Managing Altitude Sickness


A few days ago I returned home from one of the funnest road trips I have ever taken. We hit up roadside attractions like the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, got pinned in our car by a herd of buffalo in Custer State Park, spent some time with family in Denver, hit up a show for one of our favorite bands at Red Rocks and camped in the Rocky Mountains. It was fun, it was an adventure, and it was a refreshing break from our busy schedules. However, there was an element of the trip that was not so fun and it hit me our first morning in Denver. Altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness can occur in high elevations to people who are not acclimated. The thin, dry air makes it hard to get enough oxygen in your body and can make you feel like shit. Our first night in Denver I awoke around 3am to a stabbing headache. I thought nothing of it. I drank some water, ate a snack, took some ibuprofen and went back to bed. When I got up in the morning it was a different story. At first I felt a little light-headed. Then as I began to walk around I would experience bouts of dizziness. Nausea came intermittently and my headache came back. I felt like I was experiencing one of the worst hangovers of my life.

Before our trip I read that altitude sickness most commonly occurs at 8,000 feet or higher, we were only at 5,280 feet. What worried me was our plan to ascend up into the mountains a few days later. At this point I had two choices: wait it out or turn back. I wasn’t about to cut our trip short because I felt poorly so I decided to head to the local Whole Foods to seek out some naturopathic remedies. What I found was surprising, worked wonders and only cost me 8 bucks. So, here’s the secret: liquid chlorophyll and electrolyte enriched water.

If you recall from your Life Science classes in middle school, chlorophyll is the enzyme plants use to turn light into energy through photosynthesis. Oxygen is created as a byproduct of this process. Turns out, if you drink chlorophyll, your body can circulate oxygen through your blood more quickly, which can be incredibly helpful if you are suffering from lack of oxygen due to altitude sickness. I drank 15 drops in a liter of water 3 times a day for the first three days and intermittently throughout our trip. I felt much, much better.

OK, I can’t really say if it was in fact the chlorophyll that made me feel better, if it was the obscene amount of water I was consuming, if I began to acclimate naturally the more time I spent at higher altitudes, or a combination of things. But I do know that having the chlorophyll at least gave me the illusion of feeling better which came in handy for staving off panic attacks. As an asthmatic I know what it feels like not to be able to breathe. It is a terrifying experience. To know I was feeling sick because of lack of oxygen kicked my anxiety into high alert. My handy bottle of green water soothed that anxiety and I was able to fully enjoy my time.




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