Has wanderlust hit you yet? As the weather gets nicer, the travel bug tends to bite! And, as we will discuss here, not all bugs are bad; in fact, many of them are extremely beneficial, and are actually necessary for life. We're not talking about the bugs that fly or crawl in this instance, we're talking about the bugs or bacteria in your body – and mainly in your gut (referred to as your microbiome),
which constitute your immune system. "The 'microbiome' is defined as the collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on the human body.
Do You Get Ill Every Time You Travel?
Why is it that some people instantly catch anything and everything (colds, flu, etc.) when they get on a plane to travel, while other people seem to travel with ease and in seeming comfort, never catching so much as the sniffles? The people who get ill when traveling usually don't enjoy the trip, often end up becoming overly familiar with the bathroom(s) of the travel destination2
, and even worse, have to stay in bed the whole time. And then there are the people who get right off the plane and are ready for fun and excitement. Which type of person are you? Which type do you want to be? I think that goes without saying! If you are a person who seems to catch some type of contagious illness every time you travel, have you ever wondered why? Note: bear in mind, there are people who who are more prone to travel-related diseases because they suffer from chronic medical conditions (e.g., diabetes mellitus, impaired immunity from use of immune‐suppressing medication, reduced gastric barrier, and HIV infection) which have compromised their immune systems over time.3
However, there are those with none of these known conditions who seem to be more prone to catching the contagious illnesses we spoke about with no obvious explanation.
The Weakening of the American Microbiome
For many years, in the past, Americans were prescribed antibiotics (literal meaning: “anti-life”) when the slightest hint of a cold came on. In fact, now that doctors are aware that this practice must be stopped and have tried to make changes, patients with upper respiratory illnesses (which happen to be viral 99% of the time and would not improve with antibiotics) continue to show up in physician offices expecting an antibiotic. This has been proven to be disastrous in the long term, as this practice has wreaked havoc on American immune systems by depleting the microbiome.4
Even worse, the over-prescribing of antibiotics has greatly contributed to so-called “super bugs” - drug-resistant bacteria that have “learned” ways around common antibiotics, rendering the antibiotics useless, and sometimes putting human life in peril.5
The microbiome is at its best, and strongest, when it is the most diverse. In other words, the more “good bugs” you have in your system, the more they kill off any invading bad ones. After years of overdoing the antibiotics, you may wonder what you can do...especially if you're one of those people who seem to get ill EVERY time you travel!
Two Ways To Strengthen Your Microbiome for Travel
Modify Your Diet
Start modifying your diet as soon as possible to cut down on (or better yet, to cut out) foods that contain refined sugar. Start eating more vegetables – especially greens. Up your salad intake! Start making a salad the basis of your meal (instead of piles of carbohydrates), and add from there. Eat fermented foods; some of my favorites are: naturally fermented kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut. Olives are also good. For patients with sensitivities to yeast, go to foods which are pickled in the traditional anaerobic method (using a jar that lets out gas but does not let in air). The Pickl-It TM
system (also available at their Amazon store
) is one such system. This method promotes the growth of beneficial anaerobic bacteria and limits the growth of yeast.
Take a Good Colony-Forming Probiotic
When you take a probiotic (literally “pro-life”), you are actually helping to replenish and populate your intestinal flora.6
You are adding “good bugs” to your microbiome so that it can become more robust and fight off the bad bugs (the bugs that ruin your dream vacation). “Colony-forming” or “colony forming units” (CFU) means: “A measure of viable cells in which a colony represents an aggregate of cells derived from a single progenitor cell.”7
A good probiotic should have at least 15 billion CFUs. For people with compromised microbiomes, I recommend between 30-120 billion CFU’s; that is what I have found to be effective in my clinical practice. Most OTC probiotics have less. In addition, the strains of probiotic matter
– the more diverse, the better.
My Maxiumum Probiotic
requires no refrigeration
, which makes it ideal for travel! Maximum Probiotic
is a vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, four-strain probiotic totaling 100 billion CFU per capsule. Each capsule is sealed in nitrogen-purged blister packs which protect from factors that can compromise stability such as heat, moisture, and oxygen. Maximum Probioitic
provides four widely researched strains of beneficial bacteria, including the rigorously studied HN019 strain of Bifidobacterium lactis. These live microorganisms have a long track record of health benefits and well-established safety. Also, to ensure delivery to the small intestines, Maximum Probioitic
employs DRcaps™ gastro-resistant capsules. These capsules are actually designed to help slow the exposure of actives to stomach acid and ensure more targeted release. Also available: my High Dose Daily Probiotic
which, again, is great for travel as it requires no refrigeration
, and totals 30 billion CFU.
Please remember to first discuss this (or any other dietary supplement you take, or wish to take) with your physician as dietary supplements can react with medications as well as with one another.
The Doctor Emi Team
1. Joy Yang. The Human Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a human. July 16, 2012. NIH National Human Genome Research Institute.
2. McFarland, L. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveler's diarrhea. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tmaid.2005.10.003.
3. Wieten R, Leenstra T, Goorhuis A, van Vugt M, Grobusch, M. Health Risks of Travelers With Medical Conditions—A Retrospective Analysis. Journal of Travel Medicine, Volume 19, Issue 2, 1 March 2012, Pages 104–110, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1708-8305.2011.00594.x
4. Fiore D, et al. Antibiotic Overprescribing: Still a Major Concern. J Fam Pract. 2017 December;66(12):730-736. Posted March 1, 2018 in Medical News.
5. University of Virginia Health System. (2017, August 17). Antibiotics found to weaken body's ability to fight off disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 28, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170817141523.htm
6. A thorough explanation of probiotics & prebiotics. International Probiotics Association. http://internationalprobiotics.org/resources/essentials/
7. Colony-forming unit. Biology Online Dictionary. https://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Colony-forming_unit