Altitude Adjustment: A Complete Guide

Altitude Adjustment

Altitude adjustment problems are more common than you may think. Commonly known as altitude sickness, is a serious problem that occurs on high altitude hikes, climbs, and vacation destinations. As company based in Colorado, we created this complete guide from our in depth knowledge of high altitudes. We'll cover everything you need to know about altitude adjustment, how to avoid altitude sickness, and even altitude adjustment herbs and supplements you can take.

Altitude Adjustment

Altitude adjustment is a normal physiological response to moving from a low elevation to a higher one. High elevations have less oxygen in the air.

For example, if you live at sea level and travel to Denver for a few days, your body will need time to adjust to the change in altitude of 5280 feet.

Acclimatization, the process of your body adjusting to the altitude, typically takes 1-3 days at that altitude according to Princeton University.¹ Basically, your body needs time to adjust before you should start doing any strenuous activity like hiking or climbing.

Elevations around 8000 feet and higher are more difficult to adjust to, and can generally cause altitude sickness. Although, altitude sickness can start at elevations as low as 3000-5000 feet.

Altitude Adjustment Symptoms

The symptoms of altitude adjustment have similarities to those of dehydration and even jet lag. It's commonly known as altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness, which is a temporary condition caused by lack of oxygen at high altitudes.

The most common symptom of altitude sickness is headache but other symptoms include nausea, vomiting and difficulty sleeping.

Symptoms of altitude sickness or altitude adjustment include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue, tiredness or lethargy
  • Weakness or lack of energy
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Insomnia or poor sleep quality
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid breathing or faster heart rate

For more severe symptoms of altitude adjustment that are rare, read below about HAPE and HACE.

Places That Altitude Adjustment Is The Hardest?

Altitude Adjustment Supplement
While altitude adjustment can happen in a plane or in cities like Denver at 5280 feet high, it's the hardest at altitudes over 8000 feet.

If you're going skiing or vacationing in the mountains like in Colorado where we're based out of, here's a few destinations where altitude adjustment can be harder with a higher chance of altitude sickness:

If you're going on a major hike, climb or trek, here's a few popular mountaineering destinations where altitude sickness is high risk:

  • Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) at 19,341′ feet
  • Machu Picchu (Peru) at 7,972′
  • Denali (Alaska) at 20,310′ feet
  • Mount Fuji (Japan) at 12,388′
  • Mount Rainier (Washington) at 14,411′ feet
  • Dolomites (Italy) at 10,968′ feet
  • Mount Everest (China) at 29,032′ feet
  • Pikes Peak (Colorado) at 14,115′
  • Chimborazo (Ecuador) at 20,549′ feet

There's many more high altitude destinations around the world, but you can see from this sample that between 8,000 and 29,000 feet runs a very high risk of hard adjustment to altitude and altitude sickness.

Types Of Altitude Sickness

The more you know about altitude sickness, the better prepared you'll be to avoid it on your next trip. Unless you're a mountaineer, most don't don't that there are three main kinds of altitude sickness.

Here are 3 main types of altitude sickness:

  • Acute mountain sickness (AMS) - This is the most common type, and often to referred to altitude sickness, it usually occurs above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) but can start as low as 3,000 feet. It's characterized by shortness of breath and possible headaches, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
  • High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) - This is a life-threatening condition that develops when fluid builds up in the lungs. Symptoms include cough, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. While uncommon, it can develop when rapidly ascending above 8,200 feet.
  • High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) - This condition causes swelling in the brain, which can also lead to death if untreated. Symptoms include headache, confusion and loss of coordination

While Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is what most people deal with, you should only be concerned and aware of HAPE and HACE if you're planning a mountaineering climb to very high altitudes, or doing rapid ascents. For example, many mountains in the Himalaya's including K2 and Mount Everest run the risk of very severe altitude sickness.

3 Tips To Improve Altitude Adjustment (Avoid Altitude Sickness)

Avoid Altitude Sickness
Whether hiking, skiing, mountaineering, or simply vacationing at high altitudes, you'll want to take the right precautions to improve your altitude adjustment.

In Colorado there's many tips and tricks the locals know to improve altitude adjustment, or recommend visitors to do. In our years of experience, we've learned the best ways how to avoid altitude sickness in Colorado.

We'll share the top three tips below which will help you improve altitude adjustment and avoid altitude sickness.

3 tips to improve altitude adjustment:

1. Drink A Lot Of Water
The first thing that you need to do is drink plenty of water every day, and before you high altitude trip.

It is important that you keep yourself well hydrated because your body may become dehydrated faster as it tries to adjust to the thinner, drier air.

A good rule of thumb is that you drink minimum half a gallon of water a day, or more if you're going be active, hiking or climbing. In Colorado many visitors don't feel thirsty, but are actually dehydrated, leading to worsened altitude sickness.

TIP: To enhance hydration and electrolyte absorption, try taking our Zaca chewables.

2. Take It Easy & Acclimate
One of the best ways to avoid getting sick from altitude is to take it easy — don't overdo it right away or try to do too much too soon.

You may feel some symptoms when you first arrive at higher altitudes because of the change in air pressure on your lungs. Unless you're at very high altitudes past 10,000 feet, this feeling should go away within 1-3 days as your body acclimates itself to its new environment.¹

Don't ascend too quickly during the acclimation period or on subsequent days at high altitude. For example in Colorado, many visiting will stay a few nights in Denver at 5280 feet before heading into the Rocky Mountains where many locations are at 8,000 feet and higher.

Also getting plenty of sleep and rest is another way for your body to rejuvenate and recover.

3. Take Altitude Adjustment Supplements
Altitude adjustment supplements are a way to fuel your body with nutrients to help at high altitudes.

The best time to take altitude adjustment supplements is about 2 weeks before you travel. This will give your body enough time to build up nutrient levels before you arrive at your high altitude destination or start a high altitude journey.

By implementing the combination of these three tips to improve altitude adjustment, it will give your body the edge it needs for high altitudes.

3 Herbs For Altitude Adjustment

As a supplement company based in Colorado, we have researched the top herbs available for altitude adjustment. From Chlorophyll and Ginkgo-Biloba to Coca Leaves and CBD, we've covered all sorts of homeopathic altitude sickness prevention remedies.

If you want altitude adjustment all natural, you'll to resort to herbs and natural nutrients. Here we'll go into 3 top herbs for altitude adjustment that we've written about before.

3 top herbs for altitude adjustment:

1. Glutathione
Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps protect the body against free radicals and oxidative stress. Altitude has been shown by Semmelweis University to increase oxidative stress in the body.²

A 2001 study showed that high altitude can decrease your glutathione levels by up to 45%.³ With this amount of damage, supplementing glutathione can be a superior nutrient replenishment in your body for altitude adjustment.

2. Glutamine
Glutamine is an amino acid that serves as a fuel source, performance enhancement and recovery. In addition, it plays an important role in immune function.

A study out of Brazil showed that Glutamine supplementation could reduce some effects from hypoxia, with is oxygen deficiency caused by high altitudes.⁴

3. Dihydromyricetin (DHM)
Dihydromyricetin (DHM) is a flavonoid that's extracted from Japanese Raisin and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years.

In 2013, a  Sports & Exercise study proved that DHM, under simulated high-altitude, improves physical performance.⁵ DHM shows to be yet another superior herb for altitude adjustment.

To get a more in-depth review of each of these herbs, read our full article 3 Herbs For Altitude Adjustment.

Top Altitude Supplement

Altitude Adjustment Supplement
Zaca is a top supplement that helps you fuel your body in high altitudes. These chewables have been used by mountain-goers, hikers and skiers for over 10 years. The chewable formula includes three superior herbs including Glutathione, Glutamine, and DHM. Fast-acting, they are an easy way to get the nutrients you need to rehydrate, replenish and recover in the mountains. Try Zaca chewables today and be better prepared for your next mountain adventure.





1. Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses
2. High Altitude and Free Radicals
3. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
4. The Possible Importance of Glutamine Supplementation to Mood and Cognition in Hypoxia from High Altitude
5. Dihydromyricetin Improves Physical Performance under Simulated High Altitude