10 family holiday health tips

Kathy Wheddon Nutritional Therapist DipION

When your attention turns to thoughts of sunnier climes and taking your hard-earned annual holidays. I know that every moment of those few weeks in the sun is precious. With that in mind, I thought I would offer some simple, practical tips to ensure you stay healthy whilst on your travels, enabling you to relax and enjoy your holidays to the maximum! After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than losing out on potential ‘beach-time’, lying in a darkened room, so here are some handy tips on how to avoid ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ (TD) whilst on your foreign holidays.

woman drinking from water bottle

  1. Always drink bottled water when travelling abroad, and avoid tap water
  2. Wash hands frequently, especially before and after eating
  3. Don’t have ice cubes in your drinks
  4. Clean your teeth using bottled water
  5. Avoid salad that may have been washed in unsanitary tap water
  6. Take care with local cheeses and ice-cream that may be unpasteurised in some destinations
  7. Peel all fruit, including tomatoes
  8. Avoid food that has been left in the open for a long-time, or exposed to flies
  9. Ensure all meat consumed is thoroughly cooked
  10. Avoid seafood if in any doubt of its freshness

Obviously, some countries carry a higher risk when it comes to the likelihood of falling victim to traveller’s diarrhoea, than others. Developing countries such as those in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America are generally recognised as carrying the greatest risk, but incidents can occur in any foreign location.

The cause of uncomfortable digestive symptoms need not necessarily be exposure to pathogenic bacteria (although many cases do involve pathogens - see Glossary for definition: pathogenic bacteria), in some incidences symptoms can simply be the result of a dramatic change in diet and exposure to different types of bacteria than we are used to. If pathogenic bacteria are involved, the most common infective micro-organisms are: E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Giardia and Shigella.

campervan beside palm trees

Maintaining a good balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, is one way to safeguard yourself from digestive upset when travelling. ‘Friendly’ bacteria produce a number of different enzymes which help us to break down our food, so our digestive system copes better with the sudden dietary changes that often accompany a foreign holiday. Additionally, by ensuring adequate colonies of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, any pathogens ingested are less likely to find space to adhere to the lining of the digestive tract.

The 'friendly' yeast Saccharomyces boulardii has been clinically trialled and found to be effective against traveller's tummy troubles. A study [1] based on Austrian tourists visiting various countries with a warm climate, proved Saccharomyces boulardii to reduce the likelihood of contracting stomach upsets whilst travelling. Significantly fewer participants in the Saccharomyces boulardii group suffered digestive upsets, in comparison with those in the placebo group.

Health professionals can visit this strain's entry in the Probiotics Database to read more about the research using Saccharomyces boulardii. This friendly yeast can be found in Optibac Saccharomyces boulardii.

References

  1. Kollaritsch, H. H. et al (1993)Prevention of traveller’s diarrhoea: Comparison of different non-antibiotic preparations. Results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study; Fortschr Med; Vol. 111 pp. 152-156