Help for Travellers: Diarrhea at Home and Away
With the approach of Spring and summer and the nice weather, many people's thoughts turn to travel. Travelling nothing spoils a trip faster than getting ill. Fortunately there are a number of supplements and foods that can help prevent illness and aid in recovery if you do succumb.
One frequent problem experienced by travellers is diarrhea. While some diarrhea is mild and will disappear quickly, other forms require some help. Those travelling to a particularly risky place should take the probiotic acidophilus (friendly bacteria) at least two weeks before the trip and to continue taking it throughout the trip. Acidophilus can help overcome the strange food and water and will provide the proper balance of flora that is necessary for healthy intestines.
Be sure to look for acidophilus with bifidus, as these are the two most important cultures. Take at least one to two billion a day -- preferably the dairy-free kind, as this is just one less thing to react to when the bowels are already weak. Ones with fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are a good idea, as FOS has been shown in studies to keep the good bacteria alive longer, enabling more of it to reach the intestines.
Other useful herbs to take with you are goldenseal, oregon grape root, goldenthread or barberry. All of these herbs contain berberines. The berberine in goldenseal has been shown to treat even severe diarrhea, associated with E coli (traveller's diarrhea), Shigella dysenteriae, Salmonella paratyphi (food poisoning), B Klebsiella, Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica and Vibrio cholerae. In other words, goldenseal treats most of the diarrhea-causing agents that you are likely to encounter while away.
It is a good idea to begin taking goldenseal one week before the trip, throughout the trip and one week after returning. The dosage recommended for berberine is 25 to 50 mg three times a day -- up to 150 mg if needed. Berberine is effective in the treatment of the majority of common gastrointestinal side effects. Even children can benefit from using goldenseal for diarrhea.
Berberine seems to work by having direct antimicrobial activity. It also blocks toxins produced by certain bacteria. This toxin-blocking effect is especially evident in the diarrhea caused by E coli and Vibro cholerae, the diarrhea caused by cholera.
Berberine is also effective against many of the parasites that cause diarrhea. Parasites can lodge themselves in a weakened body. If your hydrochloric acid (HCI) is low, you should supplement with HCI. Digestive enzymes may also help. (Vegetarians can use bromelain.)
Other useful herbs for drying up watery, frequent diarrhea include Potenilla tormentilla, oakbark, cransebill, raspberry and bistort. These herbs are all astringent. Potentilla tormentilla also gives nourishment to the bowels.
One of the best treatment and preventions of diarrhea is grapefruit seed extract. This nutrient has been shown to be effective against fungi, protozoa, bacteria and viruses and it can purify drinking water, fruits and vegetables. Skye Weintraub, ND, author of The Parasite Menace, says that grapefruit seed extract is effective against 100 strains of fungus, 800 strains of bacteria and viruses and many singlecell parasites. It is invaluable on any trip.
Be sure to avoid solid food during a bout of diarrhea. Drink plenty of fluids (pure water, herbal teas, broths and fruit juices) to prevent dehydration, use electrolytes if necessary and avoid dairy products. An old naturopathic remedy is to mix equal parts sauerkraut and tomato juice.
Garlic can be effective in preventing and treating infestations that can cause diarrhea, as can pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds and bitter melon. Other remedies include limes and lemon. Carob has been shown to be successful in treating diarrhea even in young children. Roasted carob powder brewed as a tea has been used safely and effectively since the 1950s. Hospital studies on young children have confirmed carob powder's effectiveness.
1. Desai, AB, Shah, KM and Shah, DM. Berberine in the Treatment of Diarrhoea. Ind Pediatr, 1971:8.
2. Loeb, H et al. J Ped Gastroenterol Nutr, 1989:8.
3. Weintraub, Skye, ND. The Parasite Menace. Woodland Pub-lishing, 1998.
Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd.
By Linda Woolven