The Link between Exotic Foods and Traveler’s Diarrhea

Traveling is one of the best adventures in life. You get to see new places, meet new people, learn new things, and gain new experiences. When you come back home, you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take on whatever life has in store for you. But just like with any good thing in this world, traveling also poses some dangers. One of these has to do with health. Diarrhea for instance is prevalent among people who travel to foreign countries, particularly to exotic destinations. Traveler’s Diarrhea refers to three or more unformed stools within a day while at a foreign place.

Travelers going to developing countries become ill when they consume food or water contaminated with bacteria. It’s estimated that 30 to 50 percent of travelers to developing countries are at great risk of diarrhea.

High-risk vacation spots include Mexico, Latin America, Africa, Middle East, and Asia.

Moderate-risk areas are Caribbean Islands, Southern Europe, and Israel.

Lowest-risk areas include United States, Canada, Northern Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

Some put a link between exotic food and traveler’s diarrhea. Exotic food is defined as any dish or food item that is indigenous to a certain place. In Korea, the most famous exotic food is kimchi. In Japan, it’s the green spicy paste called wasabi. In Portugal, the preserved salt cod called Bacalhau is the main exotic food to try.

To some extent, exotic food can cause diarrhea but it is very important to remember that it is not the food itself that is the root cause of the condition but the way it was prepared, handled, and cooked. For example, if you purchase exotic food from a street vendor who does not practice high standards of cleanliness and sanitation, you are at greater risk of exposure to diarrhea-causing bacteria than if you buy the exact same food from a reputable restaurant.

The nature of the exotic food also comes into play. For example, if you’re consuming raw or undercooked meat or fish, it’s possible to ingest bacteria that comes with it.

Of course, exotic foods are not the only types of food that can be mishandled. Other types of food can also bring about traveler’s diarrhea. Those that should be a cause for concern include undercooked seafood, unpasteurized dairy products, and tap water. It’s a common mistake for travelers to avoid tap water but they place ice cubes on their beverage. Ice cubes are commonly made from the tap water, and can transmit disease.

Bacteria that cause diarrhea include Escherichia coli, Shigella species, Salmonella species, Campylobacter jejuni, and Vibrio species. Escherichia coli is the most common cause of diarrhea, accounting to 70 percent of traveler’s diarrhea cases. Protozoa and viruses may also trigger diarrhea. These include Giardia duodenalis, Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium parvum, Norwalk virus, Rotavirus virus, and Enteroviruses.

If you’re suffering from a diarrhea during your vacation, be sure to contact a medical practitioner right away. Replace lost fluids with clean water and electrolyte-rich sports drinks to avoid dehydration.

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