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How to prevent autoimmune flare-ups while traveling

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Managing your autoimmune condition—Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, alopecia, vitiligo, psoriasis, etc.—can be tricky enough. Traveling takes autoimmune management to a new level as you must attend to not only your diet, environment, energy expenditure, and sleep, but also the added stressors traveling poses.

Managing an autoimmune condition doesn't mean you have to avoid travel. It's just a matter of planning ahead and being more conscious of your self-care. By mastering some basics you can relax and enjoy your trip and quickly return to your routine at home without a long recovery period.

Below are some tips to help you keep your autoimmune condition under control while traveling.

Plan where and what you're going to eat. Foundational to autoimmune management is the  autoimmune diet, also known as the leaky gut diet. This diet, which is free of common immune triggers, is great for keeping your autoimmune condition under control, but without advance planning it can be tough to follow.

It's important you determine ahead of time where at your destination you can safely eat. For instance, find out where the Whole Foods or other health food stores are at your destination. Make sure you have a refrigerator in your hotel room. Some people even pack a mini crockpot to heat up frozen stews they packed, or a hot plate and a frying pan for a stir-fry meal with fresh ingredients. Pack snack foods for when you can't eat right away so hunger doesn't trample your willpower. Ideas include beef jerky, celery, sardines, olives, coconut meat, and other filling snacks.

Load up on glutathione. Travel has many stressors—early mornings, long days, new environments, crowded airplanes, and so on. These stressors can deplete your stores of glutathione, the body's main antioxidant that keeps inflammation and autoimmune flare-ups at bay. Glutathione can also offer protection from increased exposure to radiation through flying at high altitudes. And although officials claim the new radio-frequency body scanners at airports are safe, a group of university scientists have doubts and are demanding more thorough testing. Some people feel choosing a pat down is a healthier option than the scanner.  Glutathione precursors, such as N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, cordyceps, and milk thistle, can be supplemented orally, or you can use a transdermal glutathione cream.

Look for chemical-free hotel rooms. Some hotel rooms hit you with a synthetic-scent overload when you walk through the door. Feather pillows, dust, and stale air can also set off immune reactions. Fortunately, some hotels offer scent-free  allergy-friendly rooms  with hypoallergenic bedding, air purifiers, fragrance-free bath products, and windows that open.

Keep a mask with you. Sometimes you just can't avoid toxic exposure, whether it's from exhaust, perfumes, or the person next to you on the plane sneezing and coughing. It's becoming more common to see people wearing a  face mask  when flying, and it's not a bad idea to carry one. A good face mask is comfortable and allows you to breathe easily while helping protect you from toxins and other pathogens in the air, preventing an autoimmune flare-up and glutathione depletion. Some companies even make  face masks  in a variety of colors and prints and for children and babies.

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Jeffrey E. Matz, DC, MS, is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician. He is licensed to practice in SC, NC, and GA. Dr. Matz is passionate about functional medicine and strives to help patients achieve optimal health. His focus is on helping our members with hormone imbalances, autoimmune conditions, chronic pain conditions, and diabetes. Among the thousands of people Dr. Matz has treated include Carolina Panthers football players, PGA Tour and Champions Tour golfers, collegiate athletes, and local and international celebrities. Dr. Matz was a semiprofessional cyclist, and has competed in triathlons for the last 7 years, including completing an IRONMAN triathlon.

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