Why do we get sick when travelling? Here's how to prevent it!


Ever wondered why getting sick is so common when travelling? Well, it could be down to variety of factors, too many people crammed on a plane, recycled air, the bodies defenses relaxing, etc etc. One popular theory is that the bodies microflora (the bacteria that occupy our bodies) becomes compromised.

This theory holds plausibility, different countries have very different bacteria, viruses and pathogens. This is evident in the way that you are required to vaccinate for certain conditions when travelling to certain countries. These foreign bacteria and viruses invade our body and compromise the microflora by either directly damaging them or competing for resources. This can be extremely problematic, as this microflora is known to be critical in the bodies immune response. They not only compete for resources with illness-causing bacteria, but also actively secrete substances to wipe them out in order to keep us healthy(1).

With roughly 3.8x1013 bacteria residing in the gut alone (2), it is crucial to maintain this environment consistent for us to be disease free. There are various ways to do this, such as consuming fermented foods, plenty of soluble fibre and exercising. However, I don't know about you but when I go travelling, I find it very difficult to stick to my everyday routine. Couple this with the fact that we live in such a sanitized environment that even the foods we eat harbour little good bacteria and maintaining microflora becomes even more unachievable.

It is in these situations that probiotic supplements can be of huge help. A good probiotic supplement contains billions of live bacteria in a convenient, easy to take form. These bacteria then colonize in the gut, making it an inhospitable place for invading bacteria and improving the final stages of digestion.

Probiotic supplements typically need to be refrigerated to preserve their potency as they are live organisms. It is common misconception that it is protection from heat that is required, while this is true to a degree (pardon the pun), it is in fact moisture that they need protecting from. The reason why is these bacteria are used to colonising in the gut, it is a very moist environment, with an internal body temperature around 37 degrees. So unless you are fortunate to be in 37 degree weather, focus on protecting the probiotics from moisture to preserve their potency.

Many companies now provide “shelf stable” probiotics, contained in moisture locked containers and overpopulated to guarantee the potency labelled at expiry. For example, a probiotic listed as 50billion CFU will have around 55billion*CFU to allow some die off.

So, which probiotics do you choose when going travelling? The answer really depends on where you go. If you are travelling domestically you might not need to choose a very potent probiotic, but it should be shelf table at the very least. If you are going international your probiotic should be:

  • Shelf stable: Of course.

  • Higher potency: around 50billion CFU (Colony forming units) to withstand foreign bacteria that you are unused to

  • Have a wide variety of strains: for the same reason as above.

Here are some of my personal favourites in no particular order:

  1. Garden of Life Mood Plus Probiotic (Shelf stable): this doctor formulated probiotic has over 16 strains with a potency of 50billion CFU and contains added ashwaghanda for improved mood, ideal for when you are stuck on a long flight with no leg room in front of a chronic snorer, believe me.

  2. Renew life Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50billion Go Pack: a convenient 20 day serving pack of a strong probiotic featuring 10 different strains. This one usess enteric coated technology to ensure that the bacteria bypass the stomach acid to reach the intestine where they colonise.

  3. Natural factors Travel Biotic: a Shelf stable probiotic with a lower potency, great for domestic travels!

Our good friends over at Vitasave.ca have a huge selection of probiotics including all of the aforementioned for the lowest prices in Canada! So head over to them and get your own probiotic, travelling or not, it is one of the best things you can do for your health this 2018 and going forward.

*Amount can vary depending on manufacturer.


  1. Round,J.L., Mazmanian, S.K., 2009. The Gut microbiome shapes immune responses during health and disease. Nature Reviews: Immunology, 9 (5).

  2. Sender, R., et al., 2016. Revised estimates for the Number of Human and bacteria cells in the body. PLoS Biology 14 (8).