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Specific probiotic strains may help you avoid traveler’s diarrhea

Traveler with healthy microbiome
6 Min read

An upset stomach commonly occurs when traveling abroad and is known as traveler’s diarrhea. Research has suggested consuming the Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® probiotic strain1, 2 (hereafter referred to by use of the trademark LGG®) or a specific blend of the Bifidobacterium, BB-12®, Lactobacillus acidophilus, LA-5®, Streptococcus thermophilus, STY-31 and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, LBY-27™3, 4 (hereafter referred to by use of the trademarks BB-12®, LA-5®, STY-31, and LBY-27) probiotic strains may help reduce the occurrence of traveler’s diarrhea.

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Traveling abroad can cause an upset stomach and is often referred to as traveler’s diarrhea.

Traveler’s diarrhea is one of the most common travel-related challenges 

Unfortunately, vacation and exotic travel sometimes come hand-in-hand with the consumption of contaminated food and drinking water.5 Reasons include exposure to climates and sanitary practices that are different to what we are more accustomed.5 Food and water contamination can occur anywhere in the world, but the regions that carry the greatest risk include the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, and Asia (excluding Japan and South Korea).6 In high-risk countries, instances of traveler’s diarrhea can be as high as 50%.7, 8 

Consumption of contaminated products can cause traveler’s diarrhea - a condition that affects the digestive system and commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps.5

Travel-related upset stomach is usually caused by consumption of harmful bacteria 

Traveler’s diarrhea is usually acquired by consuming food that has been contaminated by feces containing different types of pathogens; the bacterial pathogen Escherichia coli is a common culprit.9 Most of the pathogens cause the flow of water and electrolytes into the bowel to increase.9 This creates a fluid imbalance that can cause large and uncomfortable increases in stool production.9

Traveler’s diarrhea is rarely serious or life-threatening in otherwise healthy adults, but it can ruin a vacation.

Traveler’s diarrhea is unpleasant and can ruin more than just the trip abroad

Traveler’s diarrhea typically occurs within 2 weeks of arriving at a destination but can occur up to 2 weeks after returning home.10 Traveler’s diarrhea usually goes away on its own and lasts less than 7 days.11 However, up to 20% of people who experience traveler’s diarrhea are confined to bed, 8-15% remain unwell after a week, and at least 1% are hospitalized.12

Digestive issues may be eased by supplementing with probiotics

There is increasing evidence suggesting probiotics may help support digestive health,1, 2, 3, 4, 13 and a high-quality study suggests that probiotics may help to maintain digestive health, thereby reducing the incidence of traveler’s diarrhea.13 As with all probiotic strains, it is important to choose a probiotic strain that has been investigated in clinical studies and in the relevant health area. Read more about choosing a probiotic strain.

Traveler’s diarrhea may occur less frequently when the LGG® probiotic strain is consumed

A clinical study investigated the impact of consuming the LGG® probiotic strain on the rate of traveler’s diarrhea. The study was conducted in healthy adults who traveled to Asia, Africa, and central and south America. The study started 2 days prior to departure and ended on the last day of the trip.2 Participants received the LGG® strain or a placebo. Just 3.9% of the LGG® group experienced traveler’s diarrhea, compared to 7.4% of the placebo group.2

To support this, in a study of 756 people traveling to Turkey there were significantly fewer cases of traveler’s diarrhea when the LGG® probiotic was consumed, compared to placebo.1

Traveler buying food at market with healthy gut

A specific blend of probiotic strains may be beneficial for travelers’ health 

The effect of a very specific blend of the BB-12®, LA-5®, STY-31™, and LBY-27™ strains on digestive health has been studied in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.3, 4 94 travelers were randomized to receive the probiotic blend or placebo for 2 days prior to travel and for the duration of their 2-week visit to a high-risk country. There were 39% fewer cases of traveler’s diarrhea in the group that consumed the probiotic blend than the placebo group.3

In a study that investigated the effect of travel on bowel movements once home from a trip, travelers consumed this specific blend or a placebo before, during, and after their trip. Not only was the probiotic blend associated with fewer instances of diarrhea while away, but none of the group experienced an upset stomach once home, whereas 18% of the placebo group did.4

Probiotics might be a useful precautionary measure when traveling abroad

To help maintain regularity when traveling abroad, consumption of the LGG® probiotic strain or the specific blend of the BB-12®, LA-5®, STY-31, and LBY-27 probiotic strains should be considered.1, 2, 3, 4, 13

Read about probiotics for antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infant diarrhea.


BB-12®, LA-5®, LGG®, LBY-27TM and STY-31TM are trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S.

The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.
Bifidobacterium, BB-12® 

The probiotic strain Bifidobacterium, BB-12® is the world’s most documented probiotic bifidobacterium. It has been extensively studied and has been associated with improved outcomes across various health areas.

BB-12® is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

BB-12 consumer logo TM
Lactobacillus acidophilus, LA-5®

The probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus, LA-5® has demonstrated benefits, for example, in gastrointestinal health when used in combination with Bifidobacterium, BB-12®.

LA-5® and BB-12® are trademarks of Chr. Hansen A/S

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG®

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG® is the world’s most documented probiotic strain. The LGG® strain has proven benefits across all ages and numerous health areas, including gastrointestinal, immune and oral health.

LGG® is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

LGG icon

References Open Close

1. Oksanen PJ, et al. Prevention of travellers' diarrhoea by Lactobacillus GG. Ann Med. 1990;22(1):53-6. (PubMed)
2. Hilton E, et al. Efficacy of Lactobacillus GG as a Diarrheal Preventive in Travelers. J Travel Med. 1997;4(1):41-3. (PubMed)
3. Black FT, et al. Prophylactic Efficacy of Lactobacilli on Traveler’s Diarrhea. In: Steffen R, et al., editors. Travel Medicine: Proceedings of the First Conference on International Travel Medicine, Zürich, Switzerland, 5–8 April 1988. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 1989. p. 333-5.
4. Black FT, et al. Report from a placebo-controlled double-blind trial of 4 lactobacilli strains (HIP) used as a prophylactic agent against traveller's diarrhoea. 1988. Unpublished data.
5. Mayo Clinic. Traveler's diarrhea. Updated. Accessed 12th June 2020. (Source)
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers Health. Updated. Accessed 12th June 2020. (Source)
7. Steffen R, et al. Traveler's diarrhea: a clinical review. JAMA. 2015;313(1):71-80. (PubMed)
8. Steffen R, et al. Epidemiology of travelers' diarrhea: details of a global survey. J Travel Med. 2004;11(4):231-7. (PubMed)
9. Leung AKC, et al. Travelers' Diarrhea: A Clinical Review. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2019;13(1):38-48. (PubMed)
10. Al-Abri SS, et al. Traveller's diarrhoea. Lancet Infect Dis. 2005;5(6):349-60. (PubMed)
11. Leggat PA, Goldsmid JM. Travellers' diarrhoea: health advice for travellers. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2004;2(1):17-22. (PubMed)
12. Ericsson CD. Travellers' diarrhoea. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003;21(2):116-24. (PubMed)
13. Bae JM. Prophylactic efficacy of probiotics on travelers' diarrhea: an adaptive meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Epidemiol Health. 2018;40:e2018043. (PubMed)

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