Picture this: you're jet-setting to an exotic destination, ready to go on one adventure after another. But, uh-oh, your stomach has other plans, and suddenly you find yourself sprinting to the nearest restroom instead of the nearest landmark.
Fear not, dearest travelers! We're here to equip you with all the details on what causes this uninvited guest we call diarrhea. Spot its telltale signs, and most importantly learn how to send it packing so you can get back to enjoying your trip.
Grab your virtual passport, and read on!
What are the Symptoms?
Traveler's diarrhea can bring about a range of uncomfortable symptoms that can put a damper to your travel experience. The onset of symptoms can vary, usually occurring within a few days of arriving in a new destination.
Here are the common symptoms of traveler's diarrhea:1
- Loose Watery Stools: As the name suggests, the hallmark symptom is frequent, loose, watery bowel movements. The number of episodes can vary, with some experiencing mild diarrhea and others facing more severe bouts.
- Abdominal Cramps: Severe stomach ache often accompanied by abdominal discomfort, which can range from mild to severe.
- Nausea: Feeling queasy and having the urge to vomit is a common symptom associated with traveler's diarrhea.
- Vomiting: In more severe cases, vomiting can occur alongside diarrhea and other symptoms.
- Fever: Some individuals might experience an elevated body temperature, ranging from mild to moderate.
- Loss of Appetite: A reduced desire to eat due to discomfort and nausea can lead to decreased appetite.
- Dehydration: Excessive fluid loss through diarrhea and vomiting can result in dehydration, which can cause symptoms like dry mouth, dark urine, and fatigue.
- Bloody Stools: In more severe cases, blood or mucus might be present in the stool, indicating a more serious infection or inflammation.
It's important to note that symptoms can vary in intensity and duration. For most people, traveler's diarrhea is a self-limiting condition that typically resolves within a few days to a week. However, some cases can be more severe, leading to dehydration and requiring medical attention.2
Additionally, if you're traveling to a high-risk area or have pre-existing health conditions, consulting a healthcare professional before your trip can provide you with valuable guidance on prevention and management strategies.
What are the Causes?
Traveler's diarrhea is primarily caused by consuming contaminated food or water, often in regions with poor sanitation practices. The most common culprits behind traveler's diarrhea are various pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Here's a breakdown of the leading causes:
- Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC): E. coli bacteria live in your gut.3 While most types are harmless, a few can cause symptoms like diarrhea and stomach discomfort. One E.coli variant (E. coli O157:H7) can even lead to kidney issues if not treated properly.4
- Campylobacter jejuni: Campylobacter bacteria contamination manifests within one to seven days after exposure. Sources of this bacteria include undercooked chicken, unpasteurized dairy products, produce, seafood, and untreated water.5 The elderly, young individuals, and those with weakened immune systems, are at a higher risk of this infection.
- Shigella: You can contract Shigellosis by consuming contaminated food or water.6 Additionally, swimming in contaminated water might lead to shigellosis if water is accidentally ingested. Shigella infection, a form of foodborne illness, is referred to as bacillary dysentery, a term used for diarrhea accompanied by blood or mucus.7
- Norovirus: Norovirus is a highly contagious group of viruses that leads to severe vomiting and diarrhea, commonly known as the "stomach flu”.8 Unlike the influenza virus that causes respiratory flu, norovirus triggers gastroenteritis.
- Rotavirus: Rotavirus is a tummy and intestines infection that impacts kids.9 Although it used to be common, vaccines can now help protect many children. If your child does catch it, they might have bad diarrhea and throw up a lot. Inquire from your doctor on how you can get you and your child protected.
- Giardia intestinalis: Giardiasis is a common sickness caused by a tiny parasite that can bring on tummy troubles and stomach cramps.10 This parasite, known as Giardia, spreads through dirty water, food, and things you touch, and even from being close to someone who's infected.11
- Entamoeba histolytica: Entamoeba histolytica is a single-celled microscopic parasite that can cause a disease called amoebiasis.12 This parasite typically resides in the intestines and can lead to gastrointestinal issues. In some cases, it can cause more severe complications like liver abscesses. Amoebiasis is commonly spread through consuming contaminated food or water.13 Proper hygiene practices are vital for preventing this infection.
The transmission of these pathogens usually occurs through the fecal-oral route, meaning they are ingested when you consume food or water contaminated with fecal matter containing the pathogens.
How to Avoid Getting Traveler’s Diarrhea?
Are you worried about Traveler’s Diarrhea? Don’t be. With the right strategies, you can outwit this cunning foe and keep your itinerary on track. Here's your ultimate guide to beating traveler's diarrhea:
- Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene: This cannot be stressed enough. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating. Use hand sanitizer when necessary, but don't let it replace proper handwashing.14
- Water Woes: Stick to bottled or purified water for drinking, brushing teeth, and even washing fruits and vegetables. If possible, avoid ice in your drinks, as it might be made from tap water.
- Go Bottled: Choose bottled beverages and ensure the bottle's seal is intact. Be wary of beverages with ice, as it could be made from tap water.
- Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Forget it: Opt for cooked, piping-hot meals. Avoid raw or undercooked foods, street vendors, and salads.15 If you can't peel it, cook it, or boil it, best to avoid it.
- Choose Wisely: Opt for reputable, clean, and well-reviewed restaurants. If you see a place bustling with locals, it's likely a safer choice.
- Moderation is Key: While it's tempting to dive into local delicacies, take it easy, especially during the initial days of your trip. Give your stomach time to acclimate to new cuisines.
- Pack a First Aid Kit: Consider diarrhea-relief medications. Begin with ORS to prevent dehydration; typically available in pre-packaged sachets at pharmacies.16 Consult a healthcare professional if diarrhea persists before using Loperamide, an anti-diarrheal medication that can help reduce diarrhea frequency and urgency.17
- Know When to Seek Help: If episodes or trips to the bathroom occur more than 2-3 times a day, persist for more than 2-3 days, or are accompanied by fever, blood in the stool, weakness, and dehydration, seek medical attention right away.
How Can Probiotics Help?
Research suggests that 70% of our immune system is closely tied to gut health.18 This study supports the idea that consuming probiotics before and during your travels may help prevent traveler's diarrhea. Of course, consult your doctor before starting any new supplements.
If you’re looking for a high-quality supplement that can provide you with the probiotics you need for your trip try Biome® Gut Care.
Biome® Gut contains 5 billion active CFUs of a probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii19 They are known for providing various benefits such as promoting a healthy intestinal ecology, assisting in the improvement of lactose malabsorption, improving digestion, and boosting the body's natural resistance against intestinal infections. Furthermore, they can be helpful in lowering the risk of health issues like diarrhea.20
Ask your doctor about the proper administration and intake of this supplement first prior to taking it. Ideally, take one (1) capsule of BIOME® Gut Care per day together with your meals. Once done, store the supplements in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight.
MAHALAGANG PAALALA: Ang Biome® Gut Care ay hindi gamot at hindi dapatgamiting panggamot sa anumang uri ng sakit.
Remember, the goal is not to let the threat of traveler's diarrhea overshadow your amazing journey. Armed with these tips, you can explore new places and savor delicacies without letting your stomach steal the spotlight.