Do you get sick often while traveling? If so, it could be due to an immune deficiency.
Being exposed to new places makes you prone to respiratory infections. An immune deficiency makes it harder for your body to protect itself against illness.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to support your immune health before you travel, reducing your risk of getting sick.
Read on to learn how to tell if you have an immune deficiency and natural remedies to support your immune health while traveling.
What Is An Immune Deficiency?
The immune system guards the body against harmful substances. It fights antigens or things that the body doesn’t recognize on its own, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
When the body comes into contact with an antigen for the first time, the immune system will store information about it. So, the next time the body reencounters the same antigen, the immune system will know how to fight it faster.
The immune system has two functions: defending the body from infections and identifying foreign substances. When an issue with at least one of these functions occurs, the immune system will grow weak, making the body more vulnerable to diseases.
People who suffer from an immune deficiency are called immunocompromised.
What Causes An Immune Deficiency?
There are several types of immune deficiency disorders, based on causes. Primary immune deficiency is when a person was born with the condition. An overactive immune system is when a person’s immune system overreacts to otherwise harmless elements. Examples of this condition include asthma, allergies, and eczema.
Autoimmunity is a type of immune deficiency that occurs when the immune system attacks normal tissues. Examples are Type 1 Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s disease, Grave’s disease, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and multiple sclerosis.
How To Tell If You Have An Immune Deficiency
You might have an immune deficiency if you experience these signs when traveling:
High-stress levels can affect the endocrine system, leading to several conditions, including lowered immunity. Traveling can contribute to this, especially if a lot of planning and long travel times are involved.
The damaging impact of stress on the immune system is also noted by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It believes that emotional stress and its related symptoms like irritability, difficulty falling asleep, and fatigue, can result in Qi Stagnation, making you more prone to illnesses.
Getting sick easily while traveling
If you seem to catch a cold when you travel and recover slowly from it, that’s a sign that your immune system is weak. Since your immune system’s main function is to fight infections, falling ill frequently, especially when you are in a new environment, indicates an issue. In TCM, those with this symptom are believed to have Deficient Qi.
Almost 70% of the immune system can be found in the digestive tract. So, if you have frequent diarrhea, gas, and constipation, and not because you’re trying new foods in a foreign country, that may be because you’re immunocompromised. According to TCM, people with hard stools, which is a symptom of constipation, may have Yang Deficiency.
Wounds that heal slowly
When you have a wound, your body’s cells will help your skin regenerate. Therefore, someone with a weak immune system will take a longer time than usual to heal.
If you should have recovered from jet lag but still feel extremely tired, it could be due to your immune system.
A 2019 study found a correlation between fatigue and the immune system. It states that a contributing element to fatigue is the central nervous system, which is impacted by many autoimmune disorders.
This is why fatigue is a symptom of autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
From TCM’s point of view, fatigue is harmful to your Liver, Kidneys, and Spleen. The Liver itself circulates qi, or the energy responsible for the workings of the human body. Therefore, fatigue can affect the Liver. This causes the flow of the qi to be disrupted as well, leading to illnesses.
How To Safely Travel With An Immune Deficiency
Here are some precautions you can take before traveling if you are immunocompromised:
1. Stay up to date on your vaccines.
2. Be mindful of your environment when traveling, especially if you are allergic to dirt and mold.
3. Consume supplements that boost your immune systems, such as Cordyceps, Lingzhi, or Red Korean Ginseng. If you travel often, you may want to consider an immunity bundle that can help keep you healthy when exposed to new environments.
4. Speak to a doctor or physician about the necessary protective measures.
5. TCM recommends that you rest well before going on a trip if you have Qi Stagnation. Stay high-spirited and be more active with outdoor activities.
6. If you have Yang Deficiency, TCM advises you to get sufficient rest and avoid late nights. Cold and raw foods are especially important to avoid too.
7. A Qi Deficiency can be managed by eating in moderate portions at fixed times even when you travel, exercising, consuming enough nutrients, and snacking on ginger candy in cases of motion sickness.
8. Monk fruit tea (Luo Han Guo) is believed to counter headaches, dizziness, swollen red eyes, and acne.
9. Wolfberry and chrysanthemum tea (Gou Qi Ju Hua Cha) can effectively treat fever, headache, and coughs.
10. Tuina massage might work to manage insomnia, headache, and constipation.
Acupressure Can Help Symptoms Of An Immune Deficiency
Acupressure can help reduce some of the symptoms you may experience from traveling with a compromised immune system, such as headaches, constipation, nausea, and insomnia.
If you are traveling, consider performing acupressure on yourself by pressing down on certain acupoints with your fingers and holding for several seconds before releasing.
1. Acupressure points that help with constipation: Zhi Gou (SJ6) and Tian Shu (ST25)
2. Acupressure points that help with insomnia: Tai Xi (KI3) and Nei Guan (PC6)
3. Acupressure points that help with headaches: Feng Chi (GB 20) and He Gu (LI4)
4. Acupressure points that help with nausea: Nei Guan (PC6) and Zu San Li (ST36)
If you think you have an immune deficiency, you should contact your doctor to know what conditions you may suffer from prior to traveling. That way, you’ll be able to travel safely and healthily.
1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2018. How does the immune system work? [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/>
2. Yale Medicine. 2021. What Does It Mean To Be ‘Immunocompromised’? [online]. Available at: <https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/what-does-immunocompromised-mean>
3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2019. Disorders of the Immune System [online]. Available at: <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/disorders-of-the-immune-system>
4. Britannica. 2015. Examples of autoimmune disorders [online]. Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/science/immune-system-disorder/Autoimmune-disorders#ref215519>
5. Penn Medicine. 2020. 6 Signs You Have a Weakened Immune System [online]. Available at: <https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system>
6. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2019. Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders [online]. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691096/>