Should You Take Probiotics Whilst Travelling?

Travelling to a new destination can be an exhilarating experience; however, travelling also means different food, different water, different time-zones and definitely a very different climate. All these take a toll on our body and often lead to health issues especially pertaining to the digestive system. Food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea (TD) are two such conditions which can cause you to become sick on your trip. Bloating and constipation are some other common problems that may occur during a trip.

Bacteria Bifidobacterium, gram-positive anaerobic rod-shaped bacteria which are part of normal flora of human intestine are used as probiotics and in yoghurt production. 3D illustration. Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock
Bacteria Bifidobacterium, gram-positive anaerobic rod-shaped bacteria which are part of normal flora of human intestine are used as probiotics and in yoghurt production. 3D illustration. Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock

Probiotics – your savior during travel

Probiotics can help you ward off these uncomfortable digestive disorders and can thus act as a lifesaver during your travel days. Probiotics contain friendly bacteria, most of which occur naturally in our gut. By interacting with the body’s immune cells, probiotics help to maintain a healthy gut.  Taking probiotics can thus help build a strong immune system and enable the smooth functioning of the digestive system.

Probiotics are usually a mix of different bacteria, among which Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces are the most popular ones.

Numerous studies have provided evidence that probiotics are effective in yeast infections, food poisoning and diarrhea, especially traveler’s diarrhea. A meta-analysis published in the journal Epidemiology and Health in 2018, provides high-quality evidence that probiotics are an effective option for preventing TD.

Probiotics are safe for use in infants and children. Their availability in a variety of forms such as drinkable, capsules and sprinkles make them easy to administer to little ones too.

How do probiotics help us when travelling?

  • Probiotics keep constipation at bay.
  • Probiotics form a protective barrier over the mucous lining of the intestinal tract and protect against the entry of any pathogenic bacteria into the body via food or water.

When should one take probiotics?

Probiotics should be started at least two weeks prior to your planned travel. This helps in seeding the helpful bacteria in the gut. This, in turn, will optimize immune function and help ensure good health while travelling. However, it is important to continue taking the probiotic throughout the travel. It should be continued for at least two weeks after returning home from travel.

Which probiotics are most suitable for travel?

The following points should be considered when selecting the appropriate probiotic for your travel.

  • The probiotics need to be shelf-stable probiotics. Those that require refrigeration may not be travel-friendly.
  • The best by date of the probiotics should be always checked. They should remain viable during your entire travel.
  • CFU or colony-forming unit should also be considered before selecting the appropriate probiotic. For travel, probiotics with a CFU of 30 billion are generally recommended.
  • Probiotics with diverse species should be selected, such as a formulation containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Even though probiotics seem like a sustainable option to have a safe trip, additional care should always be taken. Avoiding local water, ice and fruits can act as additional precautions. A vaccine against traveler's diarrhea is also recommended when travelling to high-risk regions.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 20, 2019

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