This Is Why You May Be Getting Sick On Holiday

Anthia Koullouros

Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert

When we go on holidays, we’re all excited about the things we could do and how to enjoy it. But have you found that your body seems to always get sick during this point in time? Naturopath, Anthia Koullouros shares why we get sick during the holidays and how you can prevent and maximise your time away.

sick-holidayimage via pinterest

Why do we get sick when we stop and take a holiday? I started to remember all the clients I had seen over the years that experienced this phenomenon. I started to research this and discovered that it had been labeled as a condition called “leisure sickness”. Some say this is not a bona fide condition and it is psychosomatic. While others say when you change your environment from work place to travel holiday or home, you are exposed to many more or different bugs or that you may simply have more time to acknowledge your symptoms.

Esther Sternberg, a researcher of neuroendocrine immunology at the National Institutes of Health, believes that in times of stress, the body’s adrenal glands release adrenaline, which makes the heart beat faster and causes you to feel sweaty and anxious. Adrenaline gives a boost to the immune system, the body’s defence against infection. While adrenaline is pumping, so is cortisol which is also released by the adrenal glands. Cortisol binds to receptors on the fat cells, liver and pancreas, which increases glucose levels available for muscles to use during stress but it also temporarily inhibits other systems of the body, including digestion, growth, reproduction and the immune system. The two hormones are timed differently. What happens when you STOP doing what it is you were doing that stressed you, the adrenaline shuts off first and cortisol is left floating around making you more susceptible to illness because it inhibits immunity.

Vingerhoets performed a pilot study in 2002 on the prevalence, phenomenology, and background of leisure sickness. He concluded that those with a high workload, a high need for achievement, and a high sense of responsibility with respect to work were candidates for such a condition.

Whether you experience this phenomenon every holiday break or weekend consider and apply the following remedies.

1. Am I a workaholic? Workaholics anonymous have created a list of 20 questions to ascertain this. Review how you work, delegate, create systems and become an effective worker rather than a busy worker. Plan ahead and create and stick to an effective timetable that allows you to choose a week filled with work and self balance. For the workaholic that seeks perfection and sweats the small and big stuff take up or enjoy art. In Alain de Botton’s book “Art as Therapy” he examines arts most intimate purpose: its ability to mediate our psychological shortcomings and assuage our anxieties about imperfection.

2. Take care of your health! Eat brilliantly well – refer to my food philosophy, exercise, wind down and wake with sun, sleep by 10pm and hydrate well.

3. Slowly wind down before you go on vacation. Take a few days off before to prepare, relax and ease into vacation mode.

4. Change your job attitude or change your work? Keith Harrell, says “We all have a choice. We can choose an inner dialogue of self-encouragement and self-motivation, or we can choose one of self-defeat and self-pity. It’s a power we all have. Each of us encounters hard times, hurt feelings, heartache, and physical and emotional pain. The key is to realize it’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s how you choose to respond” – See more here

Be mindful of your stress. Incorporate weekly play, hobby time and meditation. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which heals, repairs and nourishes your body. Choose holidays and downtime rather than a forced rest with sickness.


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