We have all been warned about how easy it can be to contract various diseases when travelling abroad. Travelling overseas can expose us to microbes that the body has never experienced or is not used to. Between new environments, changing time zones, constantly eating out and other stressors associated with travel, the immune system naturally becomes weakened. The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract plays a critical role in how our immune system functions—it contains the greatest number of bacteria than any other part of the body. When this bacteria, or “microflora,” becomes disrupted, so does our immune system, weakening our defense system and oftentimes leading to sickness. The primary cause of imbalanced micro ora during travel are bacterial pathogens which harm the good bacteria. These bacterial pathogens are most commonly found in certain food or liquids—particularly, raw/uncooked meat or seafood, unpeeled fruits or vegetables, and tap water.

“Research has shown that changes to the normal intestinal micro ora occur more often in individuals travelling overseas. A disruption in the normal balance of this micro ora can impair gastrointestinal health, negatively affecting travel plans and resulting in itinerary changes, trip cancellations or delays,” says Yves Yau, President at Genestra Brands, one of the leading probiotic brands.

According to recent studies, 55 per cent of travellers will experience diarrhea (von Sonnenburg et al., 2000). Taking a good quality probiotic can balance intestinal ora and build a defence against bad bacteria. “In addition to decreasing the survival rate of bad bacteria, probiotics strengthen the epithelial barrier by mediating the integrity of tight junctions and increasing mucin release, in turn regulating permeability and preventing pathogens from adhering to cells” says Yau. “This course of action decreases the movement of bacteria from the intestines into circulation.”

However, not every probiotic is strong enough to protect against unfriendly microbes. Often, the stronger probiotics are kept refrigerated, while the shelf-stable ones may not be as effective. Genestra Brand’s HMF Travel, however, is one of few shelf-stable probiotic strong enough to protect against diarrhea. It is formulated using clinically trialled probiotic strains and Saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces boulardii is a non-pathogenic yeast that colonizes in the intestine within three to four days and is cleared from the colon within a week after ingestion ends.

Studies involving tourists have found that daily supplementation with Saccharomyces boulardii, beginning a few days prior to the start of the trip (to ensure probiotic colonization in the gastrointestinal tract), supports gastrointestinal health for the duration of the trip (McFarlend, 2007).

Saccharomyces boulardii, has also been extensively researched for its ability to support a healthy microflora composition after antibiotic therapy, decreasing the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Much like travel, taking antibiotics can alter the intestinal microflora as well. If you’re taking an antibiotic, it’s a good idea to take a probiotic that contains Saccharomyces boulardii to help avoid diarrhea and to maintain and restore normal microflora. By promoting the growth and differentiation of intestinal cells, re-establishing the normal production of short chain fatty acids (a major source of energy for colon cells), neutralizing factors that allow pathogens to adhere to and obtain nutrients from host cells, and breaking down toxin-A, a contributor to diarrhea, this probiotic is your new favourite travel buddy. VM