|some of the brands mentioned here|
Expeditions are sure ways of reducing intake of certain substances and/or acquiring unwanted sickness. I was asked many times how to take care of health when in the mountains, how to recover from sickness and generally how to keep the body in-tune. Few days will not be of a big challenge – but expeditions that last for weeks or even months will require proper planning on how to keep healthy or at least avoid fast degradation of health.
First, let me emphasize that combination of thin air, bad weather, freezing temperature, weakened body, previous sickness or any current body ailments – all contribute to one’s health degradation. Typically, a climber should make him/herself in his/her “tip-topest” shape before a trip, then his/her health will naturally experience a decline during the trip – and hopefully finish the objective (ex. summit) before the ‘red zone’ where one is no longer fit and healthy enough to push on. There are many ways how to reduce the pace of degradation if not at least to maintain one’s current level such as- eating sufficient good food, enough rest, proper acclimatization, but let me give more focus on supplements and even medicine.
1. Before the trip. Eat well, sleep well, ensure enough muscle recovery (from training). For the lean body types, attempt to gain some weight knowing that one will naturally reduce weight at altitude.
2. During the trip. Sleep well (easy). Eat well - hopefully, but limited food types/ ‘foreign food’/etc. contributes to either less appetite or less than desired nutritional content.
a. Supplement. I normally start taking multivitamins/minerals like the local Revicon forte, 1 tab a day.
b. Pre-high altitude ‘Supplement’ – prophylactic drug. if Diamox (acetazolamide) works for you, or if you’re very prone to AMS and/or had previous severe AMS – one should take this couple of days before the trip and couple days after. I tried this, and started prophylaxis during the few days of arrival. (Sadly, Diamox didn’t seem to work in my favour as I still get AMSd, so I stopped using it). Some also take Ginkgo Biloba to increase red blood cells (some of my team mates used this, I never tried). Lately - some also started prescribing VIAGRA. :) Here’s one guide on intake.
3. During the trip and when sick.
a. Medicine. Take the right medicine (Diamox for mild AMS), ibuprofen/paracetamol for fever, aspirin for headache (ensure you don’t have contra-drug use, some are not compatible w/ aspirin), anti- diarrhea (I use Imodium), others.
b. Supplements. Continue with multivitamins/minerals (sick or not sick). Even higher dose of Vit C (some do this especially for infection-related (e.g. cuts or wound).
c. ‘Extreme medicine’. (Dex/Decadron, Nifedipine)- for severe AMS like HAPE (pulmonary edema) or HACE (cerebral edema). Preferably administered by a doctor – if any. Worse, keep a printed ‘guide on dosage’ and self administer. Note that these are dangerous drugs that can kill if not used correctly! The best cure for AMS is reducing altitude significantly, and fast.
d. Food / liquid notes: Lessen sodium (salt) intake. This thickens our blood causing high BP. At altitudes, our body produces more red blood cells which already thicken the blood. We don’t want to exacerbate the effects. Increase water intake at altitudes. 2-3liters especially on higher camps. Water, juice, tea, coffee, milk – except alcoholic drinks.
4. Right-before or After the summit or highest altitude gained.
a. Stop use of supplements related to red blood cell production, if any.
b. Supplement. Continue nutrients/vitamins/minerals.
c. Medicine – as needed.
5. After the trip. RECOVERY.
a. Supplements. For me, especially if I got sick (which was 50% of the time), I continue with multivitamins/minerals for another week. The recent good info I heard was that a brand like Revicon contains amino acids which I find to be a good add for general body recovery. I am not a body builder and not into creatine/amino acid /protein type of supplements – so an all in 1 tablet sounded convenient.
b. Medication. if one get sick.
c. Food note: Added protein-rich food intake. Muscle (protein) is lost during long trips. My worst case was after my Cho Oyu trip where I lost 4 kilos - a significant mass for the lean body type. A very good reason to pig out! :)
Of course there are other post-trip ‘supplements’ that one may intake to celebrate (if not sick) like a good cold beer or a glass of red wine. :)