Everyone knows: When you get diarrhea on the road, send someone out for saltines and ginger ale. A little bland food, a lot of water, and if you're on vacation somewhere exotic, you're stuck gazing longingly at everyone else's tasty-looking food. Now researchers at the University of Texas say those spicy dishes may be okay for people suffering from travelers' diarrhea.
What the researchers wanted to know: Should people with travelers' diarrhea restrict their diet?
What they did: In 2001, 105 lucky American college students got to take part in a trial of four antibiotics to treat travelers' diarrhea while on a summer session in Guadalajara. Travelers' diarrhea is generally caused by bacteria in your food. The students were also randomly assigned to eat whatever they wanted and drink lots of fluids or to eat a strict diet of clear liquids and bread, gradually adding in starchier foods and holding off on red meat, dairy, fried foods, and fruit until they felt better. The researchers arranged to keep the diet the same for students who lived together, so as not to inconvenience the senora of the house. The participants kept a food and drink log and a toilet diary.
What they found: Students on the restricted diet had just as many symptoms as students who ate whatever they wanted. As far as could be told from this one study, the two diets were the same.
What the study means to you: Maybe you don't have to limit your diet when you get travelers' diarrhea.
Caveats: The students were all taking antibiotics, so these results may not apply to people who tough it out without ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, azithromycin, or rifaximin by their side. They were also all relatively young and healthy and probably all had bacterial infections, so this might not be true for people with a viral stomach bugand almost definitely not for people who are also throwing up.
Find out more: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's section on travelers' health has information about safe food and water.
Read the article: Huang, D.B., et al. "The Role of Diet in the Treatment of Travelers' Diarrhea: A Pilot Study." Clinical Infectious Diseases. Aug. 15, 2004, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 468471.
Abstract online: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov