The Holiday Souvenir No-One Wants To Bring Home:

Travelling abroad has become a hugely unpleasant ordeal”. That, at least, is the opinion of the Spectator magazine’s outspoken columnist, Rod Liddle, expressed in the publication’s 10th August edition. From now on, he announced, he and his family will take their vacations in Britain. He feels that going to other countries to widen your horizons and experience different kinds culture has lost some of it’s allure and he can anyway no longer endure “the endless security rigmarole at the airports and the queues everywhere for everything”. Moreover, the rejuvenation of the UK’s seaside towns with their food festivals, chic art galleries and “prettified and gentrified promenades” means that staying in the country “has become much more palatable and, thanks to the collapsing pound, much more affordable”.

Liddle could have added another reason: According to a survey conducted on behalf of the probiotic supplement company Bimuno Travelaid cited by the Daily Mail, 50% of the British population suffer health problems while they are abroad. Moreover, as the newspaper’s travel reporter observed, although many people may believe they are more likely to become ill on destinations such as Egypt or Turkey, in fact Spain appears to be the worst offender for holiday illness – to the extent that perhaps “traveller’s tummy” should be renamed “costa cramps”: 32% of Britons questioned said they’d become unwell while in the Iberian peninsula, compared to just 6% in Italy and 3% in Thailand.

The statistics place Greece in 2nd place (14.2% of Britons on holiday there fall ill), followed by France, despite it’s image as a centre for gastronomy (9.6%), Egypt (9.5%), Africa (8.1%), India (5.3%), and the Caribbean only 4%, “perhaps surprising in view of “the region’s bad reputation for causing illness”.

So what’s the solution and how can this situation be avoided? Birmuno Travelaid claim that their product “Increases the good-boosting bacteria in your gut and also provides a natural protective barrier against bad travel diarrhoea-causing bacteria including e-coli and salmonella”. Philip Calder, professor of nutritional immunology at Southampton University, has pointed out to the Daily Mirror that when you visit foreign countries, “your body encounters a whole new set of bacteria and viruses – starting with those of the passengers you sit in close proximity to and share air with on the plane”. Moreover, research shows that the behaviour associated with many tourists, such as risking sunburn, drinking too much alcohol and eating unhealthy food can further suppress the immune system, thereby providing a recipe for getting sick.

The fashion stylist Eve Brannon, in her article captioned “Don’t let Traveller’s Tummy Ruin Your Summer Holiday”, has recommended including more sources of soluble food fibres such as onions, garlic, artichokes, leeks, chicory and asparagus in your diet in the weeks preceding your journey. Then ,while you’re away, you should avoid local tap water, if you can’t be sure of its purity. This includes taking ice in drinks, brushing your teeth with tap water or eating fruit and vegetables that have been washed in it: “Even if locals drink it without any problems, it’s unlikely your stomach will have the suitable bacteria to protect you”.

As a precaution, always drink bottled water, ensuring the seal is intact when purchased. Avoid raw or undercooked foods. Choose fruit that has to be peeled – such as bananas, mangos, oranges or pomegranates – and prepare them yourself. Beware of hotel buffet food, as there’s no way of knowing how long it’s been sitting out. Street stalls, contends Brannon, can be a safer bet than buffet-syle meals because they cook the produce fresh in front of you at high temperatures. When dining out, “pay attention to the restaurant’s overall cleanliness, especially as regards the tablecloths, cutlery, glasses and toilet facilities”.

The “Healthy Soul” website makes some suggestions that don’t feature on Brannon’s list. It advises that you should shower with your mouth closed: “Sometimes, even a small amount of water from the shower can be enough to upset your stomach badly”. It also advocates using iodine tablets to purify tap water if you can’t easily get hold of bottled water.

If you’ve nevertheless unfortunately experienced a severe episode while on holiday and are still coping with the after-effects now you’re back home, what’s the best and fastest way to get better? Brannon emphasises that the most important thing is to make sure that you drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid spicy, fried or fatty foods. Even if you’ve recovered your appetite, you should for the moment eat just bland foods like rice, soup, toast and bananas and then add in a probiotic supplement for extra support.

If – unlike Rod Liddle – you haven’t lost your enthusiasm for visiting other countries and intend return abroad as soon as possible , perhaps the advice of specialists such as Calder and Brannon will help you avoid falling victim again to the dreaded “traveller’s tummy”.

Filed under: Healthcare, Travel | Posted on August 27th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon

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