Is it that important to take vitamins when traveling?

Let us discuss mineral deficiencies when traveling, write this as it is somewhat timely.

The question many on these here “interwebs” search is: “should I take vitamins for traveling” .

It’s a topic that doesn’t come up often enough, wish someone has clued me in 27+ months ago.

The reality is that in most parts of the world, a full balanced diet is simply not available. This doesn’t matter so much if you’re living as an expat or if you are only traveling for a week or so. The expat probably has a kitchen and despite being abroad, usually lives a life somewhat similar to that they had at home before becoming an expat by shopping at the specialty stores and cooking what they wish. The week or two long vacationer simply isn’t gone long enough for a vitamin deficiency to start causing visible symptoms. Also, many stay in all inclusive resorts or eat like kings anyways, I mean it’s your vacation right?

A long term traveler should take vitamins regularly regardless of where they are traveling. When one is traveling in a less developed region, it becomes very apparent that some items simply aren’t included in the local diet or are very misrepresented and over time, your body will be seriously missing such said nutrients. Flip side is that if you’re backpacking through somewhere like Europe, many of your meals will probably be done on the street level or considered “fast food”. Street and fast food typically offer very little nutritional value, they fill you up, clog your arteries and increase your waist line but very little else. Even if you eat at a fancy restaurant every day, are you really getting your recommended vegetable servings?

Writing this as currently I’m starting to feel the effects of vitamin deficiency, started a few days ago actually. Where I am now in Nicaragua, the typical meal I receive has fish or chicken, rice, fried banana and perhaps 1/3 of a tomato, small portion of shredded cabbage and a bit of onion. If one were to eat what is given in local restaurants for a prolonged period, the quantity of vegetables is noticeably missing. Yesterday I went into town and purchased some vitamin B complex and loaded up on full spectrum multi-vitamins. Decided against taking vitamin c supplements since there are plenty of oranges and other citrus fruits in steady supply that I already over indulge in.

Some vitamins you may wish to consider on your trip:

Multivitamin: No brainer, take it and only it as a minimum.
Vitamin B Complex: Recommended, just google it as it’s “the wonder wall of vitamins”.
Vitamin C: Take it if you aren’t somewhere with countless readily available citrus fruits.
Others: Determine your own needs, the above are the major ones.

Considering I bought 20 days worth of a vitamin B complex for less than $0.50US and 20 multivitamins for $3, would recommend you purchase the vitamins while already overseas. Everyone has small but subtle hints that their body is not receiving all the nutrients that it requires. Besides that if you aren’t getting your daily doses, very easy to start feeling lethargic or under the weather which does nothing for the quality of your trip.

If you’re traveling long term, take your vitamins before you start wondering if there is “something wrong with you”. When you think that, you’ll go online and immediately be diagnosed with some death sentence when you just need some vitamins. The local food may taste great but in the end your body is simply a machine and food is simply fuel.  If the additives your body needs aren’t in the fuel, take care of it yourself to make sure you run smoothly and efficiently.

If you’re in a country that has it, try and drink a V8 everyday instead of a coke, will work wonders. Also remember that when traveling your body is under considerable more stress than when you’re just going about your business in the routine you have for yourself back home. Traveling is great but when you start feeling ill, being on the road isn’t such a treat.

Tips hat,

P.S: Don’t forget that white sugar is poison and killing you

9 Comments

  1. James Shannon

    December 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Very useful post Rob! Thinking back to Cambodia, I went through a lengthy period of general malaise (wasn’t a cold/flu/malaria, but I definitely wasn’t well) and a lack of proper nutrition was probably the likely culprit…

    • Rob

      December 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      No doubt it could be. If you think about it, people who care about their health take vitamins back home. Why wouldn’t you when you are eating out all the time and in areas without the recommended nutrients? #nobrainer, odd it never dawned on me until now.

  2. Garion

    December 12, 2011 at 1:36 am

    I’m curious to how you picked up you were lacking vitamins? That’s cool you’re in tune with your body. Did you just start feeling run down?

    • Rob

      December 12, 2011 at 5:24 am

      Started feeling run down like something was missing. That lethargic heady feeling you get after a night out when you aren’t going out and drinking copious amounts of water. If you feel weak in these countries the #1 culprit is not enough water.

      Once that is out of the way, it is nutrients. People take them in Canada as their diet isn’t fully balanced, on the road…

  3. Gerard ~ GQ trippin

    December 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    The question is which vitamin do you need when recovering from a hangover? I heard B12 is the way to go. What say you?

    • Rob

      December 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      I always drink gatorade or “revive” as it is called here. Supposedly coconut juice works wonders…

  4. Fran

    December 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Great information! I have a kitchen, but we’re working too hard to get dinner some nights, but the big deficit here is fruits and vegetables. Sure, there should be bananas aplenty and it’s the tropics so fruits and vegetables should be easy to come by. The one supermarket I’ve been to has a limited produce department and it’s very expensive — I assume it’s geared toward an upper class and the open market has almost nothing other than some oranges and lychees.

    I am craving raw vegetables and rather than remain militant about staying away from anything I can’t peel, I have given in when a tomato or cucumber or zucchini comes my way, but your point is so valid and I hadn’t thought of it at all.

    I’m going to have to get some vitamins STAT! Thanks for the nudge.

  5. Michelle

    January 5, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Hi, my son will be traveling on the World Race for 11 months to Philippines, India, China, Nepal, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Moldova, Romania, South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. Can you tell me what type of vitamins and or probiotics he should take? Thanks!

    • Rob

      January 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      You are best to contact a pharmacist or the people at your travel clinic. I’d definitely bring the following – multi vitamin (good one), B complex, C, calcium. Would also bring some oregano oil, that stuff is gold for when you feel yourself getting sick.

      Have fun!

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