Planning a vacation is exciting and exhausting. Focusing on what to see, where to stay and dreaming of delicious foods is on most people’s mind. Yet my profession and past experiences have led me to stockpile remedies to prevent traveler’s diarrhea (TD).
On the first night of my honeymoon, at a magnificent hotel in Rome, I was taken down by an oyster. I’ve been cautious ever since. And now I’m going to India, home of Delhi Belly.
An article last month in Journal of Travel Medicine reviewed multiple studies on this topic and estimated that 43 percent to 79 percent of travelers who visited India, Africa and developing countries reported TD. The standard food recommendations are drink bottled water, don’t use ice and eat only cooked vegetables and fruits that can be peeled. And wash and sanitize hands and eating surfaces.
The journal also cited additional suggestions, although none are gold-standard conclusive.
In an analysis dating from 2007 on, the journal reviewed 12 studies on the benefits of probiotics for prevention of TD. Results showed they are safe and may reduce TD.
But there are many strains of probiotics and some are more effective than others depending on the country visited. The most commonly studied and effective probiotics were boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Antibiotics, prescribed by a physician, are often taken for TD so a course of probiotics, to rebalance the gut, is a good idea.
The Journal of Infectious Disease from 1998 made a case for bovine colostrum, which was supported by information found in the Natural Medicine database. There is evidence that bovine colostrum can be protective for TD caused by E.coli when it is taken before each meal.
Lastly, bring electrolyte tablets to add to bottled water. Rehydration is key for recovery from TD. And always speak to a physician before traveling to an exotic location.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.