Updated: May 30, 2019
India, Incredible India..so the TV advert goes to entice us to this magical, mystical and spiritual land.
"India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only." Mark Twain
Every since girlhood I have wanted to visit India, inspired by my childhood friend's aunty who was a nun and worked there as a missionary. She would return to Ireland with exotic trinkets and jewellery and coloured scarves as presents for my friend, unlike anything we had seen before.
As with many things in life there is a time ...a time for everything, and mine has come to visit India. In a few days I travel to Goa on a yoga retreat so I will be ticking a lot of boxes....travel, yoga, food, culture, sun, relaxation and me time.
India is so evocative and instantly, when I think of India, I think colour, happiness, stunning scenery, beautiful smiling people but of course on a sub-continent with an approximate population of 1,350,438,098, there are many negatives.
Poverty, crowding, slums and poor sanitation and the dreaded 'Delhi Belly' to name some. However, I am going with a positive mindset, as the power of positivity is associated with an improved immune response.
In recent years, researchers have found that your mind can have a powerful effect on your body. Immunity is one area where your thoughts and attitudes can have a particularly powerful influence.
Researchers have found that people who were optimistic about a specific and important part of their lives, exhibited a stronger immune response than those who had a more negative view of the situation.
With all this in mind, I have decided to be in charge of my own health for travelling. Faced with the dilemma of whether to adopt 'recommended travel' guidelines, to vaccinate or not, I have spent many, many hours researching conventional medical advice, naturopathic advice, and talking to people who have been there.
Most conventional wisdom is to be vaccinated against Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Tetanus.
With vaccines very controversial , and I am not getting into that here, I decided against it, for me.
Typhoid is an acute bacterial, water borne contamination caused by a salmonella bacteria. From the literature it can cause fever, intestinal discomfort, loss of appetite and weakness. But it is self -limiting if treated on time. The vaccine has between 50%-80% efficacy, not enough for me! And the oral tablet with just 75% efficacy has unpleasant side-effects.
Hepatitis A, again transmitted through contaminated food and water, is a viral infection and is self-limiting. The vaccine is reported to be just 70% effective in the 40-65 to year old age group, again not high enough odds. Avoidance strategies here will hopefully reduce odds of infection: drinking water only from a sealed bottle, not having ice cubes in drinks, not eating street food, not getting intimate with locals or tourists and so on. Fortunately, I will be in a well regarded Yoga Centre catering to us westerners so I won't be eating street food, drinking tap water and I'm also very happily married.
My rationale is that whilst they may be very unpleasant, they are acute illnesses if treated on time and I have tools as a nutritional therapist to hopefully offset any damage.
I have a track record of illness when travelling, I have been ill in the Middle East, London, Florida, Croatia and Turkey, and that's with vaccinations.
This time I have made time to do the research and support my immunity a couple of months before travel.
Our immune System is amazing and the first line of defence is the mucosal barrier : skin and gastro-intestinal tract.
Therefore, it makes sense to support the immune system, most of which, about 80% lives in the gut. Immune function is dependant on key nutrients : Vitamins A, C, the B's, also Zinc, Iron, protein and probiotics.
MY TRAVEL IMMUNE SUPPORTING PROTOCOL
Starting with the gut I have been taking a high strength probiotic for the last month and will continue taking until at least two weeks after my return. Meta -analyses of research shows that there is significant evidence for the prophylactic use of probiotics to prevent traveller's diarrhoea.
I have also been supporting my gut health by introducing more fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi into my meals. These functional foods are made with cruciferous vegetables, amazing already for liver and gut health, and the LAB bacteria ferment them, boosting functionality to support a wide range of health benefits.
HCL Betaine and digestive enzymes make it to the list also. We need sufficient stomach acid for many reasons but one is to destroy potential pathogenic or harmful bacteria. Another is to help break down proteins, allowing for better absorption. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids needed for every single cell, tissue, muscle in the body, including the mucosal lining of the gut.
"Liver-GI", a supplement containing a blend of amino acids and functional botanicals such as curcumin, milk thistle, broccoli sprouts, artichoke and chlorella, known for their supportive and anti-inflammatory properties.
Zinc is well known for it's immune supporting properties helping protect against infection by inhibiting viral replication. It has also been used to treat acute gastroenteritis in children in the third world, again probably related to the viral replication.
Eating a Rainbow of colour of plant based meals is providing my body with a huge range of diversity of fuel to feed the gut bacteria allowing them to proliferate and crowd out any potential pathogens. My food is also high in macro and micro-nutrients: complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vegan protein, anti-oxidants, vitamins, phyto-chemicals and all those healthy immune supporting nutrients.
Regular Yoga and walking, working with the breath and engaging with nature are known to enhance immunity by reducing stress. Yoga helps lower the stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to encourage toxin removal from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.
So, all that remains to be done is the packing and that includes all my natural and chemical free toiletries and cosmetics, natural first aid and anti-mosquito repellents. I feel as if I am well prepared and that my friends ,is where I shall leave you for now.
Thank you for reading,
In good health,
Registered Nutritional Therapist, Dip NT, mBANT, CNHC