Pooping problems are probably not the kind of thing you are excited to read about on a travel blog but it’s an issue that is common to many travellers, and one I think is worth discussing.
When I was in Egypt a fellow tour buddy and I both got quite ill, the only difference between us was that he had no idea what to do and quickly ended up requiring emergency assistance. I have written some notes on how to avoid this happening to you.
When you travel then there are many different health issues you could experience. Pooping problems are pretty common and it usually falls into two categories: not enough and too much.
What you will soon discover in your travels, is that amongst fellow travellers poop is a topic that is always up for discussion!
Not Enough Poop
Sometimes travellers experience constipation, which is often due to sitting still for long periods of time and/or a change in diet.
Overshare Alert: after a long flight I’m often a bit blocked for a few days. Often it’s not a major issue and the best thing you can do is to drink lots of water, get exercise and increase your fibre intake.
If that’s not helping then perhaps take a mild laxative in addition to the other basic treatments. Personally I try to drink lots, get moving, increase my fruit intake and ensure my overall diet is more healthy than normal.
Too Much Poop
The other problem is too much poop. There may be numerous reasons for having diarrhoea when you travel, and in many cases if dealt with effectively it doesn’t have to cause any major problems to your holiday.
If you have loose bowel movement but feel generally well, just take it easy keep up your fluids and you should be fine.
If however, you have bad cramps, nausea, vomiting, bleeding and urgent dashes to the toilet, then you are probably experiencing Traveller’s Diarrhoea and that does need to be dealt with quickly and effectively. Traveller’s Diarrhoea s commonly caused by foreign bacteria that is harmful and unable to be processed by your body.
First up, remember that I am not a doctor, I get my travel medical advice from the GP who specialises in travel. I also always travel with a recommended Travel Health app. That being said, I do have first hand experience and was unfortunate enough to experience traveller’s diarrhoea as a result of food poisoning four times in the last 12 months. So here’s a few tips for you…
Obviously preventing the problem is so much better than having to treat it. So here are some suggestions for preventing the issue:
- Drink only bottled water (unless you are in a very developed country where you are confident the water is safe)
- Brush your teeth with bottled water, even rinsing the toothbrush afterwards with bottled water (I have been guilty of causing myself diarrhoea problems by this means MANY times)
It might be overkill but when I shower I regularly spit just in case the water got in my mouth – gross I know!
- Do not eat fruit that cannot be peeled as it may have been washed in unsafe water
- Order drinks without ice, as the ice may use unsafe water
- If you want to eat street food then by all means do so BUT make sure you see it cooked while you are there and you eat it while it is still hot. Also use common sense to determine if the food stall has acceptable hygiene standards
- Wash your hands regularly and properly, if no washing facilities are available then use hand sanitiser
- For general gut health care I also like to try and drink a probiotic yoghurt drink every day, like Yakult or Activia. You can’t find them in every country, but whenever I see one I buy it. It is good for gut health in general as it puts some of the good bacteria back into your system
One of the most important things to know about Traveller’s Diarrhoea, is that if your body is losing fluids through poop it’s likely to result in dehydration so you really need to keep your fluids up.
If you can’t keep any fluids in at all you absolutely need to see a doctor!
Another important piece of information is that most causes of Traveller’s Diarrhoea are bacterial, so if you take a poop-stopping product (Loperamide – often known by names such as GastroStop or Imodium) you are often trapping the bug in, which will only prolong your suffering.
So with those two important snippets of information out of the way, this is what I would do to treat the issue:
- Check my travel health app for exact instructions on what to do.
- Increase my fluid intake of safe, bottled water and also add some electrolytes to it to help my body absorb the fluids more effectively and replace what my body has lost (Some example product names as Gastrolyte and Hydralyte, they are typically tabs that dissolve into water).
- Following the instructions provided by the app take ‘The Bomb’, a combination of Azithromycin to fight the bacteria and Loperamide so that I can continue travelling without too much hassle.
Azithromycin is an antibiotic that fights bacterial infections, it does require a script from your GP. I always travel with one course of this antibiotic for the event that I need it.
- I get as much rest as I can to give my body time to recuperate
- If and when you can eat, stick to very bland food for a few days to allows your body to heal internally. Avoid dairy and things that are acidic, such as fruits and juices. I would typically eat dry bread, pasta without sauce, plain biscuits etc.
If the problem continues for a few days and you see/feel no improvements, you must see a doctor!
In three out of my four cases I was able to self medicate and the problem cleared up. On one occasion, thankfully when I was in a country where I spoke the language, I had to see a doctor. Due to a combination of exhaustion and food poisoning, my traveller’s diarrhoea had evolved into a stomach infection and I experienced such agony I could barely stand. As a result I was put on some form of medication for six weeks.
Remember to treat your tummy with respect, do what you can to heal quickly and you will have a much more pleasant travelling experience!