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How to navigate wellness challenges while traveling

By Robert Israel, M.D.
USA Health Integrative Health and Wellness

Travel interruptions recently intruded into my wellness journey on two separate occasions, though both trips had very beneficial effects on my mental health. One trip was spent fly fishing beautiful rivers, and the other was a retreat to a secluded and wild island off the coast of Georgia after celebrating a wedding. Meditation was almost easy in both places!

On the other hand, both nutrition and exercise suffered, and I suffered as a result. After about 72 hours consisting of a more inflammatory diet — one with a lot less vegetables — and less movement, I became very aware of more achy joints and an overall reduction in my sense of physical well-being.

After both trips, getting back into my usual routine of greens and beans, fish and fowl, and lots of whole grains and other fiber, along with regular movement — walking — helped me quickly return to my usual sense of wellness.

On both occasions, I did try to minimize the effects of these expected challenges by walking as much as possible, eating fruit and nuts, and generally choosing the best options available, still while enjoying cake, fried meats and all the other stuff one sees at weddings and hunting camps.

At any rate, what these trips have retaught me, among other things, is just how important what we eat and how we move is to our overall well-being.

There is ample evidence in studies showing that as little as one week of healthy eating can improve one’s sense of well-being, improve cognitive function, improve immune function, etc., and while I know that, I am surprised I can so easily feel the opposite.

I have no desire to find out, but think how much more it might have affected me had I not worked at adding good, healthy and delicious berries, apples and whole grain breads!

While I am not able to prove this thesis, I would postulate that part of the reason returning to a healthier lifestyle works so quickly is that I have a microbiome that is diverse and healthy. I credit this to the usual diet I choose, and I believe the bad effects of preservatives and lower fiber intake are mitigated in large part by that fact.

One other very important point is that I did allow myself to enjoy the indulgences of sugar and fat for the time I was offered those, knowing I would be able to return to a healthier and, I think, more delicious diet when I was home.

When you are traveling, be mindful of your choices, but give yourself the space to enjoy yourself and indulge in special foods. Some small but important things you can do are to incorporate some exercise every day, pack your own snacks, eat at least one fresh meal a day, and try to get enough rest. All of these can help your body maintain somewhat of a natural rhythm, support a healthy immune system, and stick to all of those healthy habits you already have worked so hard to establish.

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