For the 50+ Traveler

Traveling exposes your immune system to new stressors. Beef up your immune system and keep it strong by following these six vacation tips.

1. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated becomes even more critical when you're on vacation. A dehydrated body is more prone to fatigue, headaches, electrolyte imbalance, and disease. Be disciplined about drinking enough water in the week leading up to your trip. The chaos of daily life can make it easy to not drink enough water. The last thing you want is to be dehydrated going into your trip! Once the journey begins, be sure to drink small amounts of water regularly.

Electrolyte mix is always a great idea to bring along. When you drink extra water, your body excretes more electrolytes. Replenishing electrolyte stores with an electrolyte mix will keep your body ahead of the game. Your chances of getting sick and feeling crummy will be significantly reduced.

Be sure to be cautious about what water you drink. Bottled water is best. Tap water may not be safe. Your body is only acclimated to the bacterial profile of the water from where you live. Foreign water may contain E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Giardia, Shigella, Cyclospora, or Entamoeba. Stay hydrated and be safe!

2. Avoid Sugar

Stay away from sugar to strengthen your immune system and streamline your energy. Sugar stresses the immune system and can cause crashes and mood swings. Even limiting the amount of sugar is a great first step. Keep in mind that once you hit the road, you may find yourself snacking on rich foods stuffed with sugar and carbs.

Balance this out beforehand by stocking your body up on green vegetables. If you feel the need for sugar, the natural sugar in fruit is less taxing on the immune system. Fruit will also make you less prone to mood instability and energy crashes. There are plenty of low-sugar, or low-glycemic index snack bars out there. Look for packages labeled "ketogenic," "keto," or "paleo." These are designed for a low-sugar diet. Dark chocolate bars also tend to be low in sugar. The darker, the better!

3. Build Up Your Immunity

Staying hydrated and limiting sugar strengthens the immune system, but so does getting your hands dirty. In the month leading up to your vacation, wash your hands a little less, and spend more time touching the ground. Exercise on the ground with yoga, stretching, and light exercise.

Pet an animal or two. They're a goldmine of germs that will strengthen your immunity. Exposure to new strains of bacteria in small doses can act as a natural vaccine. If you run into the same strain of bacteria on your trip, your blood cells will have already seen it and be prepared. Just don't overdo it-- continue washing your hands thoroughly after using public restrooms and before eating. You don't want to get sick before your flight.

4. Use Hand Sanitizer and Wash Your Hands

Once you're at your destination, return to normal sanitization habits. Take special care to sanitize following trips to the bathroom and before eating. The airplane is an especially germ-dense space. Make sure that any blankets or pillows provided by the airline are in a sealed plastic bag. If not, it was likely used by a previous customer. No need to be a germaphobe, but by taking the right standard precautions you can save yourself from an unpleasant trip.

5. Make Sure Your Food Is Well-Cooked

Food preparation standards vary by country and location. In general, a meal cooked in rural central Mexico is higher risk than one prepared at a resort on the coast. This has to do both with water quality and health codes, or the lack thereof. When traveling through high-risk areas, stick to food that is cooked thoroughly.

Stay away from cold salads, as they may have been rinsed in water that isn't suitable for you to consume. Even the tiniest amount of unsanitary water can be enough to make you ill. Be careful to wash off the tops of soda cans for the same reason. In hot climates, bottled water and canned refreshments may be kept in ice coolers. The little bit of melted ice sitting on the rim of the can be enough to make you sick.

6. Stay Active

Physical activity reduces stress, optimizes hormone levels, and increases energy. Traveling can be stressful. More stress equals a weakened immune system. Since you don't want to spend your vacation in bed, it's important to stay proactive about feeling fresh. Exercise is also a cognitive enhancer. Just twenty minutes of light exercise can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that's critical to mental clarity and memory.

By balancing hormone levels, exercise improves mood stability and boosts the immune system. During travel, stress hormones can become elevated. A few minutes of walking at a brisk pace can be enough to refresh you after getting off the plane or out of the car. Having an exercise routine in place before you leave will make it easier to stay active on vacation.

Now get out there and have some fun! Stay hydrated, keep active, and build up your immune system leading up to your departure. Your trip will be an extension of your already healthy habits.