Air travel with its frequent delays, security, cramped spaces and jet lag can be stressful, but does it make you more likely to contract a contagious disease?

On a typical commercial jet aircraft there are about twenty air exchanges per hour while cruising. In the last two decades airplane manufacturers have elevated air re-circulation levels to as high as 50 percent of all cabin air in an effort to reduce the engines' workload and thus increase the plane's fuel-efficiency. The latest World Health Organization report says there is no evidence that recirculation of cabin air facilitates the transmission of infectious diseases on board.

So it seems it is the health of the immune system that determines whether or not you will get sick. The infectious bacteria and viruses that may circulate around an airplane cabin are merely triggers for an already weakened immune system. And the truth is anytime you're in a confined public space you run the risk of being exposed to germs. In fact, you're exposed to germs every day of your life. But the solution isn't to avoid public places but rather to increase the health of your immune system. So that in the future if – or more likely when – you come in contact with bacteria and viruses you will not get sick.

If you know you're going to be flying soon take these extra precautions to ensure your immune system is functioning at its peak. In fact, follow these tips year-round – regardless of your travel plans – as you will inevitably be exposed to bacteria and viruses in your daily life:

  1. Take vitamin D. It is one of the major keys that dictate whether you will actually develop a disease upon exposure. You can get vitamin D3 throughout the winter months in soft gels. But in the summer responsible daily sun exposure allows your white blood cells to convert the vitamin D from sunlight on your skin into a protein that kills bacteria. Vitamin D is also necessary for your immune system to function properly and has been well documented to increase the production of over 200 antimicrobial peptides that fight infection
  2. Drink plenty of clean water. Avoid water bought in plastic bottles where possible and instead choose a home water purification system. These range from under the sink models to the simple Brita
  3. Limit your exposure to toxins such as:
    • PCBs found in farm raised salmon
    • Pesticides used in non organic fruits and vegetables and commercially raised meats plus bug sprays
    • Molds from foods like peanuts, wheat, corn and alcoholic beverages
    • Phthalates found in soft plastics such as plastic wrap and plastic bottles that can leach into food and in perfumes that absorb phthalates into the skin
    • VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found in carpets, paints, deodorants, dry cleaned clothing and air fresheners
    • Dioxins in air pollution from burning wood, coal, oil and waste incineration
    • Heavy metals in fish, vaccines, pesticides, antiperspirants and dental amalgams
  4. Consume healthy fats as they help your body absorb important vitamins including vitamins A, D and E:
    • Olives and olive oil
    • Coconuts and coconut oil
    • Butter made from grass-fed organic milk
    • Raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pecans
    • Organic pastured eggs
    • Avocados
    • Grass fed meats
    • Unheated organic nut oils
  5. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit both raw and cooked. Invest in a juicer for under $100 and make fresh homemade vegetable juice combinations such as carrot, apple, ginger and lemon. Make vegetables two-thirds of your plate at every meal. Think salad first then protein, good fat and fruit next
  6. Exercise regularly as it increases blood flow throughout your body. As a result the cells of the immune system are better circulated. This gives your immune system a head start at finding a virus or bacteria before it has a chance to spread
  7. Get a good night's sleep by:
    • Keeping your room dark at night
    • Don't exercise too close to bedtime
    • Keep your bedroom cool
    • Don't drink alcohol close to bedtime
    • Avoid watching TV or using the computer an hour before falling asleep as it disrupts your melatonin production
  8. Avoid sugar as it decreases the function of your immune system almost immediately. Check labels as it could be present in foods you are unaware of
  9. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face when out in public

Have a great trip!