Combating Altitude Sickness: How to prepare before and during your trip to higher altitude
Kristina Niemi, January 2017
Bryan Thomas, Contributor
Oh that “I won’t get it, I go to higher altitude all the time” comment sometimes can get you when you least expect it. I just experienced altitude sickness first-hand back in December - and trust me, it’s NOT fun! I have only faced it twice, but both times were simply a horrible experience - and just by preparing yourself to head to 8,900 vertical feet can make a world of difference and ensure you are in top shape for your vacation.
Bryan Thomas, A Fitness & Performance Specialist at TAC Fitness, provided AroundAspen.com with some helpful words of advice to combat altitute sickness.
“One of the major contributing factors to the symptoms of altitude sickness is an inability to maintain a proper CO2/O2 balance. In order to extract oxygen from the hemoglobin in the red blood cells, you actually need carbon dioxide. This is a combination of two different known effects in the body. The Bohr effect is the effect in which carbon dioxide removes the oxygen from the hemoglobin, and the Haldane Effect which is the effect in which at higher elevations with less oxygen, your body adapts to that deficit by increasing it's dependence on CO2. Carbon Dioxide helps to create a compound called Erythopoeitin, which is often supplemented illegally by endurance athletes.
So what does all that mean and what can you do with it?
Carbohydrates, as the name implies, are made up of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen atoms. When they break down through the process of the krebs cycle, they produce more carbon dioxide than other macro-nutrients. Increasing carbohydrate intake during and prior to the time of acclimation can expedite the process substantially by increasing the utilization of the oxygen you do have available and improving the sensitivity to a good CO2/O2 balance.
Whether planning a trip to a higher elevation, or planning a challenging hike up to a higher altitude - there are steps you can take to combat altitude sickness. Bryan outlined some helpful tips below:
1) Get plenty of sunshine leading up to and during your acclimation, if possible. Sunlight helps with carbohydrate utilization. If you are traveling or living in a part of the country with poor sun exposure this time of year, tanning booths can help with that. Make sure to go for short lengths of time, but often. This will also help to make sure you get adequate Vitamin D as that is often low this time of the year. Red light can also help if you have access.
2) Practice good breathing work. Box breathing is a popular method of breathing in which you breath in, pause, breathe out, pause, all for the same duration. What this would look like would be a 3 second inhale, 3 second hold, 3 second exhale, 3 second hold, repeat. This will help acclimate you to the sensation of air hunger which can often happen if you aren't prepared for the thin air higher up.
3) Eat more fruit prior to and during your trip. Fruit will increase your carbohydrates to allow for more CO2 production as they are broken down, plus you get a lot of other healthy vitamins and minerals necessary to improve how easily you utilize carbohydrates for energy. Plus note, lots of fruits are still being studied and are having as of yet unknown compounds showing up all the time that are great for longevity.
4) Make sure to stay hydrated. Fluids like coconut water and orange juice will not only increase your hydration levels but also have lots of great electrolytes and other micronutrients. One of the other effects of good carbohydrate metabolism is that the breakdown in and of itself creates more H2O as well. So compared to just water, the coconut water and juices give you nutrients and fuel as well, though water will work for some of those effects.”
Just by following a few simple steps, you can prepare yourself and your body to easy altitude acclimation. For further insight into a customized wellness plan, contact TAC to meet with one of their performance specialists.
The Aspen Clinic (TAC) is a wellness center and fitness center located in Basalt, Colorado. We are more than a gym! We offer consultations and coaching for all of your health needs - to make sure that your results are attainable and long-lasting. As a health club that truly cares about the whole person, The Aspen Clinic is your first step in making wellness choices that will change your life!
- See more at: http://www.theaspenclinic.org/blog-post/how-to-combat-altitude-sickness#sthash.yV666vb2.dpuf