Dr. Williams' Travel Guide

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: General Health, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Globetrotting can take a toll on your health

Every year now for longer than I care to remember, I pack up my bags and venture overseas to do research.

Although they can be tiring, I love these annual expeditions. Not only do they teach me about ancient medical practices or the healing properties of an exotic plant, they always provide new insights into myself and other cultures.

I've also learned some basic lessons about international travel (sometimes the hard way) that might benefit you if you're planning a trip abroad.

First, if you regularly travel around the globe, the chances are higher that you'll experience more psychological and medical problems than nontravelers do. A recent study has also found that frequent jet lag may even cause brain shrinkage and memory loss.

This doesn't mean you should cancel your travel reservations, however. It just means that you need to make sure you're prepared to handle what can at times be a physically demanding journey.

If you lead a generally healthy lifestyle (exercise, get plenty of sleep, etc.), eat nutritious food regularly, and take daily multivitamin supplements, you've already done a lot to protect yourself against many ailments associated with foreign travel.

Of course, it's always a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor at least 6 weeks in advance of your departure date. Also, if immunizations are needed, be sure to learn about their possible side-effects.

Some Things You Should Never Leave Home Without

Here are a few things you should pack along with your toothbrush if you're planning to travel abroad.

Most cases of "tourista" (traveler's diarrhea) are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. The problem is most common for those traveling to Latin America, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. As many as 50% of U.S. citizens traveling to developing countries get what is more graphically referred to as "the squirts."

Although many physicians recommend antibiotics to help prevent tourista, an effective natural alternative is grapefruit seed extract. The extract kills a wide range of microorganisms, including Escherichia coli.

Either one drop daily of liquid grapefruit seed extract mixed in at least 5 ounces of water or one capsule of the powdered form can effectively prevent tourista. Other natural alternatives include using products like garlic, lactic acid yeast, digestive enzymes and acidophilus.

Also take your own water bottle. The carbonating process in bottled water is lethal to many forms of bacteria. Bottled water also helps to replenish the water you lose in the dry, low-humidity environment created in pressurized aircraft cabins, particularly on long flights.

  • Melatonin for jet lag. For long overseas flights, I've found the following routine to be a lifesaver in treating jet lag. The method of using melatonin will differ depending on which way you're flying.
    When flying west: Take one 3 to 5 milligram tablet on the day of your flight at the local time that corresponds to 2:00 A.M. at your destination. When you arrive at your destination, take another tablet at bedtime (around 10:00 or 11:00 P.M. at the new destination) for the next four nights or as needed.
    When flying east: After arriving at your new destination, take one tablet at bedtime (10:00 or 11:00 P.M.). Do this for the next three or four nights or longer if needed. If you wake up in the middle of the night; the first night of your arrival, take an additional tablet at that time.

By using your common sense and doing a little careful planning, your trip abroad can be an exciting, fun, and maybe even life-changing experience. Best of luck to you on your travels, be safe and enjoy yourself!

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