Tickets? Check. Passport? Check. Are friendly bacteria on your travel list?
If you've traveled internationally, especially to Mexico or other less-developed countries, you're probably all too familiar with Montezuma's Revenge, also known as traveler's diarrhea. Up to 70 percent of international travelers develop diarrhea caused by parasites and infectious bacteria in unsanitary water. According to a study in American Family Physician, one in five travelers with diarrhea is bedridden for a day, and more than one-third have to alter their activities.
But gastrointestinal distress may not be inevitable! The results are mixed, but some studies suggest that probiotics can help reduce the risk of traveler's diarrhea if you start supplementing with them a week before you travel. These beneficial bacteria colonize the GI tract and help prevent pathogenic organisms from infecting the gut, and research suggests protection rates of up to 47 percent. They may also help cure established infections.
The general rule of thumb when traveling to another country is this: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. Eat only foods that are well-cooked and served hot, or fruits and veggies you can peel yourself, such as bananas, oranges, and avocados. Avoid beverages containing locally made ice or fruit juices that may have been mixed with tap water.
Studies show that you can still get sick even if you follow these general rules, so it's best to be prepared. Start taking a probiotic supplement at least a week before you travel, and continue taking one for year-round immune and digestive system support.
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