Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge, Turkey Trots – How to NOT pick up Travelers’ Diarrhea! The Travel Pharmacist

For all of the fun and clever names, Travelers’ Diarrhea (TD) is NOT something anyone who travels wishes to experience. Being sick at home is bad enough, but when you’re traveling – it seems so much worse. Over 10 million cases of TD are reported to the CDC annually!

The bad news is that this is the most common ailment of all international travelers. In fact, 20-50% of us will be affected at one time or another. Travelers’ Diarrhea is a bacterial infection that comes on very quickly and usually resolves with a week, but during that time the nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, cramping and stomach upset can make you feel miserable.

Persons at particular high-risk include young adults, persons with compromised immune systems, persons with inflammatory-bowel disease or diabetes, and persons taking H-2 blockers or antacids. We pick up TD from eating or drinking something that has been in contact with contaminated water.

The good news is that with a few precautions, we can greatly lessen our risk for contracting TD.

* Know the “high-risk” areas. If you’re traveling to developing areas in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia be aware that the destination is the greatest indicator of where you’ll most often find TD.

* Prevention works. Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) taken 2 tablets 4 times daily or 2 fluid ounces 4 times daily has been shown to greatly decrease the incidence of TD. Pack a few extra tablets or a small bottle of liquid in your bag – we do!

* Avoid street vendors. This is a tough one for me, because we love eating local foods from street vendors when we travel. But if you want to be 100% sure of not contracting TD, then its best to avoid street food. We usually compromise and will only frequent those who look “safe” though that hasn’t always worked for us, either. 🙂

* Avoid eating raw fruits, like oranges or bananas, unless you’ve peeled them yourself.

* Tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk, and dairy products are associated with increased risk for TD. It’s better to stick with bottled water or beer instead.

If you do end up with a case of Montezuma’s Revenge, the best thing to do is HYDRATE. Clear liquids are routinely recommended for adults. Electrolyte replacement drinks are good for replacing what the body is losing. Thankfully, most cases clear up on their own within a few days, but if you’re still experiencing symptoms, running a fever, or seeing bloody stools, it’s important to see a doctor ASAP.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

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Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 – Eating Healthy

The Travel Pharmacist

Do you know the Dirty Dozen or the Clean 15? If you’re interested in foods with fewer chemicals or pesticides (up to 80% less!) and adopting a more organic way of eating, then these two lists may be the most important you’ll come across this week!

Thanks to a wonderful organization called Environmental Working Group, we now have a comprehensive way to look at the fruits and vegetables we buy regularly and know the levels of residue pesticides as reported by the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture. The Dirty Dozen represents the Top 12 farm grown foods with the highest levels of pesticides and chemicals (these are the ones you should definitely try to buy organic if possible). The Clean 15 are those with the lowest levels of residual chemicals. In other words, the ones on your grocery list that you can buy non-organic if cost is an issue. Here they all are…

The Travel Pharmacist

It’s quite a scary list. Many of the fruits and vegetables we love to enjoy. So should I only eat processed foods? No. It is important to remember that the overall health benefit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweighs the risk of these chemicals, however buying organic will lessen the risk even more. “Organic” is a designation used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program to certify food that was produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation or sewage sludge.

Washing fruits and vegetables is also very important! The data from these studies was obtained from foods that were washed and peeled (as normally eaten), so if your produce isn’t washed, your exposure levels to harmful chemicals will be even higher.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Environmental Working Group offers an excellent PDF guide entitled “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”.By using these lists and in-depth information provided, consumers can have the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables with less exposure to pesticides.

Do you buy organic food regularly for your family? Is cost an issue? Let us know how you take steps to ensure your produce is as pesticide and chemical-free as possible.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

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Herbs For Health

herbs for health

herbs for health

A pinch of salt. A dash of pepper. Just a smidgen of basil to bring out the flavor. We use herbs and spices all the time to make our food taste better, but what if adding an extra herb or two to a meal could boost our health as well? Whether you’re in another country shopping in a foreign market or simply growing your own herbs for health reasons, these are 5 commonly used garden wonders to improve overall well being.

Basil – Can you smell the delicious aroma of fresh basil leaves, still warm from the sun? This aromatic leaf is packed with calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C and K. A few leaves in a capresĂ© salad or ground as pesto over warm noodles work in the body to help lower blood pressure and boost circulation.

Marigolds – Such a pretty flower with so many valuable perks for the body! This colorful orange flower contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants responsible for brightening skin complexion. To use fresh flower petals, pour boiling water over the mixture and let soak overnight. Strain and chill to use as a daily skin toner. You may also see the oils of marigold flowers in many skin creams also known as calendula.

Peppermint Leaves – Crush a few of these stimulating leaves and soak in cold water for a few minutes. Apply to the pulse points and temple for an energizing break. Peppermint eases tension headaches and if inhaled as an oil, it can expand sinuses and relieve that heavy feeling you get when your sinuses are congested.

Chamomile – This versatile herb has been used in natural medicine for centuries to cure everything from digestive issues to anxiety. Chamomile plants are made up of thin feathery branched leaves and erect fuzzy green stems that produce numerous flowering heads. The florets are flat with triangular white petals and conical sunflower yellow centers. The flower heads are used as an infusion to create chamomile tea. The florets can also be used as an herbal element in salads or as a garnish.

Chrysanthemums – Suffering from a headache? Soak a handful of fresh chrysanthemum flowers in hot water for 10 minutes and drink as a relaxing tea. The effect of releasing blood vessel constriction and decreasing muscle tension in the head will often put the headache away in minutes.

Do you have a favorite herb or herbal remedy? Please share what’s worked well for you!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

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Top 5 HAPPY Foods – The Travel Pharmacist

Did you know that FOOD can actually change your mood? And all it takes is one bite to go from grumpy to grinning? Well, maybe not quite that simple, but some foods DO have the ability to alter the chemicals in your brain responsible for happiness. By increasing levels of these “happy” chemicals, like serotonin and endorphins, we can more easily face a day of stressful airport runs or trekking at the break of dawn.

So which food are considered the best “HAPPY” foods? Here are the Top 5 –

1. COFFEE! You can smell it now, can’t you? A study from Vanderbilt University showed 2 cups a day over a three week period increased the brain’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are those same hormones that make you feel SO good when you’ve just run your best time ever or when you help that frazzled foreign traveler read her upside down map.

2. SUNFLOWER SEEDS. It’s a crunchy, delicious snack that fills the brain with zinc, a natural stress-reducer. It only takes 1/2 a cup of shelled seeds daily for a week to see the benefits!

3. GREEN TEA. Sip away your anxiety with a cup of green tea. Green tea contains theanine, a compound shown to significantly reduce anxiety by protecting the brain from excess neurotransmitters. And if that wasn’t enough, green tea has other health benefits as well. The antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in that steaming cup of goodness assists the body in the fight against cancer and heart disease.

4. AVOCADOS. Nature’s Prozac! With high levels of tryptophan, the chemical that turns into serotonin in the brain, avocados have been shown to have a good antidepressant effect. It only takes 1/2 of an avocado daily to produce this mood-lifting feeling. An extra bonus – adding a few slices to your salad will significantly increase nutrient adsorption as the fats in avocados allow the body to absorb more nutrients from other foods.

5. CHOCOLATE. Oh yes! We all love chocolate and the fact it’s good for our brain makes us even happier! Phenylethylamine and anandamides are the two scary-sounding compounds in chocolate we can thank for boosting concentration and increasing blood flow to the brain. Chocolate increases both serotonin and endorphin levels in the body. Dark chocolate is best – 30 to 90 percent cocoa content, and all it takes is one ounce daily to bring on those wonderful feelings of happiness!

Share YOUR special “Happy Food” with us in the comments below…

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

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Sleep Tips to Beat Insomnia


You know the feeling. Tossing and turning all night, punching your pillow, and your mind just won’t let go – it’s insomnia. For many people, insomnia is a chronic condition they face with dread. Getting enough sleep at night is very important to maintain good health and high energy, especially when traveling. Without a good night’s sleep, your body and mind work at less-than-optimal productivity. Jet lag, travel delays, time zone shuffles, and stress/worry are just a few of the many factors that can cause this disorder. Insomnia affects nearly everyone at one time or another, so let’s see what we can do to get you snoozing again!

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to get enough quality sleep to feel rested. This includes being unable to fall asleep or to stay asleep, waking up very early, and/or not feeling refreshed after sleeping. Certain medications and medical conditions, excessive stress, or poor sleeping/bedtime habits all affect sleep quality. While the majority of insomnia cases can be directly traced to stressful or anxiety-producing life events, there are also insomniacs with depression, vitamin and mineral imbalances, and breathing difficulties.

Non-drug treatments

Developing good sleep habits is often one of the best treatments for this condition. Getting yourself back into a habit of going to bed at a regular time and avoiding stimulation (like exercise or caffeine) before bedtime may be enough to break the temporary pattern of sleeplessness. Relaxation techniques, dietary changes to include foods high in the amino acid tryptophan (bananas, turkey, cottage cheese, and milk), and a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise can all help you sleep more soundly.

A leading herb used for sleeplessness is valerian. Valerian root makes getting to sleep easier and increases deep sleep and dreaming. It does not cause a ‘morning hangover’ – a side effect common to some OTC sleep aids. Many people use 300 to 400mg of a concentrated valerian root preparation thirty minutes before bedtime.

Melatonin has also shown some success in getting sleep patterns back on track after experiencing JET LAG, but not for treating general insomnia.

OTC treatments

Sleep aids like Tylenol PM and Nytol contain the antihistamine diphenhydramine and may be effective in the short term. A word of warning about all diphenhydramine products – they can make you very, very sleepy and groggy! While this is great for getting sleep, it isn’t so nice when you find yourself having to navigate in a foreign county. Give yourself plenty of time to sleep and to get over the lingering groggy effects.

Although over-the-counter sleep aids may be useful for occasional treatment of insomnia, especially during traveling, it is not a good idea to use these products on a regular basis. These do not help with the underlying cause of insomnia and may become less effective after a few days of use.

Prescription treatments

For cases of insomnia that last longer than one month, prescription medications from your doctor may be in order. A class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics are commonly prescribed to treat chronic insomnia. Ambien (generic zolpidem) and Lunesta (generic eszopiclone) are two of the medications in this class that you’ll see most often. These work to help you fall asleep faster, though some people still report a groggy feeling the next day. Use care if taking these if you need to be sharp in the morning.

Here’s to getting back on track and sleeping well! Take care!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

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