When planning our next escape, we can get so preoccupied with arranging passports, tickets, accommodation, visas etc. that we completely forget about putting strategies in place to ensure we remain (gut) healthy while exploring.
So, what’s the most important supplement to consider when planning a trip? Answer: a therapeutic and evidenced-based probiotic is the number one most important supplement for travelling. Why? The answer involves taking a look at the changes that occur in our gut microflora while abroad.
Why I should travel with a probiotic?
When we travel, especially to developing nations, we are at risk from a wide range of microbes that our bodies aren’t usually exposed to. Further, given travel is synonymous with a lack of sleep, frequent change in time zones, increased physical activity (walking/running like you’re a contestant on the Amazing Race!), eating out, and other environmental and physical stressors, our immune system is at a higher risk of being compromised. Unfamiliar pathogens + sluggish immune system = perfect recipe for getting sick. Certainly not ideal when we’ve spent ages planning and a great deal of $ on our escape!
Is Bali Belly or Traveller’s Diarrhea really a thing?
In a word, yes. Even those with iron stomachs (we all know / hate someone who is lucky in that way!) occasionally get struck with food poisoning when travelling overseas. “Bali belly” is actually a thing, as is “Traveler’s Diarrhea”. Severe time zone changes can affect our digestive clock, meaning we don’t produce as much stomach acid as we usually would. Stomach acid is a protective guard against unfriendly pathogens.
It is not uncommon for Traveler’s diarrhea to strike right at the least convenient moment e.g., when you’ve just booked yourself a horse riding trip or massage …. #ohcrap … literally! This common syndrome is a result of bacterial contamination of food or water. We take for granted our high sanitary standards here in Australia, and often don’t appreciate them until we’re in a foreign country, lying in a bed, clutching onto our stomach in sheer agony. Symptoms can take 2-3 days to develop and last for up to 10 days, just long enough to potentially wreck a holiday!
But what does science say?
The good news is that scientists have studied the use of live, beneficial bacteria to remedy traveler’s diarrhea and maintain healthy digestion while in a foreign environment. In fact, a review of 900 studies (that’s a lot!) concluded that a high-dose probiotic containing the strains Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium Bifidum significantly prevented traveler’s diarrhea and were associated with no serious adverse effects. This was particularly found to be the case when travelling to developing nations, where the risk of exposure to pathogens is elevated.
While the jury is still out on how exactly probiotics exert their powerful health-enhancing actions, studies suggest that probiotics may help bolster your immune system in several ways. Foremost, probiotic intake may protect against constipation, which is common with several time zone changes and disrupted eating and sleeping patterns. Dehydration from long air and land travel can also be a cause of constipation. An added benefit of taking a strong probiotic that contains soil based organisms is that it may protect the intestinal tract from any pathogenic bacteria in food or water.
So, how to take probiotics to ensure we are reaping the greatest protection from illnesses that may strike while travelling? Start by taking a high-strength, evidence-based probiotic a full two weeks (minimum) before you leave. You may want to increase your dosage during this time (e.g., from 1 to 2 capsules), but first speak to your healthcare professional. This length of time will allow for the seeding of beneficial bacterial colonies in the gut prior to travel, ensuring we take off with optimised immunity #comeatmepathogens!
Continue with your probiotic regimen during your time away, and for at least two weeks upon your return home. It is also important to consume probiotic rich foods, like PERKii’s extensive range of probiotic drinks, during this period to give your immunity the best shot. The great thing about a probiotic-rich drink is that you’re getting vital fluids in too – a double whammy for your digestive health. You’ll be able to find high-strength, multi-strain probiotics in the pharmacy that require no refrigeration. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you’re unsure about which brand is best for your needs.
As research now shows the vast majority (70% or more!) of our immune system resides in the gut, keeping our intestinal tract healthy while travelling is paramount if we are to get the most out of our time away. Bon Voyage!