What are the most common symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea?

In most cases the symptoms manifest quickly.
The disease usually causes an increase in stool frequency, volume and weight.
The consistency of the stool is altered.
In general, the traveler produces loose or liquid stools four or five times a day.
Other symptoms related to diarrhea can be nausea , vomiting , abdominal cramps, abdominal distension ( swollen belly ), fever, evacuatory urgency and discomfort.
The infection may start with mild symptoms that get worse in the next two weeks. In some cases, it also affects the stomach and the initial symptoms are loss of appetite and fatigue .
Most cases are benign and the symptoms disappear after 1-2 days without treatment. On very rare occasions, traveler’s diarrhea is lethal.
As for the prognosis, 90% of the cases are solved in a week, while 98% is solved in a month.
When typical symptoms disappear (fever, vomiting and diarrhea), you may experience a feeling of heaviness in your stomach, especially after a heavy meal.

When should we worry?  Complications of diarrhea

The main complication of diarrhea is dehydration caused by the loss of large amounts of water, salt and nutrients. Dehydration can lead to other serious diseases, such as hypotension, seizures, kidney failure and even death.
A doctor should be consulted if:

Diagnosis of diarrhea

The doctor performs a physical examination and takes into account the medical history to diagnose the cause of the diarrhea. Blood and urine tests may be needed.
The doctor may require additional tests to determine the cause of the diarrhea and other related diseases, based on the patient’s conditions:

  • Fasting test to determine if the cause is a food intolerance or an allergy ,
  • Diagnostic imaging tests ( MRI , CT, etc.) to check structural abnormalities and inflammation of the intestine,
  • Stool culture to detect bacteria, parasites or signs of disease,
  • Colonoscopy for chronic diarrhea that causes diurnal and nocturnal outbreaks,
  • Sigmoidoscopy to control the rectum and the lower colon to detect signs of intestinal disease.

Pharmacological therapy for diarrhea

In many cases, diarrhea goes away on its own. However, in severe cases the doctor may prescribe diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil). The doctor may also prescribe antibioticsif the diarrhea is due to a bacterial infection.
During pregnancy you can not take medications, so it is advised to follow the diet indicated for this disorder.

What to eat? Diet and nutrition

While diarrhea lasts, symptoms can be alleviated by avoiding caffeine and fatty foods, rich in fiber or sweets.
These foods can aggravate diarrhea.
Some people also have problems digesting lactose during or after a diarrhea attack. Yogurt contains less lactose than milk and is often better tolerated.
Yogurt with live cultures of bacteria can help the recovery of people with diarrhea faster.

To reduce the symptoms, it is necessary to modify the diet. Among the recommended foods are bananas, rice, boiled potatoes, toast, crackers, cooked carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, ginger and farro. The banana has certain properties that favor the health of the colon and intestine in case of diarrhea.
For children, the doctor may also recommend a special diet.
Once the diarrhea disappears, the doctor allows the children to return to a normal and healthy diet if they do not have problems of intolerance.
Babies with diarrhea should take breast milk, or the type they usually drink, along with an oral rehydration solution.
After recovering from viral diarrhea, some children have trouble digesting lactose until at least a month passes.

Nutrition and supplements

Rice, horchata, fresh vegetable juice (especially carrots and celery) and a clear broth help restore the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes.

Prepare the rice and the horchata with a cup of raw grains for each liter of boiling water.
Let it rest for 20 minutes. Drink throughout the day.

Prebiotics  – Lactobacillus, bifidobacteria or acidophilus can be taken in powder or capsules, they help keep the “good” bacteria in the intestine.
Prebiotics are part of lactic ferments, ie products that contain bacteria that metabolize lactose.
They can help alleviate diarrhea, although there is some controversy regarding the scientific evidence.
Active yogurts that contain these prebiotics can help prevent diarrhea. People severely immunocompromised or taking medications to suppress the immune system should consult their doctor before taking prebiotics.

There is a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii that is commonly used in Europe to prevent diarrhea associated with the intake of antibiotics. Take 1-3 capsules a day.
It can be taken with other prebiotics.
Rare but serious cases of infection have been reported in critically ill patients, so Saccharomyces boulardii can not be taken without the supervision of a doctor.

Glutamine (3,000 mg, 3 times a day). It can help treat diarrhea caused by irritation of the intestinal mucosa.
A high dose of glutamine can potentially cause mental disorders in susceptible individuals. Glutamine can interfere with certain medications, including some antiepileptic and chemotherapy drugs.

People who are lactose intolerant should take lactase supplements before consuming dairy products.

Zinc (10 to 20 mg per day) can help improve the functions of the immune system.


It is recommended to avoid the use of herbs to treat diarrhea without first consulting a doctor, especially to treat a child’s diarrhea.
If the diarrhea has its origin in certain types of infections, herbal therapies can make the situation worse.
The most common herbal remedies for diarrhea are described below.
They can be used in infusion if not specified otherwise.
Prepare an infusion with 1 teaspoon of grass for each cup of hot water.

Cover for 5-10 minutes if it is leaves or flowers and 10-20 minutes if they are roots.
Take 2-4 cups a day.
Ask your doctor what herbs you can take.

herbs Astringent herbs, such as blackberry leaf (rubus fruticosus) or raspberry leaves (rubus idaeus) help to “dry out” the lining of the intestine.
Prepare an infusion with 1 heaping teaspoon per cup. Take ½ cup every hour.
Carob tree powder (ceratonina siliqua), which is rich in fiber.
Bilberry extract (vaccinum myrtillus) has astringent properties. Do not take cranberry if you take anticoagulants (blood thinners). Bilberry can interact with diabetes medications.
Agrimony (agrimonia eupatoria) is a traditional remedy for diarrhea. The usual dose is 3 g (approximately ½ teaspoon) per day.
Agrimony can have side effects, such as thinning the blood and lowering blood pressure.

Natural anti-inflammatory remedies.

Quercetin (250-500 mg 2-4 times a day) – a flavonoid-based herb that can help reduce inflammation.

Chamomile (matricaria recutita) – is usually taken as an infusion.
Dissolve 3-4 g of powder (approximately 3 teaspoons) in a cup of hot water, stir and let cool. Take 3 times a day. This natural remedy can interfere with hormonal medications.

It is recommended to drink lemon juice with a teaspoon of baking soda in the morning.

Marshmallow root (althea officinalis) – can be taken as an infusion with cold water. Keep 2 tablespoons of root in 1 liter of water overnight. Mix then. Drink a little during the whole day. Marshmallow can interfere with some medications taken orally, including the lithium medication.

Slippery elm (ulmus fulva) – use 30 grams of powder per liter of water. Make a paste with the powder and a small amount of water. Add the rest of the water little by little and simmer. Take 1 teaspoon every 30-60 minutes.

Herbs that fight infection:
Plants that contain berberine can help treat infectious diarrhea. Among them, are the barberry (Barberis vulgarus) and the golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis). Pregnant women and nursing mothers can not take barberine.
Psyllium, a soluble fiber that is derived from the husks of the seeds of a plant called Plantago ovata, can help cure diarrhea. It is a substance that absorbs water in the colon, contributing to the hardening of the stool. When ingesting psyllium you should  drink a lot of water at the same time.

How long is diarrhea? Forecast

If the acute diarrhea depends on the ingested food it usually lasts a couple of days.
In other cases, it depends on the cause.
Chronic diarrhea persists while the patient suffers from the disease that causes the diarrhea.

How to prevent traveler’s diarrhea?

Travelers can minimize the risk of diarrhea if they follow the following general preventive measures:
Avoid the consumption of food or beverages for sale in stalls or other establishments where hygienic conditions are scarce. Avoid the consumption of fried, raw or undercooked foods, especially meat, eggs and fish.
Wash well and peel fruits and vegetables.
If properly preserved, well-cooked and packaged foods do not present any risk.

The risk of gastroenteritis and traveler’s diarrhea increases when ingesting tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk and dairy products. Safe beverages include canned soft drinks, hot tea or coffee, beer, wine and water boiled or suitably treated with iodine and chlorine.