A Travellerspoint blog

October 2009

The Scoop on the Poop

The World Through The Bathroom Window

Subtle Warning

This particular blog entry has been written because a certain TP Overlord, who shall remain nameless (Peter), felt "digesting" the information taken from a forum thread could be useful. Actually, he's right - it will be useful. But, do yourselves a favor and don't read it over breakfast, lunch or dinner. You've been warned.

Dodgy toilets on the MV Sophie, by Shlugger

Dodgy toilets on the MV Sophie, by Shlugger

In The Beginning...

A few months ago, one of our members posted a thread in the General Talk Forum entitled Avoiding the trots. (diarrhoea). It received enough attention that it was even featured. Though not normally subject matter that catches everyone's attention, it is an "affliction" almost everyone experiences at some point during their travels. A bout of diarrhea is annoying at the least, but a severe case can put a real damper on one's travel plans and ultimately affect one's health. So, giggle now while I glean the important stuff from the original thread... (Too late, I've already gleaned.)

A Short List Of The Culprits

  • Water
  • Contaminated Food
  • Dietary Changes
  • Schedule Changes
  • Personal Cleanliness
  • Paper Currency
  • Soap

Don't drink the water! Not too many people are unaware of this concept but it bears repeating. This includes ice cubes in your drinks. This also includes ordering something like a Scotch and water. But, another plausible cause was brought to light in the forum thread - beware of showers. The water used for bathing may not be the same water that runs through the taps for drinking. Ingesting even a small amount of contaminated shower water could have consequences.

All food bad! Okay - that's an exaggeration. Be mindful of uncooked vegetables (green salads) as the "greens" may have been lightly rinsed in water. Seafood and shellfish are well known for being contaminated, especially raw oysters, ceviche, sushi, etc. Also be mindful of your changes in diet. That Guinea pig kabob may smell delectable but may wreak havoc with your digestive system. Make changes to your diet slowly.

Watch the clock! Depending on your eating habits at home, traveling throws in a monkey wrench. Try to maintain your regular eating schedule (based on your "home" clock rather than your current time zone). Avoid skipping meals and/or just having snacks to tide you over. Your body doesn't like abrupt changes even if you do.

Sing! Okay, people will think you're nuts if you do it out loud. But, wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 15-30 seconds - the length of Happy Birthday sung twice. Be sure to wash between each finger and get under those nail beds. Remember, anything you touch after washing said hands is another source of contamination. Avoid using cloth hand towels that other's have also used. Hand sanitizers work but nothing beats soap and water when available.

Show me the money! Again, another tidbit from the forum thread. Paper currency does indeed harbor bacteria more so than metallic coins. The weave of the paper gives bacteria a place to hide and stay cozy warm in your pocket.

Squeaky clean! Soap is a very useful item. It not only cleans things but it also cleans things out, including your digestive system. Those wonderful little liquids used in home and industrial dishwashers to keep spots from forming on glassware are a type of soap. Dishes and glassware that are not adequately rinsed can be coated with soap residue. This is quite common in small eateries where dishes are still washed by hand. This soap residue will come in contact with food or drink and ultimately be ingested by you, the consumer. (To this day, soap and water are the key ingredients for enemas - get the point?)

Not so squeaky clean! All the soap in the world will not rid a plate of bacteria if adequate amounts of water at a high enough temperature are not used. Enough said.

Close The Floodgates!!

I have mentioned basic "avoidance" procedures within each category listed above though sometimes, they aren't quite as effective as we'd like them to be. So, here are some additional tips for stemming the tide - so to speak. (Oh come on, admit it. That made you giggle.)

  • Pro-biotics - pro-biotics are comprised of a family of (friendly) bacteria that occurs naturally in our intestinal tract. The most commonly known is Acidophilus, which is used in the culturing of yogurt. It is also available in capsule and tablet form through most health food stores and pharmacies.
  • Imodium - an over the counter (OTC) anti-diarrheal medication that should be used with caution. Yes, it is an OTC and will slow or stem the tide but it should not be used on a regular basis. There is a reason your body is trying to rid itself of the causative factor. The same holds true of Pepto-Bismal and any other OTC anti-diarrheal treatment.
  • Fiber - products, such as Metamucil (and generic forms) are known for their effectiveness against constipation. They are also very useful tools against diarrhea. The fiber absorbs the excess fluid in the digestive tract and slows down the motility. Such products are available in powder and capsule form. Food stuffs, such as rice, pasta, crackers, biscuits, bland cheeses, and white breads are also quite useful.
  • Antibiotics - these should only be used under the direction of a physician. There are certain times when antibiotics are the only route of treatment (giardia, etc.) but they should not be used as a preventative. Over use of antibiotics may lead to resistance and complicate a treatment for some other ailment/condition.

Mecardo spices and grains, by jessnsteve

Mecardo spices and grains, by jessnsteve

Bottom Line

In a nut shell...

  • Always remember, what goes into your body must come out of your body. (Okay, stop smirking - it wasn't a sex joke. I'll save those for another blog.) Be mindful of the food you eat and how it has been handled.
  • You always wondered why your mother told you to wash your hands all the time - now you know.
  • Pay attention to your eating schedule and alcohol intake. Avoid the "mysterious drink of the house" or pay the price.
  • Pack a few pro-biotic capsules, a few fiber supplements and a few Imodium tablets but use the pro-biotics and/or fiber first.
  • Don't drink the water.
  • Don't forget to check out the original thread in General Talk too. If you have additional recommendations or comments, by all means, please add them.

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by Isadora 13:45 Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (3)

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