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!
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. These sugar-free electrolytes sweetened with stevia are the best. If you're worried about altitude sickness DO NOT drink alcohol since it's very dehydrating!
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.
Hypoxemia 92 or below (a low concentration of oxygen in the blood)
Severe Hypoxemia 80 or below (may compromise organ function)
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!
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.
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.
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!