Probiotics are Your Friend: Preventing Travelers Diarrhea

Few things are less fun on a family trip than a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. Given estimates that 20 to 60 percent of travelers can be afflicted, odds are that sooner or later someone in your party will end up with digestive difficulties. Travel can have enough variables and potential headaches, so I began the search for ways to prevent traveler’s diarrhea from ruining everyone’s good time. While traveler’s diarrhea can be a problem found in areas with unreliable water sanitation, you can get it from fine dining establishments in first world locations as well (guess how I know!)

Probiotics, the helpful bacteria and yeasts that colonize our guts and keep the nasty bugs from taking over, can help maintain health and prevent gastrointestinal problems. In researching which probiotics work for what ailments, I discovered my new favorite miracle of modern probiotic science, Saccharomyces Bouldarii, a probiotic that has been studied for prevention of traveler’s diarrhea, and for use in the prevention of antibiotic related gastroenteritis.

We’re most familiar with probiotics such as various lactobacilli found in yogurt, but not all probiotics are the same, and not all will work in every circumstance. If you have to take antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, guess what they kill? Yep – bacteria – the “pro” kind as well as the “will kill you” kind. So, eating a cup of yogurt with your daily dose of meds isn’t exactly going to be effective, the good lactobacilli will be eliminated by the action of the antibiotic, and you’re back at square one.

If you’re trying to prevent or cure other issues, like a case of traveler’s diarrhea, you need something that is portable, and needs no special storage conditions, and has some science behind it showing that it works to keep the bad bugs from taking over. Unlike lactobacilli, s. boulardii is stable at room temperature, no refrigeration needed – a huge bonus point for a traveling family.

S. boulardii

You can find S. boulardii by searching for it by name in most online vitamin shops. If you plan to try it out for prevention of traveler’s diarrhea and gastroenteritis, studies show that starting to take the supplements for about a week before departure will give you a good head start, and to continue taking it throughout the trip. Informal testing in my own family was done this past winter when we all came down with sinus infections that required some gnarly antibiotics. The results were good – no digestive difficulties to add to our misery, and no issues with any kind of side effects.

As always, check with your health care professional before taking medical advice from random ladies on the internet.

For more info about probiotics:

Wikipedia entry on S. boulardii – lots of citations and other info

S. boulardii studied for treatment of acute gastroenteritis in children

Prevention of antibiotic related diarrhea with S. boulardii

General information on probiotics

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