Tummy Troubles Top Travel Health Woes

Armen Hareyan's picture
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As we approach the summer when many of us are planning vacations, a recent travel health survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Florastor found that the majority of U.S. adults -- 78 percent -- plan vacations within US, while just 15 percent say they usually plan to vacation abroad. Seven percent say they typically don't travel at all.

While a lot of thought goes into planning a vacation, the survey found that potential illnesses don't enter the minds of 44 percent of U.S. adults, yet nearly one out of five has had at least one vacation impacted by travel-related illness. Some 86 percent (of those who travel) bring along OTC medications or supplements when going on a trip. Pain relievers were tops on the list of what to pack (53 percent take them along), while approximately one quarter or more take along allergy medications, multi-vitamins, anti-diarrheals or heartburn/indigestion aids.

Five percent say they usually experience intestinal upset when traveling to a new environment and the same percentage say that while they themselves would travel somewhere known for travel-related illnesses, they would not take their children with them.

The most common ailment experienced by travelers who have ever been affected by a travel-related illness is traveler's diarrhea (TD), with 63 percent reporting a bout with this unsettling condition. Next in line was stomach cramping and nausea making up 34 percent each. Headaches were also fairly common, with more than one-quarter (28 percent) reporting this experience. Intestinal pain was also experienced by one-quarter of those who have ever been affected by a travel-related illness.

According to Patricia Raymond, M.D., board-certified gastroenterologist, author and assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, many people around the world but especially Europeans use probiotics to help with traveler's diarrhea and other intestinal ailments.

"Many people in other parts of the world, particularly Europeans, are firm believers in using probiotics to ward off traveler's diarrhea, but Americans are just catching on to the concept of probiotics in general. It's not surprising that many Americans don't think of them for prevention of a disheartening vacation disruption," says Dr. Raymond.

In fact, more than three quarters (77 percent) of those surveyed say they have never heard of using probiotics to help strengthen their digestive systems and 36 percent saying they have never even heard of probiotics at all.

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Managing Travel-Related Tummy Troubles

Most cases occur within the first week of traveling, but travelers' diarrhea can occur at anytime during a trip and even after returning home. However, there are things that can be done to protect one's digestive system and avoid a trip ruined by intestinal distress. Dr. Raymond offers her tips to help keep TD from putting a damper on a well-deserved vacation:

-- Boost your gut with a probiotic: Try a probiotic supplement, such as Florastor (Saccharomyces boulardii) for several days before a trip and during the trip. "There has been scientific study showing a reduction in travelers' diarrhea with a Saccharomyces probiotic species, and I've actually used Florastor personally for this purpose with success," says Dr. Raymond.

-- Say no to anti-diarrheal medications: "Eliminating the diarrhea is important, yes, but stopping it up and keeping the toxins in your intestine for a length of time is not a good idea," says Dr. Raymond.

-- Avoid consuming tap water: Bottled water is best when traveling -- all it takes is once glass of bad tap water to keep you grounded for your vacation.

-- Choose foods wisely: Steer clear of street vendors, and no matter how clean a restaurant looks, never eat raw or undercooked meat or seafood, especially when traveling outside of the United States.

Survey Methodology:

Harris Interactive fielded the study on behalf of Florastor from February 21-25, 2008 via its QuickQuery(SM) online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 2,602 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older.

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