Or rather, Pre. dendum. an article came to my attention, and I want to include it in this treatise on air-travel and infections. It makes a few good points. Hopefully this link will be active for the duration.
If you are serious about your archery game, you must attempt to compensate for the stresses your body must deal with. Heavy physical training makes consuming adequate nutritional variety more difficult – how many great athletes do you know that are perpetually fighting some minor infection or flu bug? (lots)
Science has shown for many years that when a human body is “anergic” (lacking in total nutrients needed) that the first thing that gets sacrificed is the body’s primary defense barrier in the immune reaction system.
SO you must insure a good source for as wide of a variety of fruits, vegetables, berries, and proteins as possible, not just before a tournament but like the Olympics, EVERY DAY… Of course you must also properly hydrate so that your kidneys can freely dispose of the metabolic wastes you produce. Following the concept of compensation, recovery, and supercompensation is a good way to avoid overtraining and weakened immune function.
Traveling in an aluminum tube at 30+ thousands of feet
We have to get to where the action is. Rarely will the tournament be at home. There are several risk factors to be aware of – most can be minimized – in flying for 8 to 12 hours (or more) en route.
Humidity in jet planes is virtually non-existent. Why is this critical? Your sinus cavity and throat, even your esophagus and bronchi, are lined with mucous membranes which produce a barrier of thick, gooey, mucopolysaccharides (aka snot) that are rife with white blood cells. Any foreign bacteria you inhale gets physically stuck on this stuff, digested, and killed. WHEN you are at a low humidity in a plane, your production of snot goes way down, and the mucous beds actually become much more thin, much LESS of a physical barrier. You lose much of that first line of defense, so when the person in 12b from some far away country starts hawking up a lung, YOU are more at risk for absorbing his viral or bacterial donation. Incubation periods vary, but this is often why 2 to 5 days AFTER your flight, you suddenly have a “cold” or a head full of phlegm and the grizzlies. Often that is right when you are supposed to perform at your peak.
Smart frequent fliers realize this humidity-related risk, and plan for each trip by spending a couple of bucks at the drug store buying “normal saline nose spray”, brands include Ayr and Ocean – these are sterile solutions of water with just enough salt to match your body’s own fluids – no stinging or burning. During the flight, about EVERY 15 minutes, you should inhale in each nostril a shot of spray, and your membranes won’t thin out and your mucous production remains both more thick and effective. Once you are home, throw that bottle of spray away – it contains no preservatives and so could become a host colony of bacteria over time, sitting in your travel case after having been used.
At the hotel
Another Frequent Flyer (FF) trick: Run a hot shower, but stopper the tub drain, and leave the curtain open as much as possible without water on the floor. Locate the bathroom exhaust vent on the wall near the tub, and place a kleenex over it to impede the loss of the steam. If you have clothes on hangers that are wrinkled, hang them from the curtain rod – the steam will release the wrinkles (don’t spray them with the water, though). Once the air is so thick you can’t see yourself in the mirror, breathe deeply through your nose, exhale through your mouth for at least 5 minutes. You are rehydrating your breathing passageways – don’t be shy about clearing your sinuses by blowing them – the mother-nature method is much better than with a kleenex, by the way. Once your tub is full, do NOT drain it. Open the bathroom door, and let the steam escape into the room, increasing humidity and making it more sinus-friendly for you throughout the night. This is especially useful during winter months when the humidity is, you guessed it, low.
No, this doesn’t mean those things wrapped in a foil packet (although those are a good idea, always). If you fear you are coming down with “something” despite your best precautions, you must be mindful of USADA restrictions on taking certain drugs both in and out of competition. Sudafed, for example, is a definite no-no. The only true immune booster that you can take without a prescription, that has zero adverse side effects, and actually increases T-Cell production, Interferon production, and improves the motility of your macrophages (your white blood cells get around better to englobe foreign invaders, is known incorrectly as “vitamin D”, and USADA has no problems with it.
It’s not truly a vitamin, but that doesn’t matter – your body can make it, the Over-The-Counter version is called D3 and is exactly the chemical your body makes so there is little chance of an adverse reaction. MOST people are deficient in it, so their immune systems are challenged. Taking 50,000iu a day for 3 to 5 days is much more than the minimum daily allowance, but will not be dangerous for the otherwise healthy athlete. What it will also do in addition to the above mentioned benefits is enable your body to create “cathelicidin”. (hint: follow the link)
Since insuring your blood level of D (test is a “25(OH)D” test) is 50 to 70 ng/ml has been shown to improve balance and muscular strength, it is a win-win. Since it is safer than water, cheaper than bottled water, it is actually a triple win! BTW: A ng is a billionth of a gram, which means that not much at all can sure have a hugely beneficial effect on health.
I still don’t feel good
Despite your best efforts, your head is about to explode, Or, you can’t take ten steps away from the toilet without feeling *very* insecure. Being a Boy Scout (be prepared) can be a life-saver and keep you competing.
USADA is your friend. Check ahead of time for what you can pack with you “just in case”. Pepto Bismol for stomach cramps and upset? In-competition archery, it’s legal. Plain antihistamines for sinus symptoms like Claritin or Zyrtec? OK. (but NOT the combinations with pseudoephedrine!) Phenylephrine (a weaker version) – ok. Afrin, a nasal spray that can relieve clogged sinuses quickly and for just a few hours – legal – but do not over use it or it will stop working for you.
LOPERAMIDE (Imodium) – this can be a huge comfort, as it can stop diarrhea – is legal in archery for both in and out of competition. These are all available OTC, as individually wrapped tablets/capsules, so they travel well and don’t take up much room, and you can carry them with you to the field. Don’t expect finding these will be easy at your competition city! And if you are in doubt – always check the drug against USADA’s search tool, and printscreen the USADA results page that say it is ok – the page includes a reference numbeR that *may* be useful in arguing. Bottom line, check USADA about *anything* that is a medicine, that you are taking to cause a change in your body’s functions especially if it is available without a prescription. Do NOT remove these tablets from their packaging that positively identifies them. Mysterious tablets in one’s possession in foreign places can be a distraction from competition!
For the seasoned traveling competitor this is an obvious, but…Never drink from a water bottle that has been opened outside of your immediate control. If you have a doubt about which one is yours, toss it and get a new one. DO stay hydrated – if you are not feeling the need to urinate every hour or so during competition, you are possibly falling behind in hydration BUT DO NOT OVERDO! Don’t drink only straight water in hot sweating occasions – alternate with propel, gatorade, etc. for electrolytes and variety in flavor as you are more likely to stay caught up. NEVER ever accept an open drinking container from another competitor or coach that is not a member of your team, and likewise be cautious with anything taken internally – food, candy, gum, etc.. Another good reason to know your balance needs – when USADA does come calling on you after an event, if you are dehydrated your urine will not be acceptable to the test. You’ll have to drink, wait for it to percolate through the kidneys, and then test. If you have been TOO aggressive in hydrating, your urine will actually be too WEAK in concentration, and then you must wait even longer before you are able to provide a testable sample. Smart athletes gauge the conditions, and drink accordingly.
Sure, you are in a new country with exotic and fun things, including foods. Before your competition, stick with the “normals” as much as you can, including ENROUTE.
Travel with your comfort foods in your carry-on, along with your finger tabs, releases, (yadda yadda you know the travel drill for your gear!) peanut butter (including the pre-mixed-with-jelly, and the packaged in squeeze tubes kind), beef jerky if that is your passion, craisins, trail mix, etc… And try to buy several smaller sizes rather than one big size. Makes for easier packing, and reduces the chances of contamination.
If you want a personal recommendation on a neutraceutical, USADA-safe, that travels extremely well and insures nutrient intake is maintained under *any* circumstances which I recommend and sell, email me. Athletes the world over (23 countries so far and in a number of NGB-sanctioned diets) are discovering what I have been using and recommending for more than 8 years, it again is USADA safe and has more gold-standard studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals than any other neutraceutical.
Addendums after the post:
If you do develop diarrhea be aware that your hydration needs will triple or quadruple. Imodium is much safer than Lomotil for a competitor, but if Imodium(loperamide) doesn’t work resorting to Lomotil may be a rational decision but be aware that Lomotol WILL alter your senses.
Technical Medical/Clinical Talk
Normally, your large intestine’s main function is to regain water from your gut to help homeostasis. That means muscles of your large intestine squeeze the water out of your stool, kneading it like bread dough, and return the water to your bloodstream so that you do not endure wide swings in your blood thickness. That is why when you are dehydrated, like when you go to the AZ cup, you are more likely to be dehydrated AND constipated, with harder, smaller stools.
But things like unusual bacteria (which are not pathological in the traditional sense) that cause diarrhea to the unfamiliar switch the great bowel muscles from the kneading dough mode to a propulsion, get the heck out of dodge mode, forcing the contents that offend your body out as quickly as possible, homeostasis being less important than hydration stability. In essence, mother nature knows it is better to be dehydrated than retain that which offends and might rot your gut. IF you develop diarrhea, taking more fluids, especially with electrolytes, is critical for maintaining muscle strength. After a bout of diarrhea, you WILL be weaker even if you do not feel such is the case. Rehydration, but with the right mix of electrolytes, is key. (No, drinking lots more beer is not going to help)
In the timing of competition once begun, it’s likely that what you do in the the short term is what wins out. Regaining fluids, simple sugars for short-term energy, potassium and magnesium for muscle contractility, these are paramount. AFTER the event, taking probiotics you carry with you or eating local yogurts, to re-establish the flora in the gut will provide the faster path to normalcy. It is suspected that the appendix provides the inoculants of beneficial bacteria for the recovery after the diarrhea attack but that takes longer time for the colonies to multiply and spread. It’s much faster to supply the gut with probiotics, which are encapsulated and USADA safe.
The bacteria making up yogurts in say, America, will be FAR different than that found in perhaps, Turkey or Mexico. NOT PATHOLOGICAL, (DISEASE CAUSING), JUST DIFFERENT. During a prolonged stay, for say the Olympics, where the athlete will likely be exposed to foreign bacterias for many days, inoculating yourself early after arrival with native bacteria can actually LESSEN the debilitating effects which might occur during competition by precipitating them during the acclimation and practice periods. I for one am NOT a fan of having the athlete stay at the Oly village and eat nothing but McDonalds – it might be “safe” from a bacterial sense, but a cratering of nutrition otherwise and very, very bad for supercompensation goals. NO smart US athlete eats nothing but McDonalds (and yes, Usain Bolt swears he ate nothing but chicken nuggets during his games, but that *may* have been a step up in his dietary quality) on the way to the games so why eat that way in the moments leading up to the penultimate competitive moment in an 8 or 12 year odyssey? No sense there.