Today we’re going to take a look at the best natural remedies for altitude sickness.
If you’re not familiar with the term altitude sickness, it might be because you know it as the more colloquially used ‘mountain sickness’.
Whatever you prefer to call it, this form of sickness comes on when you reach certain heights. It can strike when you walk, climb, or fly to a higher altitude too quickly. Altitude sickness is common for people who travel by air as well as hikers, divers, and adventurers.
Chances are, you probably won’t have had first-hand experience of this condition if you haven’t traveled to areas with high altitudes.
In this guide, you will learn all about altitude sickness, its symptoms, and natural remedies.
What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness occurs as a result of increased air pressure.
The higher up you go, the more atmospheric pressure there’ll be.
The pressure that surrounds you at high altitudes is called barometric pressure. As a result of the increased pressure, there is less oxygen in the air.
The low level of oxygen at this height is one of the primary causes of altitude sickness. Your body will not have enough time to acclimatize to the new pressure, especially when climbing, flying, or walking to this altitude too quickly. The inability to adapt causes physical distress which results in altitude sickness.
The height-based sickness can occur at altitudes higher than 2400 meters above sea level. More often than not, this condition is mild, but it can be life-threatening in some cases. Some symptoms can start as soon as you arrive at this altitude.
Treatment for mild cases can be effective within three days. If the sickness is severe, you’ll need to be taken to a lower altitude with supplementary oxygen and medications.
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness
The symptoms of altitude sickness will become evident at extreme heights.
It’s possible to mistake them for common conditions like fever if you are not aware of the changes around you. Sometimes, altitude sickness symptoms vary with different types, and it won’t become apparent that you have it for 12-24 hours.
Here are some of the symptoms of altitude sickness;
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of energy and fatigue
- Loss of body coordination
- Inability to walk
- Cough that produces a pink or white frothy substance
- Tightening on the chest
Types of Altitude Sickness
There are three types of altitude sickness.
Each variation is identifiable with specific symptoms, even though they have many signs in common.
Here’s an overview of each type so you can familiarize yourself with the symptoms of each:
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS is the most common type of altitude sickness, and it is often the mildest.
It is not life-threatening, and the symptoms will disappear after two to three days. The common symptoms of AMS include muscle aches, nausea, and dizziness.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
HAPE is less common compared to AMS. However, it is more severe and can in some cases be life-threatening. It is characterized by the buildup of fluids in the lungs accompanied by other symptoms.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
HACE is the most acute and severe type of altitude sickness.
This fast-acting sickness forces fluid in the brain and is often life-threatening.
It is best to move to a lower altitude and immediately seek medical attention to prevent altitude sickness in this form.
Natural Remedies for Altitude Sickness
Most people that are familiar with high altitudes can relate to the severity of altitude sickness.
As a result, a lot of people will often prepare over-the-counter medications before their trip. Yet there are many natural remedies too that can help you prevent the need for altitude sickness treatment.
These natural remedies cost less and can still be effective.
In addition, they come with fewer risks and offer more health benefits to the body. You can integrate these natural options as part of your diet or use them specifically for this purpose.
Here are natural remedies for altitude sickness:
1. Beet Juice
Higher altitude means increased pressure and reduced oxygen. It limits the amount of oxygen left for your body to use. As a result, your body could use anything that can help it to optimize the oxygen supply.
Beets can help you to supplement and work effectively with the oxygen supply. The vegetables contain a lot of nitrates, which the body actively converts to nitric oxide. This compound helps the body to maximize oxygen supply by relaxing and dilating blood vessels. It also helps the body’s rapid acclimatization to altitude change.
2. Rhodiola Plant
The Rhodiola plant is commonly found in mountain ranges at high altitudes.
It is an energy-boosting plant that reduces and eliminates the symptoms of altitude sickness. The increased air pressure and reduced oxygen at high altitudes can cause physical and psychological stress. Rhodiola plant increases the body’s resistance to stress, which can help you act rationally when it counts.
This plant is effective for increasing performance at high altitudes and boosts endurance. Plus, it’s a vasodilator that improves oxygen efficiency in the body cells.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is an essential part of human life.
Staying hydrated is undoubtedly an effective way to protect yourself from various types of sicknesses and their symptoms. This principle applies to altitude sickness. You don’t have to wait until you are thirsty before drinking water as you approach high altitudes.
The pressure at high altitudes can increase urinary frequency. The direct implication of this is the reduction of oxygen level because you breathe more rapidly and deeply. Similarly, the humidity at higher altitudes causes you to sweat more rapidly. As a result, you lose more water and oxygen if you fail to stay hydrated.
Drinking lots of water is the only way to help you cover up for this loss. It helps you stay energetic and hydrated.
4. Eat Lots of Carbs
The food you eat at high altitudes is different from that required at sea level.
One of the first things to consider is the amount of oxygen necessary to digest the food. It is best to bring more foods that require lower oxygen, considering the oxygen depletion level at high altitudes.
Carb-rich foods like vegetables and pasta are of course rich in the macronutrient, carbohydrates. These carbs will supply the body with the energy required to remain active at this altitude.
Carbs also require less oxygen for digestion, which means eating them will help you with oxygen conservation.
5. Steady Your Breath
As simple as it sounds, a steady breathing pattern can help you deal with high-altitude conditions. It provides the body with proper oxygen conservation and utilization. Slowing down your breath and staying calm will increase your oxygen level.
This concept won’t be new to yoga enthusiasts.
Proper breathing techniques can help in physically stressful situations at sea level. As such, all you need to do is master the method of slow and steady breath in order to stay calm wherever you are.
6. Avoid Taking Caffeine and Alcohol
Everything you do at high altitudes should focus on hydration and conserving oxygen.
Caffeine and alcohol will do the opposite to the body.
Both substances can dehydrate the body and depress breathing. This condition will lead to a shortage of oxygen in the body, which triggers and aggravates altitude sickness symptoms.
You should stay away from smoking as well.
7. Maca Root
Maca root has medicinal and health benefits that can help with altitude sickness.
It is also an energy booster that strengthens the body. It also helps the body acclimatize at high altitudes quickly. You can use the fine form with water or make it into a cold tea.
8. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is another natural option for managing altitude sickness.
It helps improve blood circulation and helps the brain to remain functional even with low temperatures. This plant helps the body cope with oxygen depletion at high altitudes by enhancing oxygen saturation.
So, it prevents altitude sickness and eliminates the common symptoms.
9. Hike Slowly
One of the significant causes of altitude sickness is rushing to attain high altitude.
It is best to take the journey to high altitude as a marathon and not a sprint.
Slow and steady!
A slow increase in height helps your body acclimatize quickly. This technique is essential for those going to this altitude for the first time.
10. Take Enough Snacks
It would be best if you had something to help you stay energized at high altitudes.
Take suitable snacks that can help you sustain energy and manage your oxygen supply. But it is best to avoid snacks that will dehydrate you or require high oxygen for digestion.
Who Can Get Affected By Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness occurs in areas with a height higher than 3000 meters above sea level.
High altitudes demand more energy and physical exertion. It forces you to burn more calories even without doing anything.
Nobody is immune to this condition as long as they reach this level or higher.
However, the risk is lower if you are young, energetic, and fit without any underlying health conditions. Older people might be more vulnerable to this condition as they approach high altitudes. You might need to abstain from high altitudes if you have certain health complications (especially breathing problems).
Alternatively, you can seek medical advice before embarking on such an adventure.
It is best to prepare for this condition even before attaining this altitude. The natural remedies above will actively help you to prevent and avert the symptoms of this condition.
Frequently Asked Questions About Altitude Sickness
Attaining high altitudes is a common occurrence, particularly with travelers, hikers, and adventurists.
Most individuals find the concept of altitude sickness confusing because it shares the same symptoms with some common conditions like a fever. So, it is understandable if you have any questions about this condition and the possible solutions.
Here are some frequently asked questions about altitude sickness and the possible natural remedies;
Can I use any medications for altitude sickness?
Yes, certain medications can help you to get rid of altitude sickness. But it is best to consult your doctor and seek medical advice before using any medicines. Likewise, you should understand your present health condition as well.
Do bananas help you with altitude sickness?
Bananas are highly nutritious and rich in potassium. It is one of the best foods that make you feel lighter and more energized. But it is not an ideal option for altitude sickness.
Bananas have a lot of sodium and count as complex carbohydrates. So, they can accelerate the process of dehydration, and they require more oxygen for proper digestion.
Why does water help with altitude sickness?
Water is a natural remedy for many health conditions. One of the significant problems at high altitudes is oxygen depletion and increased pressure. So, taking enough water will help you stay hydrated and recover the fluid lost from frequent urination at high pressure.
Likewise, oxygen is one of the significant components of water. Hence, it provides an alternative source of oxygen and complements the depletion at this height.
How can I prepare my body for high altitude?
One of the best ways to avert altitude sickness is properly preparing your body. Start by going for a medical check-up to ensure that you are healthy and fit. You can also try aerobic training and learn about yoga breathing techniques.
You should also make sure to stay well hydrated, and you could try exposure therapy by gradually trying out higher altitudes. Ensure that you give your body enough time to acclimatize, and you can also try various herbal and natural remedies.
Does caffeine help with altitude sickness?
Dehydration is one of the significant problems you have to face at high altitudes. Caffeine will not help you to mitigate dehydration. Taking coffee or other high caffeine drinks before climbing might not be the best thing to do, except you have quality plans for rehydration.
A Final Word From Wellness Nova
You don’t have to be a climber, hiker, or adventurist before dealing with altitude sickness. If you have been dreaming of traveling by air, you might also have to deal with this condition. But there is nothing to brood over.
There are effective natural remedies that can help you to manage and mitigate the symptoms of this sickness.
These natural remedies won’t cost much and mostly have to do with your body preparation. They are practical and also come with lower risks. You’re almost guaranteed to have a better altitude experience with any of the natural remedies above.
Feel free to explore these options before embarking on your ascension journey!