How to Stay Healthy When Traveling on an Airplane

By Marie Parks

The holidays are a popular time for people to travel to see their family and friends. Most people are aware of the requirements for getting past security, such as taking off shoes, separating liquids and gels in a Ziploc bag, etc. We do this because we realize that this is a necessary step that will allow us to have a safe and comfortable flight.

However, most people forget about other important safety steps. While the airport and plane may be full of passengers that you can see, it’s also full of millions of germs, viruses, and bacteria that can ruin your trip.

When these potentially harmful “bugs” mix with people who have less-than-optimal immune function, their risk of becoming sick increases. And don’t forget those airport scanners — they’ve got their own risks.

How to Boost Your Immune System Before Flying

One of the most common nutrients that people take when they think they are getting sick is vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that may improve immune function due to its ability to scavenge damaging free radicals; however, it may not be sufficient on its own.1

Vitamin C is water-soluble, so it gets excreted by your body pretty quickly. However, we have found that a flavonoid (a type of antioxidant) called dihydroquercetin can help keep vitamin C from being broken down. As a result, it’s able to provide protection to your body for a longer period of time.5

A widely studied polysaccharide called beta-glucan has been shown to stimulate the function of cells required for optimal immune function, such as macrophages, which ingest and kill dangerous pathogens.2

Beta-glucans have been shown to ease the symptoms of the common cold. Also, a study done on firefighters showed that those taking beta-glucan had 23% fewer upper respiratory infections.3 Check out our magazine article for more info on the health benefits of beta-glucans.

Next, an herb that has been used for thousands of years has recently been studied with regard to its immune-boosting potential. Researchers have found that Andrographis paniculata contains phytochemicals (compounds in nature that can provide health benefits to humans) called andrographolides.

These andrographolides have shown that they can enhance the function of white blood cells which target foreign invaders such as viruses.4 We actually wrote a great article highlighting the immune-supporting power of andrographis in 2006.

These are only a few nutrients that offer immune support. For a look at some of the others, take a look at our detailed immune protocol.

Airport Scanners May Not be Harmless

No one wants to witness another terrorist attack, so airport scanners, although not perfect, are probably here to stay. However, if you’re concerned about the radiation exposure you encounter from these scanners, we have a suggestion for you … take a bunch of polyphenols.

Polyphenols are plant-based antioxidants. They act across a range of physiologic reactions, including favorable modification of gene expression that protects tissues from ionizing radiation.6,7

Resveratrol, quercetin, and green tea polyphenols rank among the best-studied and most potent antioxidants in this class. Resveratrol is both a radiation protector in healthy tissue and also has antitumor activity.8,9 In animal models, resveratrol has been shown to protect chromosomes from radiation-induced damage. Its antioxidant properties prevent radiation toxicity to animal liver and small intestines, two tissues most immediately sensitive to radiation’s ill effects.

Quercetin and its related compounds protect lipids and proteins from otherwise-lethal doses of gamma radiation, again largely through their antioxidant properties.10 Quercetin and other polyphenols not only provide chromosomal radioprotection, but also shield mitochondrial DNA from radiation-induced oxidant damage.11 Quercetin also ameliorates biochemical changes in human white blood cells following radiation exposure.12

The polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), derived from green tea, also protects animals from whole-body radiation, blocking lipid oxidation and prolonging life span.13 Green tea extracts can protect rapidly reproducing cells in the intestine and hair follicles from the damaging effects of radiation therapy, a form of radiation exposure far more intense than typical computed tomography (CT) doses — and one that more closely resembles the immediate effects of exposure to a nuclear plant disaster.14

Steps to Take Before Getting on an Airplane

Here’s what to do before you get on the plane:

  1. Start taking resveratrol, green tea, and quercetin one week before flying. Continue this throughout your trip.
  2. The day before you are scheduled to fly, add extra vitamin C and the bitter herb andrographis to your traveling regimen. Continue these for one week.
Why not be proactive this year to stay energized and healthy while you travel?

What do you do to stay healthy when you're traveling? Please share your tips in the comments below.


  1. Int J Vitam Nutr Res . 1997;67(5):312–20.
  2. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2010 Jan 15;391(3):1358-62. Epub 2009 Dec 21.
  4. J Cell Biochem. 2005 Aug 1;95(5):970-8.
  5. Free Radic Biol Med. 1995 Jul;19(1):45-52.
  6. Cancer Biol Ther. 2003 Nov-Dec;2(6):642-9.
  7. Cancer Gene Ther. 2008 Mar;15(3):133-9.
  8. Anticancer Res. 2006 Nov-Dec;26(6B):4403-8.
  9. Photochem Photobiol. 2008 Mar-Apr;84(2):415-21.
  10. Z Naturforsch C. 2005 Sep-Oct;60(9-10):728-38.
  11. Environ Mol Mutagen. 2006 Dec;47(9):647-56.
  12. Mutat Res. 2008 Jun 30;654(1):1-7.
  13. Life Sci. 1992;50(2):147-52.
  14. In Vivo. 2003 Mar-Apr;17(2):211-4.


Anonymous said...

why they keep pushing resveratrol as having antitumor effects?

its antitumor effects are rather weak if you read culture studies at

that which has more antitumor (suppressing some tumor growth) effects: curcumin, diosmin, cruciferous veggies, etc. and perhaps lots of coriolus extract (on empty stomach), etc

resveratrol worries me, though it may suppress some telomerase activity, it may also induce telomerase in abnormal mole cells, thus moving them towards being cancerous melanoma. Also, the metabolite of resveratrol will increase metastasis of melanoma.

the more the resveratrol dose the worst of these effects.


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