Traveling with Autoimmunity
I love travel but I must say, travel doesn’t like autoimmunity all too much. As someone who is dependent on routine, a change from the everyday such as not sleeping/jet lag or having foreign food in the body can worsen an already existing chronic autoimmune condition. Thus, here are my tips on how to BE WELL while traveling with an autoimmune condition.
As always, please advise that this is only based off of my own personal experience with Hashimoto’s disease; please consult with a specialized physician for specific advice related to your condition, depending on where you plan to visit. Granted everyone is different, I can only speak for my Hashimoto’s disease.
First off, what kind of baggage are you carrying?
One of the most important questions to ask yourself.
Close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths in and out. Check in. See how you’re feeling. How are you doing currently?
What’s been working for you, what has been not?
Take some notes down on a piece of paper or in a journal.
Start making a list of essentials that you need for you to be well in your everyday - of what you need in order to be well. This will become your packing list.
Planning ahead is important for people like us, it’s helpful to be prepared so you aren’t doing something out of the ordinary which can only result in a flare up and only make you feel so much worse. From my experience, the flare ups are not worth it since it takes you out of enjoying your getaway vacation. Think of this as preparing your baggage ahead of time so you have space to enjoy the moment later If you don’t plan ahead, that’s fine. I hope that a couple of these recommendations you may consider or take away with you.
*please keep in mind that I am sharing links based off of my own preference, not affiliate links what so ever.
Things I Always Pack for Plane Travel
For me, the baggage that I am carrying is my Hashimoto’s condition and I will be bringing my Away carry-on suitcase along with a Caraa Sport backpack. Now that I am mindful with what I am working with and what I may be packing with me. What’s next?
I personally adhere to a strict anti-inflammatory nutritional protocol to manage my own Hashimoto’s illness. I adhere to a relatively gluten-free and paleo-ish nutritional protocol (I really HATE the word “DIE” in “diet”), that works for me to keep my inflammation down. This of which means I pack SNACKS. I really love the following (I pack them my reusable Grove bags or my Bee’s Wrap):
SunButter No Sugar Added Sunflower Butter on celery sticks
Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna and put them in the middle of some dates
Fruit (organic apple, orange, avocado, berries)
Homemade Cassava Tortilla Wraps or you can buy some Cassava & Chia Seed Tortilla Wraps from Siete at Whole Foods or your local grocery store
La Tourangelle Organic Classic Balsamic
Vegetable slices (carrot, celery, cucumber)
Spinach and Arugula greens
A reusable water bottle
CBD oil to manage my chronic muscle aches and joint pain
NOW, how do you really handle security?
Show them the goods upfront. Take all of your food out of your bags and tell the agents upfront that you are carrying food with you. I usually do this before my items go through the X-ray because my container looks like a water bottle. I usually say “Don’t worry, that’s food, and I’m happy to show it to you if I need to.” Usually this will avoid having all of your bags searched on the other end of the line.
Be nice and explain your case. The one time I had an agent try and take away my meal, I calmly explained that I have a medical condition that makes it impossible for me to eat at airport restaurants or the meals provided on planes. Usually this explanation, in addition to showing them the food will help them decide in your favor.
Give yourself extra time. If you are worried about being searched or having a confrontation, make sure you get to the airport with time to spare. That way if you have to explain your food, you won’t feel rushed and stressed.
Staying Healthy While Traveling by Plane
Stay hydrated! Most people get dehydrated while traveling because of the restriction on liquids getting through security, and not wanting to go to the bathroom multiple times while in the air. I can tell you from experience though, that making an effort to stay on top of hydration helps keep the aches and inflammation down. Plus, those bathroom breaks get you up and moving. I always buy a couple of water bottles in the airport before taking off because they never give you enough on the plane.
Get up to stretch and walk around. This is especially important for those who have a history of blood clots, but it benefits everyone to try and get up once every hour or two for a little stand/stretch/walk break.
Do some self-lymphatic massage. This video from Massage By Heather demonstrates a technique I always use when I am traveling. It only takes 5-10 minutes to do a sequence, and I usually repeat every few hours while traveling to encourage lymph drainage from my head and neck, which always gets congested during flights.
Dress for comfort. I know dressing up to travel is a thing, but I am so much happier when I opt to be as comfortable as possible. I love merino layers and yoga pants for maximum comfort and temperature variation.
Supplement wisely. I always make sure to take extra vitamin D and C, Oil of Oregano capsules on travel days to keep my immune system in tip-top shape in case I encounter any sick people while I’m traveling (inevitable, right?). Sometimes I’ll also add some magnesium to help manage the stress and relax my muscles for the long flights.
Couple more things to note while Traveling
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Travel to cities you know focus on fresh and grilled foods. While we were in Spain there were plenty of places serving meat and vegetables, and I knew I could find something that wouldn’t make me feel awful. Along with that, take time to scour the internet for different restaurants in the city you’re visiting. Chances are you’ll find some with dishes that can be slightly modified to meet your requirements.
WHAT KIND OF GROCERY STORE OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE IN MY AREA? HOW WILL I GET THERE?
If you are not planning on renting a car, or don’t want to go too out of your way to get ingredients, this should be a big factor in your planning. A lot of big cities have a Whole Foods, which I have found is a consistent place to get ingredients to make AIP meals and I might plan to rent a place close by so I have easy access.
ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Things are different now. You can’t expect to travel the same way you once did and it’s important you come to terms with that before you take off on your journey. You may not see EVERYTHING but you’re going to see SOME things that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Embrace this and allow yourself to enjoy your new way of traveling.