Patients Traveling This Summer? Don’t Forget The Probiotics!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diarrhea is the most common illness travelers can experience affecting about ten million people each year. While not life-threatening, travelers’ diarrhea can be extremely uncomfortable and certainly ruin a vacation for those who experience it. People who get significant diarrhea while traveling not only experience loose stools and abdominal cramping, they can also become nauseated, vomit or develop a fever.
It’s estimated that between 50 and 80 percent of travelers’ diarrhea is caused by bacteria, with E. coli being the most common. Some cases of travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses and protozoa. Keep in mind that patients who are taking stomach acid blockers such as famotidine, cimetidine, and others, have a higher risk of developing travelers’ diarrhea because they have reduced stomach acid to protect them from the bacteria that can cause it.
Many studies, including a 2004 Cochrane review of 23 different studies, have concluded that probiotics can be effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea while traveling. Probiotics can also help reduce the duration of diarrhea. Probiotics work by supporting healthy bacterial balance in the gut. When probiotics attach to the intestinal mucosa they can help prevent the attachment of pathogenic bacteria like E coli.
McFarland found in his meta-analysis involving more than 4,000 people, that probiotics, S boulardii in particular, should be taken five days before travel to help reduce the risk of developing diarrhea. L rhamnosus GG has also been shown to help reduce the risk of diarrhea while traveling and should also be taken for several days before the trip starts.
While there is significant controversy and debate regarding the exact strains and amounts of probiotics to take that can help reduce the risk of travelers’ diarrhea, there is no doubt that probiotic supplementation can help. Choose a probiotic supplement from a trusted manufacturer and be sure your patients experience comfortable travel this summer. Don’t forget to tell them to pack the probiotics!
Allen SJ, Okoko B, Martinez E, et al. Probiotics for treating infectious diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;4:CD003048.
Islam, SU. Clinical uses of probiotics: systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine. 2016;95(5).
McFarland LV. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2007;5:97–105.
Pandey KR, Naik SR, Vakil BV. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics—a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(12):7577-7587.