Gut instinct: The best travel companion to combat diarrhoea
Bali Belly and Montezuma’s Revenge are just two of the more unfortunate travelling ‘rites of passage’ that millions of people suffer when ingesting raw and peeled fruits and vegetables; and raw, rare, undercooked or heat exposed meats and seafoods. Sauces and mayonnaises, dairy, hawker or street vendor snacks, and buffet meals can also offer more exposure to the destination you’re visiting than they intended to.1
The risk of traveller’s diarrhoea is higher where sanitation and hygiene standards are poor, such as in developing nations2 but in reality, can happen anywhere at any time.
Let’s start with the uncomfortable
Over five million Australians experience some form of bladder or bowel control problem3 but acute diarrhoea—the sudden onset of three or more loose stools per day lasting between a day to two weeks—is one of the more prevalent. Largely these cases are caused by viral infections of the intestines, such as gastroenteritis or food poisoning or from bacterial infections or parasites; but it is more than just a travel affliction.
Don’t suffer in silence
If you’re suffering from diarrhoea or about to go travelling, consider these treatments:
Keep up your fluids – dehydration and lost salts and minerals is a major issue so try oral rehydration drinks or dilute unsweetened pure fruit juice with water.4
Protect yourself and others – most cases of acute diarrhoea are potentially infectious as viruses easily spread. Wash your hands, and avoid hospitals, nursing homes, and public swimming pools5 and carry alcohol wipes or hand sanitiser.
Be kind to your gut – avoid alcohol, limit consumption of fatty, sweet or spicy foods; and add kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi and miso to your diet as they’re all rich with digestive-supporting probiotics.6
Plan to prevent – if you’re going to be travelling, talk to your healthcare professional about appropriate medications to help alleviate symptoms, oral rehydration tablets and a probiotic to support the gut like Saccharomyces boulardii (SB). As a non-pathogenic strain of probiotic yeast,7 SB helps fight off disease-causing organisms in the gut such as bacteria and yeast.
Turn Bali Belly into an SB Stomach
While most probiotics are known to be types of ‘good’ bacteria, SB is actually a yeast that functions in the same way when digested by the body. It helps to regulate your intestines and protect them from damaging pathogens.
This ‘friendly’ yeast was discovered in 1920 by French microbiologist Henri Boulard. In his search for a yeast that could ferment wine in warm climates, Boulard noted a French Indochina population consuming tea prepared by cooking down skins of mangosteen and lychee to prevent diarrhoea from cholera. He isolated the tea’s special strain of yeast, now named Saccharomyces boulardii and eventually sold the patent in the 1950s.8 Numerous trials since have shown its safety and efficacy in children and adults and these positive results prompt continued research into its benefits for gastrointestinal disease prevention and treatment.
SB comes as an oral over-the-counter supplement probiotic for children and adults and doesn’t require refrigeration, making it a smart addition to your travel essentials kit. But, please remember, acute diarrhoea can especially be life threatening to babies and young children, so seek immediate medical attention as they are vulnerable to dehydration9. In all cases, see your doctor if you experience serious symptoms.
References available on request