Monday, July 25, 2011

Probiotics: Pros and Cons

Awamaki, the nonprofit organization I will be volunteering for in Peru, suggested that I start taking probiotics a few weeks before and during my trip to ward off "Montezuma's Revenge." (For those of you that don't know, the less cute nickname for this illness is "Traveller's Diarrhea." Hot, I know.)

I swear Monte, if you get me sick you'll be the one taking care of my infected self.

Probiotics are supplements of "good" bacteria which are supposed to boost the beneficial bacteria already existing in your gut. When you consume water or produce rinsed in water that's contaminated, the "bad" bacteria can overwhelm the "good", causing you to get sick in the most unattractive of ways.

Since I'm a (cheap) Berkeley nerd at heart, I just had to check some scientific publications to see if it was worth spending the whole $8.99 on a bacterial supplement. Here's a synopsis of what I found:
  • Probiotics may reduce the severity of the symptoms of TD in humans. Source
  • The chance that you will contract TD ranges from 5-50% depends on where you go. Source
  • Mixtures of different probiotics tends to be the most effective. Look for names like L. acidophilus and B. bifidum. Source
  • Taking probiotics before a trip to a less developed country may reduce your chance of getting TD in the first place. Source
  • The effectiveness of the probiotics also depends on the location that you visit. Source

Sound great? Keep in mind that the jury is still out, and these are all based on scientific studies that are not 100% immune to bias. Probiotics are safe to use and relatively inexpensive, so they really can't hurt and can provide some peace of mind.

Do not, however, use this as an excuse to get lazy with your water sources. Make sure that all drinking water is boiled or decontaminated before consumption. Also beware of fresh fruits and veggies - play it safe by making sure they're either cooked or peeled.

After checking out all the information, I finally settled on Natural Factors Acidophilus and Bifidus because it was 1) cheap 2) had 90 tablets and 3) provided a combination of 2 probiotics.

Here's hopin'!

I'm not supposed to start taking these babies for a few weeks before I leave for my trip, so I will update you with the efficacy later. Don't worry, I promise to leave out as many unnecessary details as possible.


Have you ever been sick on a trip? How did you deal with it?
I got Montezuma's Revenge after a spring break trip to Mexico. Luckily, it didn't hit me until I got home but it was still pretty miserable.

Do you take probiotics or eat yogurt with probiotics? What do you think?
I eat regular yogurt, but I don't eat the yogurt supplemented with extra probies (my cute little nickname for 'em - you like?)

Random Fact #17: I have a designated "dog hair" sweatshirt that I wear at home because Izzy sheds so effin' much. Sometimes I forget that I'm wearing it and actually wear it in public. And that's when Daniel starts to pretend he doesn't know me.


  1. Love me some books on tape. I only get them at the library then download to's free! And my boyfriend has a subscription to so I've gotten a few from there too.

  2. I got TAKEN OUT in Bolivia with the worst stomach trauma I've ever had! I literally fell out of the top bunk of a bunkbed one morning because I was trying to run to the bathroom so fast :) I did learn that if I ate one yogurt per day down in S. America, I wouldn't have any tummy issues!