In my last several blogs I talked about how to keep healthy while traveling and on vacation. I recommended nutrition and lifestyle tips to help you survive health missteps while traveling on an airplane, while staying in hotels, and even while eating on the road.
I discussed ways for you to minimize disruptions to your circadian rhythm and sleep caused by jet lag, as well as changes in your usual sleep-wake schedule. I also reviewed the importance of keeping your routines intact, including keeping up with your usual supplementation protocol (in particular, any digestive enzymes and probiotics) along with exercise.
Maybe you followed this advice…or maybe not. But you’ve returned home from your vacation to your regular routine, and you are feeling completely zapped.
No energy, tired, and dragging.
Are you feeling like you need a recharge? But wait! didn’t you just take a vacation?
Maybe your stomach feels a little more bloated and just “unhealthy.” You probably know the feeling I’m talking about. Perhaps you aren’t having regular bowel movements, or maybe their frequency is a little too frequent. Possibly your post vacation blues are even bordering on depression – all you feel like doing now that you have arrived home is eating high-carb comfort foods while lying on the couch.
Well guess what?
You have a vacation hangover and the post vacation blues!
You aren’t alone. So many of my clients tell me that they experience this lack of energy and overall feeling of “yuck” when they return from an otherwise wonderful vacation. They always express such surprise at why they feel this way after enjoying a week of de-stressing, great family time, and fun! It almost doesn’t seem to make sense that instead of feeling renewed they often feel tired, lethargic, and sad.
So what’s the story here? Is there really such a thing as a vacation hangover?
Yes! If you read my earlier blogs you’ll easily see what causes vacation hangover to happen:
- Too many of the wrong foods: Eating foods that you typically stay clear of due to either having food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, sugar, and other items, or because you KNOW they are just plain unhealthy! Too much alcohol, sugar, and caffeine anyone? This also includes eating at the wrong time in many cases For example, eating heavy meals too late at night is taxing on your digestion.
- Not enough of the right foods: Eating less of the good stuff means you haven’t been getting the right nutrients or, likely, the fiber needed to help move the junky food through your system!
- Getting off of the greens! If you normally do juicing or blending, you may have completely stopped that while on your vacation due to lack of a blender or juicer, or just being too mobile to deal with fixing your own. Eating on the go can also mean you have been subbing fries in place of your usual healthy veggie side dish. This can have a dramatic effect on how you feel, how you move your bowels, and other ways you remove toxins. Toxins such as all of that alcohol and unhealthy white processed food you might have been consuming.
- Not taking your usual supplements: Many of my clients tell me they don’t take their probiotic and digestive enzymes while on vacation as it is too difficult to remember, or they don’t want to hassle with it while out and about.
- Lack of exercise, especially when your usual routine includes it!
- A whacked out circadian rhythm due to jet lag or staying up too late: This means your body hasn’t been getting the restorative sleep it needs.
- Depression due to the shift in your mindset and activity level: While on vacation you may have been “on the go”, hopping from destination to destination, seeing friends and/or experiencing amazing new adventures and sites. Now you are suddenly faced with laundry, more meal prep – which means more dishes to wash, and returning to sitting all day at your desk tomorrow. The mental shift that is forced upon you can cause a surge of the stress hormone cortisol as you land back into your everyday reality. You may also be feeling a tremendous sense of loss over enjoying the spontaneity and excitement of your travels, and the freedom that came with each day.
So what can you do to put the zip back in your step and feel better?
- Eat fast food…as in “GET BACK TO EATING HEALTHY FOODS – FAST!” Does this scene sound familiar to you? You return from a vacation to an empty fridge, so you continue your unhealthy ways using packaged or frozen food items for another day or two until you can make it to the market. If this sounds like YOU, plan ahead! Give a health buddy a key to your house and ask him/her to stock up your pantry with some fresh vegetables and a few other healthy options for the day of your return.
- Go GREEN: In particular, start pushing the GREENS as soon as possible, in any form you can.Juice them, blend them, and eat them raw and/or lightly steamed. Get a nutritional bump and start cleaning out your digestive system. The fiber in the veggies will help with your bowel movements, too.
- There are 3 great GREEN foods that I love that are potent detoxifiers: After a vacation of excessive eating and drinking, you could likely benefit from these cleansing foods, too. Dandelion, which stimulates the bile and liver and helps remove toxins through the urine. Avocado is especially good at detoxing synthetic chemicals and for increasing the activity of the most important aspect of liver detoxification. Cruciferous veggies, along with being nutrient powerhouses, support liver detoxification, neutralize heavy metals from your blood, and cleanse the colon. If you click on the hyperlink at the beginning of this bullet point, you will find a few wonderful cleansing recipes with these foods as well.
- Include the 5 Basic Tastes: The five basic tastes—bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami (savory)—help ensure our survival. Each works through specialized proteins inside your taste buds, called taste receptors, that latch onto molecules in food and drink, sending signals to the brain through the nervous system and producing sensations from “ew!” to “mmm!”. The brain seamlessly weaves these together with aromas and other sensory information to shape the overall flavor. Dandelion, broccoli, and burdock are bitter, and antioxidants, which aid metabolism and help the body ward off cancer, account for much of the bitter taste. Turmeric is a pungent flavor. It contains the active ingredient, “curcumin,” that stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile and also scavenges free radicals. Just as with dandelion, this helps cleanse your liver, purify your blood, and promote good digestion and elimination. Sweet could be a flavor like cinnamon, salty could be celery, and sour could be a lemon. Make a smoothie with all the tastes and see what you come up with!
- Consider a Juice Cleanse: You might also want to consider doing a juice cleanse. I do this regularly myself, and many of my clients find it particularly helpful after they’ve been off their usual nutritional diet and/or eating on the go for a time. A juice cleanse consists of either replacing a meal or two each day with green juice, or consuming only green juice for several days. You can easily do a three day cleanse on your own. Longer cleanses really should be done with some type of support as you will go through a lot of emotions and physical feelings and it is helpful to have someone knowledgeable to guide you and let you know what may be coming next. Juicing basically allows you to direct all of the juice’s raw nutrients to help every cell in your body make energy for you! So you will get energized, and your digestive system will feel cleaned out and great.
In my VITAL Health Community we have mini-cleanses about every other week. Taking a break from eating for a day or two as often as once a week can hugely benefit your desire to achieve and maintain your perfect body weight and keep your blood sugar and hormones in balance – especially growth hormone, insulin, and leptin. These three hormones together determine whether you burn or store fat, create or waste away lean muscle tissue, and regulate how hungry you get between meals. Research shows that intermittent fasting is more effective than calorie restriction for weight reduction.
You can think of a mini-cleanse as a way of letting your digestive system take a “nap”. The more you seek a cleansing benefit, the more you should lean towards option 1. But convenience and ease are important — it’s better to make the choice you can than none at all. Pick the choice, or combination, that’s best for you:
- Drink nothing but water, perhaps flavored with a splash of lemon or lime juice or a drop or two of essential oil. I personally like the “JuvaCleanse” brand by Young Living because it provides support for the liver through a carefully formulated blend of essential oils that supports normal liver function. When your liver detox pathways work optimally, you can eliminate toxins more efficiently. You can find it available for ordering here: http://www.drritamarie.com/go/YoungLiving
- Drink nothing but green juice all day OR
- Drink only green smoothies all day OR
- Eat fresh fruits and veggies all day, no other food
Hint: You might find it easier to cleanse by starting after breakfast or lunch. When I do an “intermittent fast day” on just water, I usually eat breakfast and lunch then skip dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day and have a light dinner on day 2. You can schedule it however you are most comfortable, as long as you go 24 or more hours without solid foods.
- Get the “good guys” back in control of your gut: If you’ve been off your daily probiotic supplement, start it up again. Make sure some naturally fermented foods are on that list for your health buddy to purchase and have in the refrigerator before you get home! Foods that are naturally high in probiotics, such as raw sauerkraut, will provide beneficial enzymes that will increase your body’s ability to digest foods, and this in turn will promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in your gut. The “good guys” can get back in control, preventing the growth of the bad bacteria, as well as increasing your overall nutrient absorption.
- Get moving again: Exercise will help your blues by releasing some endorphins. And it will help get your digestion flowing and your bowels back to normal as well.
- Re-set your circadian rhythm to improve your sleep: Research done by Mark Rosekind, the former director for NASA’s Fatigue Countermeasures Program found that people often have a poor night’s sleep prior to a trip (averaging about 5 hours versus the recommended 7), and then often had sleep loss as much as up to eight hours over a four-day period. A loss of eight hours is one full night of sleep! On top of this, jet lag can result in fatigue as well as digestive issues, especially for eastbound travel. There is a general rule of thumb that it takes about a day to recover from every time zone you cross while traveling. The best way to resolve jet lag is to try and stay on your destination’s time-clock, both for bedtime as well as waking up time. Make sure when you wake up that you get some bright sunlight in your eyes. The light hits your retinas, which communicates “wake-up” to your brain, helping reset your natural circadian rhythms to your local time.
- Bump up your immunity! After breathing the same recirculated air in a plane for 8 hours, or eating too much junk, your immune system is likely just a tad bit compromised. The good news, if you remove inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy, and get back on your probiotic, you will help improve your gut flora and your immunity. Bump up your Omega 3s as well!
- Energy elixirs to the rescue! I love using natural herbs such as ashwagandha to create energizing elixirs. When I travel a lot (as I often do), I am always using a recipe from my book, Endless Energy Elixir Recipes. You can get that for free when you click here. Try one or two, especially when you are feeling run down – or after a vacation!
All of these steps will help improve your energy and mood. As you get back into your groove you’ll be able to appreciate your vacation again, as well!
If you want to learn more about how to assess and heal your digestive health, consider taking a moment and listen to “3 Ways Your Digestive Health Affects Your Energy, Your Mood, and Your Sex Drive, and How to Restore Balance Using My Proven System for Gut Healing.” This page also includes my Happy Belly Checklist and Recipe Collection.
How do you feel after your vacation? Are there certain things you do to provide a smooth transition? Share with us in the comments below!