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.
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. 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. Lion’s mane can also help to alleviate feelings of stress, improve mood and support sleep – arguably the “happy vacation” trifecta.
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. 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. 
Beta-glucans from the fruiting body of reishi mushroom have been have also shown in research to provide skin benefits. Studies have found that reishi also protects against UV damage and skin aging. 
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. Sustained high insulin and subsequent insulin resistance can reduce testosterone levels, and both men and women need testosterone to ignite the fire.  Research has also shown that eating soy foods may link to erectile dysfunction, so keep soy off the sexy-time menu.
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.
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.
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
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