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Summer destination: healthy vacation

Vacation time is here! It’s time to lock up the laptop, close the apps on your phone, and exhale deeply. But have you ever noticed that just as you let your guard down, your immune system also seems to take a vacation? Instead of having the energy for all the hiking, swimming and roasting marshmallows by the campfire you had planned, you’re deep into Kleenex and Netflix. Read on for strategies that will protect your healthy, happy vacation. 

Stress less 


Research suggests that the vacation-crash is a side effect of cramming to get through your to-do list at work and stressing about trip planning. Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol at night-time can also keep you watching the clock when you’d rather be off in dreamland, which leaves you sleep deprived and primed for getting sick. 

Because a shot of cortisol tells the immune system that danger is imminent, it gets ready to offer support. When the stress never goes away, the immune system stays on high alert. Chronic stress can also activate latent viruses.[1] No wonder you start to feel sniffles on the first day of your vacation as soon you fall, exhausted, into your lounge chair. 

If you’ve still got time before you book off, build a stress-buffer into the weeks leading up to your vacation. Be sure to keep a handle on how much you’re exerting yourself before you leave, and designate preparation tasks among all the adults.  

If you’re already in vacation mode, it’s not too late!  


Low vitamin D is a major contributor to weakened immunity. And fortunately, sunshine is the best ally for this powerhouse vitamin. Be sure to let the sun’s rays touch your skin during your down-time. (More on sun health to follow!) 

Fresh fruits and vegetables off up a plateful of zinc, beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, and other nutrients you need to stay healthy. These foods are also a good source of fibre that helps to support a healthy gut microbiome – and, by extension, healthy immunity. Best of all, they’re in season while you’re on your summer break. 

For added immunity support, add lion’s mane mushroom to your vacation regimen. A great source of prebiotic fibre to support your gut immunity, lion’s mane may also be helpful to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel.[2] Lion’s mane can also help to alleviate feelings of stress, improve mood and support sleep – arguably the “happy vacation” trifecta.[3]  

And speaking of sun 


Whether you’re on a kayak, a bicycle or a pool floatie, you’ll probably get more time in the sun while on vacation than you do in a typical workday. Be sure you don’t get a nasty burn that can ruin your time away – and cause long-term skin health consequences down the road. 

You already know that you should be extra cautious between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, use appropriate sun protection cream, and to wear a hat when you’re in direct sunlight. 

But did you know that the foods you eat can have an impact on sun burn and sun damage? Some foods, including citrus fruits, such as lemon, lime, and grapefruit, contain components that can speed up how quickly you burn or have other reactions when sunlight touches your skin.[4] Drinking alcohol on the patio can be dehydrating, which might encourage skin burning. 

On the other hand, nutrients like beta-glucans and ergothioneine protect skin from sun damage to DNA and collagen. Ergothioneine may also promote DNA repair in sun-damaged cells.[5] [6]  

Beta-glucans from the fruiting body of reishi mushroom have been have also shown in research to provide skin benefits.[7] Studies have found that reishi also protects against UV damage and skin aging.[8] [9] 

Sexy time 


Let’s be frank. Sex is important for your health and for the health of your relationship. But with the stress and the exhaustion and the complications of life, it can easily get shoved to the back burner. Vacation time provides space for you to re-ignite your relationship.  

If you’re feeling up to it. 

If low libido is concerning, talk to your health care provider. A variety of underlying conditions including metabolic health could be a factor. If it’s the pace of life that’s got your libido down, there are a few easy tweaks you can make to your routine to put the spring back in your step.  

The food factor 


Although alcohol can help to set the mood, too much of a good thing can lead to an unhappy sex life. Moderation is key. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates that can cause an insulin spike and subsequent crash that will make you sleepy.[10] Sustained high insulin and subsequent insulin resistance can reduce testosterone levels, and both men and women need testosterone to ignite the fire.[11] [12] Research has also shown that eating soy foods may link to erectile dysfunction, so keep soy off the sexy-time menu.[13]

Get energized


Exhaustion is a common side effect of our busy lives. Energy metabolism causes the build-up of free radicals that eventually make us feel sluggish. Over-time, this accumulation can lead to over-strain, hormone disorders, and a weakened immune system. It also can zap the libido.  

To amplify your energy and rekindle your libido, add cordyceps mushroom to the mix. Traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, cordyceps has been shown in research to boost energy and natural endurance.[14] 

Multiple test tube and animal studies have also shown that this mushroom contains a substance called cordycepin which may stimulate testosterone production. In fact, cordyceps has been shown in laboratory research to improve erectile function.[15]  

Plan ahead


Don’t leave your healthy vacation to chance. With a few tweaks to your pre-break routine – and maybe a few new habits – you can be in top form all-vacation-long! 


This article was written by Lisa Petty, PhD





[1] Morey, J. N., Boggero, I. A., Scott, A. B., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2015). Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Current opinion in psychology5, 13–17.

[2] Diling, C., Xin, Y., Chaoqun, Z., Jian, Y., Xiaocui, T., Jun, C., Ou, S., & Yizhen, X. (2017). Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota. Oncotarget8(49), 85838–85857.

[3] Vigna, L., Morelli, F., Agnelli, G. M., Napolitano, F., Ratto, D., Occhinegro, A., … Rossi, P. (2019). Hericium erinaceus Improves Mood and Sleep Disorders in Patients Affected by Overweight or Obesity: Could Circulating Pro-BDNF and BDNF Be Potential Biomarkers? Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, 7861297–12.

[4]  Choi, J. Y., Hwang, S., Lee, S.-H., & Oh, S. H. (2018). Asymptomatic Hyperpigmentation without Preceding Inflammation as a Clinical Feature of Citrus Fruits-Induced Phytophotodermatitis. Annals of Dermatology, 30(1), 75–78.

[5] Markova NG, Karaman-Jurukovska N, Dong KK, Damaghi N, Smiles KA, Yarosh DB. Skin cells and tissue are capable of using L-ergothioneine as an integral component of their antioxidant defense system. Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Apr 15;46(8):1168-76. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.01.021.

[6] Hseu, Y.-C., Vudhya Gowrisankar, Y., Chen, X.-Z., Yang, Y.-C., & Yang, H.-L. (2020). The Antiaging Activity of Ergothioneine in UVA-Irradiated Human Dermal Fibroblasts via the Inhibition of the AP-1 Pathway and the Activation of Nrf2-Mediated Antioxidant Genes. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2020, 2576823–2576823.

[7] Kao, P.-F., Wang, S.-H., Hung, W.-T., Liao, Y.-H., Lin, C.-M., & Yang, W.-B. (2011). Structural Characterization and Antioxidative Activity of Low-Molecular-Weights Beta-1,3-Glucan from the Residue of Extracted Ganoderma lucidum Fruiting Bodies. Journal of Biomedicine & Biotechnology, 2012, 673764–.

[8] Lee, Sung Hoon et al. “The Protective Effect of Ganoderma Lucidum Extract in Ultraviolet B-Induced Human Dermal Fibroblasts and Skin Equivalent Models.” Annals of dermatology 32.3 (2020): 251–254.

[9] Xiang, L., Jie, L. (2013). Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide prevents oxidation and skin aging. Chinese Journal of Tissue Engineering Research. doi:10.3969/j.issn.2095-4344.2013.41.013

[10] Mantantzis, K., Schlaghecken, F., Sünram-Lea, S. I., & Maylor, E. A. (2019). Sugar rush or sugar crash? A meta-analysis of carbohydrate effects on mood. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 101, 45–67.

[11] Traish, A.M., Saad, F. and Guay, A. (2009), The Dark Side of Testosterone Deficiency: II. Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance. Journal of Andrology, 30: 23-32.

[12]   Mendy, A., & Pinney, S. M. (2022). Exposure to neonicotinoids and serum testosterone in men, women, and children. Environmental Toxicology, 37(6), 1521–1528.

[13] Siepmann, T., Roofeh, J., Kiefer, F. W., & Edelson, D. G. (2011). Hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction associated with soy product consumption. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 27(7), 859–862.

[14]   Ashraf, S. A., Elkhalifa, A. E. O., Siddiqui, A. J., Patel, M., Awadelkareem, A. M., Snoussi, M., … Hadi, S. (2020). Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps with Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(12), 2735–.

[15] Chen, Y.-C., Chen, Y.-H., Pan, B.-S., Chang, M.-M., & Huang, B.-M. (2017). Functional study of Cordyceps sinensis and cordycepin in male reproduction: A review. Yàowu Shi͡p︡in Fenxi, 25(1), 197–205.