How to Prevent and Treat the Dreaded "Traveler's Diarrhea"

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Filed Under: Digestive Health, Diarrhea
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

How to Prevent and Treat the Dreaded "Traveler's Diarrhea"

As summer winds down, you may be trying to squeeze in one last vacation before the kids or grandkids go back to school. If your trip involves travel outside of the US, one of the primary concerns is the dreaded "traveler's diarrhea."

Regardless of where you travel outside the US, you are always susceptible to intestinal upset and diarrhea. 

Many factors contribute to this problem, including the climate, the water, cooking oils and methods, spices and even overindulgence. Basically, our digestive and immune systems get acclimated to certain types of bacteria and the introduction of unfamiliar strains can cause the dreaded illness associated with traveling.

The best method to prevent problems is to make sure to keep your body and anything you put in it clean, regardless of the country you travel to. In Mexico, in particular, don’t drink the tap water! Instead use only purified bottle water. (And don’t forget—using ice or drinks made with tap water, brushing your teeth with tap water or eating raw peeled fruits or vegetables rinsed in tap water can cause problems as well.) Drink plenty of purified water daily to avoid dehydration. If you’re in a situation where you must use tap water, boil it for at least 10 minutes. 

If you do fall victim to traveler's diarrhea, the most natural of all solutions would be to do nothing, especially if you are going to stay in a foreign country for a long period of time. You can eat and drink pretty much as the locals do and usually within a few days you should become adjusted to the new surroundings. For shorter stays, I would consider taking a digestive enzyme or garlic capsules with each meal to neutralize any foreign bacteria. Also consider taking a probiotic supplement that has has strains of bacteria like B. bifidum, which helps to alleviate occasional diarrhea, especially when traveling.  

Another remedy I can personally vouch for is drinking a 12-oz ginger ale or 7-UP mixed with the juice of one lime and 1 tbs of cornstarch. 

Traveler’s diarrhea is usually not serious, just horribly uncomfortable. Cleanliness and moderation will usually prevent it. If it shows no improvement in three or four days, consult a doctor. 

If it’s any consolation, people visiting the US from foreign countries are also afflicted with traveler’s diarrhea.

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