead of clear. It is ‘raw’ and contains the beneficial bacteria, trace minerals and enzymes which are inactivated in the pasteurized vinegar. You can start this regime before you go on holiday and take it with you as it is sold in travel size bottles.

Another hazard of flying is increased risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) which is the formation of a blood clot in a vein, usually in the legs. Low humidity, reduced air pressure and less oxygen in the plane cabin contributes to an alteration in the composition of blood, reducing the water content and increasing the likelihood of clotting. It’s important to keep drinking water throughout the flight, stretch and walk around if possible to help the circulation. Bioflavonoids, vitamin like substances that are found with vitamin C, help support healthy veins. They are found in berries, onions and garlic. A supplement provides concentrated amounts not found in natural sources.

Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol on flights which are dehydrating and drink extra amounts of water. Take a fish oil/evening primrose oil supplement to hydrate from within.

Eating plenty of protein containing snacks whilst travelling will keep blood sugar levels, energy and mood stable (helping to minimize  jet lag if flying) so that you don’t arrive at your destination exhausted and cranky.  A few examples of healthy, portable snacks are carrot sticks and hummus, mixed unsalted nuts, hardboiled egg and cucumber sticks, a low sugar protein bar, ready cooked chicken and olives or wholegrain crackers and cheese.

Finally, remember that when flying, it takes a day per time zone crossed to re-set your circadian rhythms.  So try to give yourself time to adjust on arrival!


1. Black FT et al. Prophylactic efficacy of Lactobacilli on travellers’ diarrhoea. Conference in international travel medicine 1, Zurich, Switzerland. Berlin. Springer 333-5. 1989.


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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther BANT CNHC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since. She has seen several thousand clients over the years, at her practice in London and online. Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Mid Life for women can be a time when fluctuating hormones play havoc with your wellbeing. In the midst of all the publicity around HRT, it's easy to forget just how powerful diet and lifestyle changes can be when it comes to navigating the menopausal years.

Penny will guide and support you through specific changes to your diet, targeted to you specifically, in midlife. She provides practical, easy to follow menu plans with easy and delicious recipes. The food you eat affects every cell and system in your body. It optimizes how you look and feel, both mentally and physically.

To book an appointment view consultation options here >>

As well as being a regular columnist for Positive Health, Penny has written for Holland and Barrett, and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary supplement, Pregnancy & Birth and Marie Claire. She has been featured in the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and on local radio.

Penny is a registered nutritional therapist with standards of training endorsed by BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC. This includes completing 30 hours of continuing professional development, annually.

Penny’s approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She has trained in coaching and studied many complementary therapies before qualifying as a nutritionist, which provides a broad foundation of knowledge in her nutrition practice. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;

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