Question: I’m going on a trip to Bali, Nepal, and Thailand. I’ve already been to the travel clinic and have some antibiotics, are there any natural medicines I can take to help stay healthy?
Answer: There absolutely are. I recommend putting a health kit together to take with you. This kit can be as large or as small as you want to make it, and as the CDC says, “The specific contents of the health kit are based on destination, duration of travel, type of travel, and the traveler’s pre-existing medical conditions.”
The most common conditions we run into on travel are: aches and pains, cuts, scratches, bruises, and minor burns (most commonly sunburn). When traveling to areas where clean water is an issue, diarrhea is always a significant concern. With those purposes in mind these are some of the things I would put in my health kit.
- Aspirin – used judiciously aspirin can be a real asset with minor aches and pains and for other acute situations
- Oral rehydration solution packets – the largest danger of diarrhea is dehydration. Oral rehydration solution saves many lives each year from serious cases of diarrhea. You can purchase premade packets or make your own with sugar, salt, and (some formulas include) baking soda.
Anti-diarrheal medications – Diarrhea is probably the most serious common concern faced by travelers. Antibiotics should be reserved for serious diarrhea. By disrupting healthy gut flora this may make mild diarrhea worse. I would have the following:
- Steri-pen – this pen-sized unit emits ultraviolet radiation which sterilizes water. Fill your water bottle, put the pen into the water and turn it in. The unit sterilizes the water without any of the bad taste of many types of water purification. If the water was suspect where I was traveling I would use the pen to sterilize all my water. You could even get a solar charging unit to keep the batteries charged.
- Probiotics – a MUST HAVE. The friendly bacteria in probiotic supplements help protect our digestive tract from harmful microbes and parasites. HERE is one good formula, and HERE is another.
- Herbal anti-microbial formula – there are a wide range of herbal anti-microbial formulas available on the market. One simple brand that I like is called Allisyn (made with extracts of garlic and cinnamon).
- I would use the following routine if I was traveling to an area where diarrheal illness were common:
- Use the Steri-pen to sterilize all water for drinking and washing hands/face
- Take probiotics (1 capsule morning and evening)
- Take an herbal anti-microbial formula
If I came down with diarrhea
- Take a probiotic capsule after each watery bowel movement
- Use oral rehydration solution in sterilized water (Steri-pen) as necessary to avoid dehydration
- Reserve antibiotics for severe cases of diarrhea, and use as directed
- Anti-motion sickness medication (if motion sickness is a concern) – Personally I would use the Sea-band over conventional anti-motion sickness medication. Re-usable and in my experience, highly effective
- Melatonin – if traveling across a significant number of times zones, jet lag can be a significant issue. Melatonin can help. An eye mask and earplug set can also really help with sleep when traveling.
- Any medications, prescription or over the counter, taken on a regular basis at home
Other important items
- Adhesive bandages (“Band-aids”) – in various sizes to suit your needs
- Brave soldier antiseptic ointment – I’ve only recently been turned on to this, but it looks like a great multi-purpose ointment for blisters, burns, cuts and scratches
- Aloe vera gel – for sunburns & minor burns
- Moleskin or molefoam for blisters – if doing a lot of hiking or walking.
- Insect repellent – many insect repellents contain significant amounts of unhealthy chemicals. I would tend to use an essential oil based repellent over one containing DEET. If mosquitoes or other biting insects are significant in your travel area or carry serious disease (like malaria) you need to decide what is right for you. Essential oil based repellants typically need to be applied more frequently to remain effective. Another option is to get a Thermacell, which is a small clip on unit that heats a pad of insect repellent. Non-toxic and very effective.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater) – many sunscreens contain a load of unhealthy chemicals. I recommend looking at the list the EWG compiled and choosing one of the healthier brands available.
- Soap or Antibacterial hand wipes or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) if water will not be available
A Contact Card – Containing important contact information. Items to include on a contact card should be the address and phone numbers of the following:
- Family member or close contact still in the United States
- Health-care provider at home
- Area hospitals or clinics in your destination
- The U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the destination country or countries
While we can’t plan for every issue, the items in this health kit help us be prepared for the most common issues we encounter on trips. By making the effort to have a health kit packed and with us, we can increase our chances of staying healthy and happy. Enjoy your trip
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Natural non-supplement treatments for Traveler’s tummy / diarrhea