Why Travel Affects Your Immune System

If you’ve ever excitedly awaited a vacation and then been struck down by illness upon arrival, you’re not alone. Travel is known to weaken the immune system, a network of proteins and cells that works to protect our bodies against infection. When this system is compromised, we can experience sickness even at the most disappointing of times. Below, we explore the reasons travel may adversely affect your immune system, as well as outline a few tips and tricks that can help you eliminate stressors, bolster your immunity, and, ultimately, enjoy your trip with optimum wellness. 

Interrupted Sleep

A disrupted sleep cycle can negatively impact your immune system and a travel schedule that involves red-eye flights and jet lag may just be the culprit. Adopting good sleep hygiene practices is an important first step in ensuring quality rest when traveling, but there are additional ways you can support this essential function in the lead-up to a trip. For example, you can help your body combat jet lag by gradually shifting your sleep schedule toward the time zone you’ll be visiting. By adjusting your bedtime in 20-30 increments every few nights in the days or weeks before your journey, you can make the ultimate transition an easier and less disruptive one. 

Travel Stress

It’s no secret that stress can impact your body in a myriad of ways, including weakening your immune system. And while vacations should be a time to escape the worries of everyday life, the physical and emotional toll of planning, packing, and dashing to the airport or train station can trigger stress that may affect your immune system. Luckily, there are many natural ways to manage stress, from regular journaling to reaching for specially crafted supplements. Take the time to find the method that works for you. Then, establish an anti-stress routine that you can bring with you on your travels. 

Dehydration

The World Health Organization has reported that the humidity in a typical airplane cabin is usually less than 20%, making it drier than even the Sahara Desert. This extreme climate can easily cause dehydration which, in turn, can cause fluid loss in your lymphatic system. Because the primary function of this system is to transport lymph (a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells) around the body, it’s vital to drink plenty of water while traveling so you can support your body’s ability to fight off potential illness. 

Impacted Gut Health

The gut, a crucial system in our bodies that can influence everything from energy levels to skin health, is also susceptible to travel. For instance, when you’re traveling through an airport you may find yourself choosing more convenient and processed foods than you would at home. A lack of fruits, vegetables, or variety in general can cause gut microbiomes, which play a critical role in our immune system, to become unbalanced. To avoid this, take care to enjoy a healthy and varied diet when possible, and pack your favorite probiotic supplement in your suitcase.

Next Steps

As well as addressing the root causes of immune system dysfunction, it’s important to give your immune system a boost when you’ll be exposed to more people, environments, and the bacteria or viruses they may carry. Before, during, and after your trip, reach for natural supplements that assist immune function. We love supplements that contain ingredients like elderberry, echinacea, and chaga, which have all been known to stimulate or boost the immune system.