Before I sat down to write this article, I was a little bit hesitant to talk about getting sick on the road. I’m not a doctor and nobody likes to talk about stomach and digestion issues, but the truth is it comes up for almost everyone who travels, and when it does, it can be really shitty.
Pun not even intended, and yet here we are.
I used to pride myself on never getting sick on the road. I had a stomach of steel, I would say. I was careful to eat at street food stands that clearly had high turnover, but I ate raw vegetables, smoothies with ice, and I still always brush my teeth with tap water. Suffice to say, apart from getting immunized, I ignore all of the ‘typical’ advice because I find it’s too rigid and I just want to live. That did me just fine for years.
But in nearly each month out of the last few, I’ve consistently gotten sick with some type of gastrointestinal issue. So, unfortunately, due to an abundance of first-hand experience, this is what I’ve learned about getting sick on the road and what to do about it.
Pack the Right Supplements
Full disclosure – the inspiration for this post is my partnership with Travelan. It was actually a conversation with my mother, who had tried it and said it truly worked, that made me decide to try it as well and share about it.
Some people take Imodium for food poisoning but I never want to keep my body from being able to purge if it needs to. I also avoid antibiotics unless I absolutely must take them because antibiotic resistance due to overuse is a real thing, and it kills the good bacteria in your gut as well. So, I would usually just suffer, wanting everything to pass, but when you’re on a short trip and you’re sick for part of it, you just want relief.
After some skepticism, I looked into colostrum, Travelan’s special ingredient, and found it’s a key component in mother’s milk, a superfood that delivers nutrients to newborn babies. Travelan’s bovine colostrum powder is a special form of colostrum enriched with Enterotoxigenic Exteri-Toxigenic E.coli (ETEC) which grab hold of the ETEC in the gut, keeping it from sticking to the lining, and neutralizing gastrointestinal issues before they begin. I read reviews of the product as well as studies that have been done on its effectiveness, and finally tried it myself. Ultimately I found Travelan to be one of the best options for maintaining digestive health, especially without needing a prescription.
You can take Travelan three times a day before meals whenever you are in a location where the sanitation of food or water is uncertain. Travelan can be purchased online at Amazon (use the code 10TRAVELMUSE for a 10% discount!) or directly in most Passport Health travel medicine clinics in the US. In Australia, Travelan is a listed medicine and is specifically indicated to reduce the risk of travelers’ diarrhea. It’s available to purchase from Australian pharmacies. In Canada, Travelan is a licensed natural health product and can be purchased from Canadian pharmacies.
In addition to this, there are some complementary practices I recommend to heal and move on from intestinal upsets quickly.
For my stomach to be able to get back on track, I usually need to give it things that are very easy to digest. I almost always fall back on the BRAT diet, or the closest I can get to it based on where I am. It’s bland and unexciting, which is a bummer in countries like Thailand where the food is so good, but the longer I put it off the longer I wait to feel better again!
The BRAT diet stands for:
- Applesauce, and
Applesauce is usually the hard one for me to find, but bananas seem to be universal.
Electrolytes and Non-Caffeinated Fluids
Giving up coffee is the hardest part for me about getting sick. However, it can also be quite dehydrating, and my first obligation is to replenish my body’s electrolytes and fluids.
I would still avoid super sugary beverages or anything that has caffeine, but traveling with electrolyte tablets is a great idea for replenishing your fluids.
When You’re Ready, Sweat it Out
As long as I’m not still actively having ‘events’, I try to sweat out the toxins as well. I have to make sure that I’m hydrated enough, but one of the best and most curing things I did after getting sick in Mexico was participate in a Temescal (sweat lodge). Sweating it out helped me hit the reset button and get the excess toxins out of my body.
Obviously, you really have to listen to your body on this one and decide if you’re truly ready for it, but exercise and allowing my body to feel invigorated again has been an important way to heal for me.
See a Doctor if Needed
Obviously I am not a doctor, and my experience does not constitute a recommendation for you to take medication or supplements without talking to your doctor about it and making sure that it works for you. If you’re sick for multiple days, there could be something else at play like a parasite, and only a doctor can clarify that for you. If you need to go, then go! Talk to your accommodation front desk or simply Google to find a doctor in your area.
Additionally, Travelan is an animal milk product which may rule it out for some people with allergies to cow’s milk proteins and lactose, though it is gluten free (also it contains glucose, so those intolerant of glucose should avoid it). Always read the labels before consuming.
I’m hoping as I continue to work on getting my good bacteria back up in my gut that things will improve for me, but if you also suffer from a weakened constitution, you might need a little help from over the counter supplements. I like Travelan because it doesn’t negatively impact the essential microbiota of the gut and promotes digestive health, which can make for a more enjoyable trip.
*This post was brought to you in collaboration with Travelan, which I only recommend because me and my family members feel that it worked well for us. Your trust always comes first!