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Four Unusual Ways to Prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea
Planning your next trip and worried about how to Prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea? This is just the post for you. There are safe, easy and effective ways to prevent traveler’s diarrhea that go far beyond the ‘obvious’ ones. Advanced Prevention of Traveler’s Diarrhea.
This is true for more than just your comfort, but for the sake of your health as well, since the remedy might be worse than the illness. The ‘typical’ treatment for traveler’s diarrhea is an antibiotic known as Cipro that can cause all sorts of problems, from Tendon Rupture, to the removal of your colon from an overgrowth infection known as Clostridium Difficile .
You might even get Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea from your diarrhea treatment! How will you know if the treatment is working if you still have diarrhea? No one wants to travel for pleasure and come back home only to have been disabled for life from a simple problem that could have been prevented with some intelligent forethought.
1. Stop Washing Your Hands
OK, this is only partly true. You SHOULD wash your hands frequently, and maybe even take antibacterial gel DURING your trip (if it’s short, if it’s long, you should gradually introduce yourself to the local bacteria). But BEFORE you leave, refrain from washing your hands (assuming you are otherwise healthy), except when they are obviously dirty, before preparing meals or caring for others who are sick is an excellent way to enrich the world of bacteria in your gut. These Good Bacteria in the gut, collectively known as the microbiome, number in the trillions and are more numerous than all of the cells in your body, and comprise up to 70% of your immune system.
Westerners, partly because of our ‘sterilized’ lifestyle and partly because of our diet, have a microbiome that has about 1/2 the diversity of those living ‘primitive’ lifestyles1. These ‘primitives’ get dirty and don’t wash up obsessively like most of us do, and this is a good thing because it helps to prevent them from getting the parasites and illnesses that live around them all of the time. These ‘good bacteria’ help to crowd out the ‘bad bacteria’ that can contribute to illness. In other words, a diverse microbiome protects us from the bad bacteria we might get while we travel.
Certainly, there is a ‘degree’ of cleanliness that has helped westerner’s live longer than primitive people, however, there has to be a balance of cleanliness and dirt that helps to keep our gut bacteria diverse and protective. Studies are showing that western cultures have taken cleanliness ‘too far’ and it has impacted our gut microbiome and could be causing us to have high rates of allergic and autoimmune diseases that ‘primitive’ people simply do not get2 3.
Take a chance and get a little dirty with this controversial way to make your gut microbiome a little more diverse.
2. Eat More Vegetables, and Eat as Many Different Kinds as Possible
Studies show that those who eat the most vegetables and fruits, and the most diverse number of fruits and vegetables have the highest diversity of gut microbes that can help to protect us from illness.
3. Eat Cold Potatoes
Really! While this may sound very strange, potatoes that have been cooked, and then chilled (like when you put them in the refrigerator) contain a starch in them called ‘Resistant Starch’ that is a special kind of food for good bacteria that can help them to proliferate 4.
This is such a powerful way to help good bacteria proliferate that people with chronic bowel disease, such as IBS, should only eat a small amount of cooked and cooled potatoes to start, and work their way up slowly to larger amounts because the good bacteria proliferate to such an extent it can make them ill! You can read more about how I used this technique on the Preventing Traveler’s Diarrhea with Potato Chips page.
But you don’t have to EAT the potatoes cold, you can cook them, chill them, then reheat them to get the same benefits. This is an easy strategy that one can do with any access to cooking and a refrigerator, even in hotel rooms or hostels; even while camping next to a cold mountain stream. Buy a few potatoes, cook them in your hotel microwave oven or campfire, put them in your hotel fridge or a cold stream or even outside in cold weather, then cut them up and put them into a baggy to snack on when you are hungry.
As a bonus, if you have blood sugar issues, the cooking and cooling transforms the starch in the potato to give the potato a lower glycemic index, thus blunting the effect a regular potato has on blood sugars.
4. Take a Probiotic
This is the most obvious way to increase the good bacteria in the gut, and probably the most acceptable to westerners. But not all probiotics are equal. Several studies went to stores and sent their probiotics off to independent labs. Many probiotics did not contain what they claimed, and some did not contain any live organisms at all! 5 6 7.
Also, many probiotics, if not most, need refrigiration. That’s not very convenient while traveling. So, you need to have a broad-spectrum probiotic with guaranteed availability that is shelf-stable. Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra is one such probiotic that fits the bill on all of these measures.
- Bacterial flora of remote tribespeople carries antibiotic resistance genes ↩
- Western Diet and Diseases of Civilization ↩
- Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers ↩
- Brouns 2002 TIFS. butyrate and resistant starch review ↩
- An evaluation of nine probiotics available in South Africa ↩
- Microbiological Evaluation of Commercial Probiotic Products Available in Italy ↩
- Probiotics might not be what they seem ↩