An upset stomach while traveling is common
- specific probiotic strains may help
Loose stools while traveling is one of the most common travel-related challenges
Unfortunately, vacations and exotic travel sometimes come hand-in-hand with the consumption of contaminated food and drinking water.5 Reasons include exposure to climates and sanitary practices that are different to what the gut is more accustomed to.5 Food and water contamination can occur anywhere in the world, but the regions that carry the greatest chance of exposure include the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, and Asia (excluding Japan and South Korea).6 In regions such as these, instances of travel-related upset stomach can be as high as 50%.7, 8
Consumption of contaminated products can cause an upset stomach - a condition that affects the digestive system and commonly causes loose, watery stools and abdominal discomfort.5
Traveling abroad is commonly associated with an upset stomach and loose stools.
A travel-related upset stomach is usually caused by consumption of harmful bacteria
Travel-related upset stomach is usually acquired by consuming food that has been contaminated by harmful fecal bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (known as E. coli).9 Most of the harmful microbes cause the flow of water and minerals into the bowel to increase.9 This creates a fluid imbalance that can create uncomfortable increases in stool production.9
Experiencing loose stools while traveling is unpleasant and can ruin more than just the holiday
Typically, travel-related loose stools will occur within 2 weeks of arriving at a destination but can occur up to 2 weeks after returning home.10 An episode of travel-related loose stools will usually go away on its own and last less than 7 days.11 However, up to 20% of people who experience travel-related loose stools are confined to bed, 8-15% remain unwell after a week, and at least 1% are hospitalized.12
Digestive issues may be eased by supplementing with probiotics
There is increasing evidence suggesting probiotics may help support digestive health,1, 2, 3, 4, 13 and a high-quality study suggests that probiotics may support digestive health, thereby reducing instances of travel-related loose stools.13 As with all probiotic strains, the choice of a probiotic strain that has been investigated in scientific studies and in the relevant health area is important. Read more about choosing a probiotic strain.
Experiencing travel-related loose stools can ruin a holiday, but can be resolved in otherwise healthy adults.
The LGG® probiotic strain may lower the occurrence of travel-related loose stools
A scientific study investigated the impact of consuming the LGG® probiotic strain on the occurrence of travel-related loose stools. The study was conducted in healthy adults who traveled to Asia, Africa, and central and south America. The study started 2 days prior to departure and ended on the last day of the trip.2 Participants received the LGG® strain or a placebo. Just 3.9% of the LGG® group experienced travel-related loose stools, compared to 7.4% of the placebo group.2
Further supporting these findings, a study of 756 people traveling to Turkey reported significantly fewer instances of travel-related loose stools when the LGG® probiotic was consumed, compared to placebo.1
A specific blend of probiotic strains may be beneficial for travelers’ health
The beneficial impact of a very specific blend of the BB-12®, LA-5®, STY-31™, and LBY-27™ strains on digestive health has been demonstrated in scientific studies.3, 4
94 travelers were randomized to receive the probiotic blend or placebo for 2 days prior to travel and for the duration of their 2-week visit to a high-risk country. There were 39% fewer episodes of travel-related loose stools in the group that consumed the probiotic blend than the placebo group.3
In a study that investigated how travel affected bowel movements once home from a trip, travelers consumed this specific blend or a placebo before, during, and after their trip. Not only was the probiotic blend associated with fewer instances of loose stools while away, but none of the group experienced an upset stomach once home, whereas 18% of the placebo group did.4
Probiotics might be useful for traveling abroad
Consuming the LGG® probiotic strain or the specific blend of the BB-12®, LA-5®, STY-31™, and LBY-27™ probiotic strains may be beneficial for supporting regularity when traveling abroad.1, 2, 3, 4, 13
Consult a health care professional to find out more.
Read about alleviating loose stools in babies and children.
CFU: Colony Forming Unit
BB-12®, LA-5®, STY-31™ and LBY-27™ are trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S.
The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® is the world’s most documented probiotic strain. The LGG® strain has demonstrated benefits across all ages and several health areas, including digestive, immune and oral health.
LGG® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S
The probiotic strain Bifidobacterium, BB-12® is the world’s most documented probiotic Bifidobacterium. It has been extensively studied and has been associated with benefits for several areas of health.
BB-12® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S
The probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus, LA-5® has demonstrated benefits for health, including digestive health, when used in combination with Bifidobacterium, BB-12®.
LA-5® and BB-12® are trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S
1. Oksanen PJ, et al. Ann Med. 1990;22(1):53-6. (PubMed)
2. Hilton E, et al. J Travel Med. 1997;4(1):41-3. (PubMed)
3. Black FT, et al. In: Steffen R, et al., editors. Travel Medicine: Proceedings of the First Conference on International Travel Medicine, Zürich, Switzerland, 5–8 April 1988. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 1989. p. 333-5.
4. Black FT, et al. 1988. Unpublished data.
5. Mayo Clinic. Accessed June 12, 2020. (Source)
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 12th, 2020. (Source)
7. Steffen R, et al. JAMA. 2015;313(1):71-80. (PubMed)
8. Steffen R, et al. J Travel Med. 2004;11(4):231-7. (PubMed)
9. Leung AKC, et al. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2019;13(1):38-48. (PubMed)
10. Al-Abri SS, et al. Lancet Infect Dis. 2005;5(6):349-60. (PubMed)
11. Leggat PA, Goldsmid JM. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2004;2(1):17-22. (PubMed)
12. Ericsson CD. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003;21(2):116-24. (PubMed)
13. Bae JM. Epidemiol Health. 2018;40:e2018043 (PubMed)