Phil Cameron | Friday May. 30th, 2014
Summer is a wonderful time of year to get out and explore the world and many of us take vacations to far off places. It is always exciting and rewarding to be immersed in different cultures and climates, meet new people, and see new sites while having exciting adventures. However, along with the exciting part of the adventure there can be troublesome parts as well. If you prepare for them ahead of time you will come through unscathed and your experiences will be even more enjoyable.
When we travel to new places we become immersed in new environments with different temperatures, grasses, pollens, molds, bacteria and viruses that are native to those places but foreign to our immune systems. We also experience different foods and different ways of preparing foods that our digestive tracts may not be accustomed to.
To truly have a wonderful vacation and enjoy that precious time away from the daily grind it is important to feel well and stay healthy while you travel. The first thing you want to think about after you make your reservations is what you can do to start strengthening your immune system. The immune system is a wonderful system that watches over the body. Every aspect of our body from the digestive tract, internal organs, muscles, blood, and even the brain and nervous system are always under the watchful eye of the immune system.
Lets review a little about how our immune system works. There are two parts to our immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is the primitive aspect of our immune system and is shared with all organisms. The innate system is the direct response that happens for instance, when we cut ourselves. The body senses the presence of foreign invaders, sends white blood cells to attack and destroy the foreign invaders, and help the tissues heal. While those white blood cells are attacking the bad guys, they are also secreting chemical messengers called cytokines. These molecules have many important roles to play in the healing process, but they are directly responsible for helping our body to create an adaptive immunity. Adaptive immunity is how the body creates an immune memory so when we get exposed to different pathogens over and over again we don’t continuously get sick. Lets use chicken pox for example. When you are young and contract the chicken pox virus, you suffer for 2 weeks as the innate immune system fights it off. But your adaptive immune system creates antibodies that continue to circulate in our systems so after we recover from the chicken pox we do not come down with symptoms again even though we continue to play with children that may be infected with the virus.
This is important to understand, but it does not help you have that amazing vacation if you are down for the count with some “bug” you pick up during your travels. Making sure our immune system is in tiptop shape before we travel will be the best insurance for a wonderful vacation. Believe it or not, most of your body’s immune system is located in your digestive tract. Your digestive track is essentially a long hose open on both ends and exposed to the external environment. Within that hose lots of important things happen, as we digest and absorb the food and drinks we consume, but also our immune system attacks and prevents foreign invaders from entering our bodies.
The body is a very intricate self-contained system that communicates through the nervous system by sensory stimulation and then responds based on those stimulations it perceives. It is very well adapted and has been keeping humans alive for thousands of years. The body responds to those different stimuli in a very predictable, very important way to always try and keep the body balanced and in homeostasis. Therefore, knowing what the body is going to do when exposed to foreign invaders gives us an advantage to protect ourselves and get one step ahead of those foreign invaders so we do not have to experience the miserable side effects of being sick while we travel.
Here are a few tips that can help you to stay healthy while you are on your adventures. First always make sure your drinking bottled water when possible or water you know if purified. Start taking a probiotic two weeks before your trip. This helps to keep your gut healthy and ready to defend against those foreign invaders from a different environment. Another good preventative herb for the immune system is Echinacea. Echinacea has an adaptogenic affect on the immune system, which will enhance the immune systems awareness and response to foreign invaders stopping them in their tracts. Be careful when purchasing Echinacea products, they are not all the same. The medicinal part of the Echinacea plant is found in the roots and actually makes your tongue tingle and your mouth salivate when you taste it on your tongue. This is the simplest way to know if you have a good quality Echinacea supplement.
During your travels, especially if you are in foreign countries, or tropical environments that have many parasites it can be beneficial to take some herbs and digestive enzymes that can kill those organisms before they can take hold in your system. Herbs like black walnut, wormwood, garlic, and goldenseal along with enzyme enhancers like bromaline and papaya can be very efficient. If your precautions and preparations still are not enough and you end up with a case of Montezuma’s revenge, bentonite clay is a very safe and effective way to get you back on tract. Bentonite clay is very adsorbent, which is different then absorbent. Being adsorbent (capable of adsorbing 2000 times its weight in fluid), it binds things to itself and pulls them out through the digestive tract; it is inert and is not absorbed into the body.
A healthy immune system is one of the keys to lifelong health and longevity. It is very complex and is an area of intense research and one of the new frontiers in medicine and our understanding of its interactions with our nervous systems and our brains. Keeping your immune system strong will keep you healthy and make all your adventures and life pursuits more achievable and more rewarding.