The dreaded words: stomach problems, constipation, traveller’s diarrhea
Nobody wants to talk about them.
Many people get them, especially when travelling.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner and am providing information only. I am not providing medical advice. I am sharing things I do to prevent or deal with health problems when travelling. Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before trying something or using any product that I mention in this post. Only they can determine if an action or product is appropriate for you. Please refer to my Terms and Conditions/Disclaimer for more information.
The more I travel, the more I take preventative actions to ensure I have a safe and healthy trip. During my recent trips to France and Bhutan, I was very fortunate to have escaped getting any stomach issues like constipation and traveller’s diarrhea.
Stomach Problem #1: Constipation
When I met with a friend recently, she was describing the constipation that she and her friends encountered when they were in France. But she talked in a whisper. Nobody really wants to talk about stomach and digestive problems and bodily functions because it’s so personal. Yet, it’s a pain (literally) when you get constipated: the bloating and uncomfortable feeling and you’re NOT pregnant!
When I travel to France I do these things to “help” me avoid getting constipated, which often happens when you have not moved around a lot on a plane and your whole meal times are off schedule.
- I take probiotics —good bacteria used to keep the gut healthy and help with digestion.
- I drink a lot of water
- The one thing I always pack are Bran Buds. They’re a bran cereal containing psyllium fibre but much crunchier than bran flakes. I sprinkle them on my cereal and get extra fibre this way.
- The following foods have helped me avoid constipation: pears, plums, apples, raspberries, prunes, corn, grains, beans, sweet potatoes, veggies like broccoli, and anything with fibre. Just be sure the addition of fibre is gradual. Your system can’t suddenly take on a lot and you can feel bloated and gassy.
- I actually find that coffee helps too. Some people however, become constipated with caffeine. So it can be hit or miss.
- Move around on the plane. Go running or get some exercise in the first few days of arrival and get enough sleep. Your system needs to get back into a routine, particularly when you are in a different time zone.
Stomach Problem #2: Traveller’s Diarrhea
I have never gotten traveller’s diarrhea in France and have not had problems drinking the tap water in France. When I am at a restaurant in France I will always order “une carafe d’eau“ (pitcher of water), “d’eau ordinaire” or “d’eau plate”. All of these are tap water (flat, as opposed to sparkling water which is “d’eau gazeuse”).
If you ask for a bottle of water, you could end up with water for which you have to pay 3 Euros or more and this really isn’t necessary as the water in France is great. If you want a San Pellegrino or Evian, then by all means.
In Morocco, however, I did get traveller’s diarrhea. I think (but will never know for sure) that I had gotten careless: I had a drink with ice in it. So yes, constant diarrhea but added to this a fever, chills, vomiting and loss of appetite. I barely ate for half of the trip.
Some other possible culprits of getting traveller’s diarrhea? Foods not cooked with proper safe food handling, foods washed with possibly unsafe water, such as salads, and raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been personally cleaned and peeled.
The sad part was that I had taken Dukoral, a vaccine prescribed to me that protects the gut against certain bacteria, especially E. coli but obviously the strain that I got wasn’t covered by Dukoral. I also did not take loperamide (Imodium A-D) as it provides temporary relief. It will basically decrease the frequency of you getting diarrhea and this can be good if you have a long journey ahead. I guess I just wanted all the bacteria out of my system.
To combat this, I ate very bland food (cheese and bread) and lots of water. I was also given some powdered oral rehydration salts in a small package (ie. electrolytes) to add to my water as I was getting dehydrated. Our tour guide also suggested taking 1 teaspoon of cumin in a cup of water to help with the diarrhea. Did it help? Maybe a little.
Trip To Asia
So, I was paranoid about getting traveller’s diarrhea in Thailand and Bhutan and went to the travel health clinic, got a prescription for Dukoral and was told that if I got diarrhea, I should:
- drink plenty of fluids
- take Immodium
- if I continue to have diarrhea after 3 days, I was to take Azithromycin, an antibiotic
- if I continued to have diarrhea after 3 days I was to seek medical assistance
I was so grateful I did NOT get traveller’s diarrhea! The probiotics perhaps helped but I was extremely cautious, by:
- eating at “safe” places where I believed they had good, safe food handling practices and standards.
- drinking only boiled or bottled water and even brushing my teeth with bottled/boiled water. I also did not have any fruit juice (unless bottled) and nothing with ice in the drink.