Health Tips for Altitude Sickness
Overcoming altitude sickness is possible with a bit of preparation. To learn more about the symptoms of this ailment often referred to as “mountain sickness” check out my post called What is Altitude Sickness? In short, altitude sickness is a very real, and uncomfortable condition that can strike those who travel to altitudes of 5,000 feet above sea level or more. It can be dangerous in extreme cases, however, most altitude sickness is mild and heals upon descending to lower altitudes.
Living in Boulder, higher altitudes are nearby. While that sounds fun, traveling to 8,200 feet hasn’t always been easy for me. When we bought a house in Vail in 2008, and started going up regularly I experienced altitude sickness every time! One of the worst things about illness is how socially isolating it can be. Forget about skiing, even going out for dinner with my family was too taxing. Thankfully I figured out how to survive, and thrive at high altitude. Now I want to share the strategies I use to overcome altitude sickness with you!
Prevention? Stay Hydrated!
When I’m in the mountains, I drink a quart of water upon rising, using a one quart mason jar to keep track. I also use electrolytes since they help me absorb water more effectively. If you’re worried about altitude sickness DO NOT drink alcohol since it’s very dehydrating!
Use a Pulse Oximeter to Diagnose the Problem
The only way to fix a problem is to know exactly what it is. That’s why buying a pulse oximeter is a great idea. With this device, I was able to monitor my oxygen saturation level. When I saw my level fall below 95, I hooked myself up to an oxygen concentrator, which I discuss below.
Know Your Oxygen Saturation Level
Hypoxemia 92 or below (a low concentration of oxygen in the blood)
Severe Hypoxemia 80 or below (may compromise organ function)
Need Immediate Relief? Get an Oxygen Concentrator Machine
After I discussed my altitude sickness symptoms with one of my doctors he suggested oxygen supplementation which requires a prescription. Using an oxygen concentrator quickly alleviated my discomfort. I rented one from Alpinaire, a company in the Vail Valley that delivers and picks up the device from your doorstep. Our insurance didn’t pay for this. If you’re elsewhere, search for “oxygen concentrator machine rental” on the internet. For a couple of years on trips up to Vail, I used it each night while I slept and it helped a lot!
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Underlying Health Issues
If you suffer from altitude sickness often you may have an underlying health issue. Celiac disease, leaky gut, and food allergies compromise the digestive system and impair nutrient absorption. This can lead to anemia or a shortage of the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.
Find Out if You’re Anemic
These blood tests will determine if you have anemia which can make it harder to adapt to higher altitudes. If you suffer from altitude sickness ask your family practitioner to run them on a regular lab order.
3. Total Iron Stores
4. Total Iron Binding Capacity
I’ve read that vasodilators such as Viagra may help with altitude sickness. I haven’t tried it so not sure how effective it is. Beet juice, which is full of nitrates may also be a vasodilator that can help. Since I follow a low-carb diet that’s not something I’ve tried. If you’re looking for low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) recipes check out my Ketogenic Diet page.
Other Hacks for Overcoming Altitude Sickness
Other items purported to alleviate altitude sickness include Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy,1 L-Arginine,2 NAC,3 Quercetin,4 and ChlorOxygen.
Your Tips for Overcoming Altitude Sickness
If you read my blog, you’re already in love with my super simple paleo recipes which are a game changer for so many! Now I’m thrilled to share another one of the simple bio-hacks that have made my life better. I hope it will improve yours too! I’d love to hear from you too. What are your tips for overcoming altitude sickness? Leave a comment and let me know!
sorry, that mispell was caused by computer (so-called ‘correction)
Thanks for info, recipes, tips and the like, Elana..Lois
You’re welcome Louis!
Hello Elana :I found Chlorophyl pills from local health food store was an answer for me while staying in Taos, NM…
Thank you for this post.
I used to suffer from altitude sickness (incapacitating migraines). I healed it through weekly Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy sessions. My altitude sickness was caused by a head injury that happened at birth. As I healed the imbalances in my cranium the altitude sickness symptoms reduced in severity until I no longer had altitude sickness. This was an amazing transformation. I am so grateful!
My cranium also had a hard time adjusting to the rapidly changing pressure in airplanes ( ear pain, and difficulty clearing my ears). I no longer have that issue either!
It is good to know that it is possible to heal even from the earliest of injuries.
Mia, thanks so much for your comment! I am dealing with the same thing and working through a head injury that happened at birth. I haven’t ever met anyone else who is dealing with that so I’m very grateful that you have shared a bit of your story here, it means a lot to me :-)
Thanks for this article! I recommend Altigen (getaltigen.com). It’s a Chinese herb formula specifically made for altitude sickness. It works really well and I recommend it to my acupuncture patients. (They did not pay me to write this comment!)
Lynne Rupp says
Have you heard of the supplement NEO 40? It is OTC, sold on Amazon, is based on beets, & is a huge help with altitude sickness. Another supplement very similar to NEO 40 is Circ O2, sold by Advanced Bionutritionals. It is the same as NEO 40, just has some B vitamins in it.
Lynne, yes! I’ve heard great things about NEO 40 :-)
I had never heard of altitude sickness until yesterday. Now, your blog post is the third time I’ve come across it in two days!
We’re visiting our daughter in Castle Rock, CO, from Ontario, Canada. Yesterday, we went up to Copper Mountain and noticed canisters of oxygen for sale to treat altitude sickness. This morning, a friend suggested we use her family cabin in the mountains if we don’t suffer from altitude sickness. (I’m glad I don’t!) Now, I open up my laptop, and you’re talking about altitude sickness!
Thank you for covering the topic and the help you provide in addition to all that you do for the gluten-free community!
Cathy, thanks for your comment! I’ve seen those tiny canisters of oxygen for sale and I’m not sure how much of an impact they would have on true altitude sickness since in some cases that may require supplemental oxygen for hours at a time. I hope you enjoy Colorado, we love calling it our home :-)