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Adjusting to Altitude: What to eat when visiting, vacationing or living in the Mountains

Posted Oct 01 2008 9:16pm

Every year thousands of individual head to the mountains and varying
elevations for ski trips, hiking excursions, retreats or vacation home
living. Often accompanying these trips are symptoms of altitude
adjustment or altitude sickness. From headaches, dehydration, loss of
appetite, nose bleeds, shortness of breath, general fatigue and nausea-
the symptoms can retard fun activities planned in the mountains.

Over six years ago I had the opportunity to hike the Himalayas of Nepal. My
group and I trekked for over 28 days and had to learn how to
acclimatize our bodies to adapt to the extreme altitude of 19,000 feet.
We ate a very simple, yet effective diet that consisted of banana
pancakes, dahl bat, garlic soup and herbal teas. From this experience
and the research conducted to help our bodies adjust, I would like to
share my altitude nutrition and acclimatization guide. Hopefully, this
altitude diet and altitude "survival" guide will help you and your
family enjoy your time in the mountains naturally without the use of a
drug like diamox or decadron.

At the altitude or elevation of 4,000+ feet your body experiences a lower level of oxygen. The higher the
elevation, the lower the air pressure is and the faster water
evaporates from your body; without even sweating. As a result, your
heart rate elevates causing your body to work harder to maintain your
oxygen levels. Blood pressure can spike as your heart beats faster to
pump more oxygen through your body.As your body is working harder you
will experience one of more of these symptoms:
Headache
Listlessness
Shortness of breath with mild to moderate activities
Trouble sleeping
Frequent urination
Lack of appetite
Nose bleeds

My altitude nutrition guide will help you adjustment to altitude
and prevent altitude sickness and combat the effects of altitude on
your health and body. A staple is at least 3 ltrs of water, a high carb
diet (60-70%) and iron rich foods.

What to eat at high altitude and higher elevations:
Garlic- whole, roasted or in tablet form
Bananas-whole or in pancakes, yogurt or cereal
High complex cards- rice, pasta, potatoes, whole grain breads, oatmeal, bagels
Plenty of fluids, herbal teas, caffeine free teas, cider, fruit juice and electrolyte rich
liquids like gatorade
Iron rich foods: red meats, leafy green veggies

In preparation for a trip to the mountains: consume iron or take iron
supplements like Floradix Liquid Iron as well as garlic tablets and
meals with chopped garlic. Anemia or iron deficience can be problematic
in the mountains and at higher elevations. With lower red blood cell
counts, individuals with anemia need to counter balance the deficiency
the increases as elevations increase. Women are often more prone to
feel the effects and impact of anemia at altitude.

A carb rich diet iskey as carbs naturally replace muscle glycogen levels and prevent
protein from being burned as energy; allowing you to have maintained
energy. Another benefit is it also requires less oxygen for metabolism
and your body works less to digest these foods.

You will want to avoid depressants like alcohol, sleeping pills, codeine and coffee. Avoid
vigorous exercise until you feel your body has acclimatized properly.

For more information about the altitude nutrition guide or to receive a
booklet for $5; please email healthybeing@mac.com.

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