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Building immunity in Europe - what's your take on my travel illnesses?

Building immunity in Europe - what's your take on my travel illnesses?

May 29th, 2007, 07:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I question the ice cube conclusion in Mexico. Unless you are way off the beaten path, where some cafe is using bad tap water... In any tourist destination the restaurants get their ice in from purified water companies. I'm guessing it was something else.

The fact that you even have the problems at home, I would work with a doctor, natural clinic, nutritionist, whatever, to try to fix your digestive system. Over treating and inappropriate use ot antiobiotics could well be contributing to your problems imo.
suze is online now  
May 29th, 2007, 07:49 PM
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Antibiotics seem a very strange choice to combat vomiting and diarrohea, since many affect the GI tract and can actually cause or excercerbate such symptoms. I don't know what the problem is, but I don't think antibitoics can be the answer. Also, remember that oral antibiotics take a good while to achieve affectiveness. If you see a 50% improvement just six hours after taking them there is no way that is atributable to the drug. BTW, I'm not medic, but I am a Pharmacologist.
RM67 is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 08:02 PM
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Regarding taking antibiotics for such problems -- I'll go one step further. If you've spent a lifetime of taking antibiotics for every little thing that goes wrong, then I'm not surprised you have problems when you travel. You have been constantly weakening your immune system every time you've taken an antibiotic.

NeoPatrick is online now  
May 29th, 2007, 08:24 PM
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As much fun as it is bantering here, professional ethics does compel me to start by saying "you WILL get professional attention and not act on something offered by a poster on a travel chat page, right?"
Now that that's out of the way - you mentioned past problems with C dificile; this is actually sometimes quite difficult to eradicate, even with repeated metronidazole therapy. Your probiotics may help (I recommend them to my patients). I also share the horror of previous posters at what appears to be cavalier prescribing of antibiotics.
While we are speculating, have you seen a GI doc - not just about your colon, but more about your gall bladder and/or pancreas?
Good luck - and where in northern PA did you go to college?
Seamus is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 09:05 PM
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You've gotten, it seems from my non-medical perspective, a lot of possibilities to pursue. I have a comment on the "stress" theories. We travel quite a bit, both in the U.S. and in Europe, and for the past 8 years or so, whenever we travel, I have rather the opposite problem that you have, in terms of constipation. I do everything "right," other than enjoying tremendously the foods of the countries we're in (different foods than I usually eat, and much higher fat levels than I customarily eat), but it still happens every time, starting pretty much as soon as we leave (so it can't be caused solely by the difference in food). I've decided that it's just my body's response to a different environment, or change in environment; to my body, that change is stressful. So it's stress, but not in the way that you're thinking, in terms of successfully handling or avoiding the typical American lifestyle. As much as I enjoy and am stimulated by travel, some parts of my body feel the opposite!

So, non-medically speaking, maybe your symptons could be your body's stress reaction to a change in environment, regardless of how much you, mentally, enjoy the travel. (Doesn't explain Greece and Italy, I know.)

Also my non-medical comment, becaue you asked, since you have six months to figure this out, and you didn't mention, but I'm assuming your husband will be in Ireland with you and can take care of his son, you have time to experiment. Try eating whatever you want and see what happens; after a few days, if that doesn't work, start eliminating foods.

Good luck!
Lexma90 is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 09:39 PM
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To parisnewbie... yes, I am a neonatologist... a pediatrician who specializes in newborn intensive care.

To zippo... << I understand taking antibiotics will suppress your immune system, as will stress >>... no, only under the rarest of circumstances would antibiotics suppress your immune system (but yes, stress can); antibiotics can suppress normal organisms in your "internal" and external environment... thereby altering the organisms your body has to face - - but normally, antibiotics will not suppress your immune system. One confusing element of this is the well-known phenomenon of increased susceptibilty to yeast infections while on antibiotics (especially, yeast diaper rash, for example)... this is not due to actual compromise to the immune defenses against yeast. Likewise, clostridium difficile disease occurs almost exclusively in heavily treated patients on multiple antibiotics - - but not a true immunosuppression.

And to jumper22... keep in mind that "stress" is entirely compatible with "living the good life" when you are dealing with airports (unless maybe you are flying in private jets), and (probably more importantly) crossing 5 or 6 time zones or more. Stress, from my perspective is a physiologic response to environment, and doesn't mean anything "mental" at all (though mental stress can have similar effects to other kinds of stress - - like infection, trauma, surgery, hormonal swings in either gender... which might be, in turn, due to circadian rhythm disruption).

Hope the right doctor gets you the right answers.

One last comment - - from the pediatric standpoint, because a common reason to visit the pediatrician is concern over recurrent infections and fear of a "weakened immune system"... most such children are "victims" of _coincidence_ - - they just got exposed too often to the wrong contagious illnesses at intervals that were maddingly close together. It may well be that your previous illnesses were just coincidences also... i.e. bad luck - - and that you have _no_ real underlying illness.
rex is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 09:56 PM
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Someone mentioned this already, but my first thought on reading your post was to wonder if you are nursing. If so, I'm sure you've talked about this with your doctor, to make sure any medicine you are taking is okay.

I'm also surprised that a doctor would just prescribe an antibiotic, in case you get sick.

I know you are discounting it, because you've heard it before and I think it is often used as a 'we don't really know what you have' diagnosis, but IBS is actually real and causes physical symptoms like you are describing.

Best of luck with your health and I hope you have a great summer in Dublin! I'd love to hear what it's like to 'live' there for a few months, if you've got time and the inclination.
travelgirl2 is offline  
May 29th, 2007, 10:34 PM
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Just to chime in, the same thing pretty much happens to me nearly every trip. I take immodium until the symptoms dissapate. Doesn't matter if the trip is domestic or foriegn. Not fun put over the counter meds seem to help alot. Have you tried just OTC meds. I take no precautions whatsoever when eating or drinking.

thereyet is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 01:57 AM
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Sounds mental
Zeus is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 03:12 AM
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<<< I take immodium until the symptoms dissapate >>>

Sounds mental - all it does is ensure you stay ill longer & possibly make the condition worse.

You should only take immodium when you have no other choice, otherwise sitting on the loo with a cup of tea, bananas & a good book is far better
alanRow is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 04:40 AM
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Just a note on the antibiotic comments - (minus 1 surgery) I have taken antibiotics TWICE in over 10 years. I don't overdose on them as speculated many times here - I don't even take an Advil if I can avoid it.

Yes, I took them for the Swiss/German trip based on my Gastro's recommendation (I was the patient, he was the Dr). And I got C-Diff from Cipro, which I took for 10 days due to a horrid strep throat case, not from multiple usage of various antibiotics as perceived.

I hear you on the body stress vs. mental, there is a difference.

Speaking of... Remember I didn't get sick in Italy. You won't believe this, BUT!!!!!!!!
I flew to Italy the day after my wedding for the honeymoon. While changing planes in Newark, I was paged to pick up a phone and that's when my parents broke the news that my grandmother had died on my wedding day. (!!! Poor judgment in their case, they realize it now) My husband dragged me sobbing on the plane (I was extremely emotional - both sad & mad, as you can imagine). I sobbed the entire flight. Another case when I should have experienced something physical from stress and did not. I don't know what could be more stressful than that LOL (not that it's funny...)

jumper22 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 05:48 AM
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I always get a little bit sick when flying on a plane. I don't know how it is caused (but have some ideas about it) but I always get some bowel-problems, headache, nausea etc. This starts on the plane and takes a day or two to go away.
I think it is caused by a combination of the air(pressure)in the plane, the food on the plane and a small part of stress, anxiety, about going on vacation.
TommieG is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 06:57 AM
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eat yogurt daily

Daily for two weeks before the trip, take 2 tsp Sambucol elderberry extract. Take a bottle with you on the trip and continue. If you start to feel sick, increase dosage to 2 tsp 4 times a day.

Blackberry brandy for diarrhea (blackberry wine can substitute if brandy not available)
bigtyke is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 07:44 AM
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I spent over two years in Asia (Korea, Viet Nam, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines) and over six in Europe – Great Britain to Turkey. I am adventurous when it comes to food and I have eaten a variety of foods in a variety of places (some with questionable or non-existent sanitary practices) and the only place I have ever been ill is in the good ole US of A.

USNR, Rex and Christina make excellent points. See a “university-based” specialist.

Travel safe
LivedinItaly is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 08:03 AM
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AlanRow, mental or not don't much care and I don't make a big deal out of it. The immodium relieves the pain which is far more desirable then sitting on the toilet with a good book. Its pretty simple and if you choose to not treat a symptom with OTC meds you are quite welcome.

God forbid anyone get excited about travel and suffer some of the consequences. I must be mental.

thereyet is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 08:06 AM
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BTW, one or two doses is all it seems to take for me. Not some long drawn out process.

thereyet is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 08:55 AM
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Immodium stops the poisons coming out - if you were vomiting would you take a medicine that stopped the vomiting but left the cause in your body?
alanRow is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 09:08 AM
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If the cause is travel stress, any placebo will do -- Immodium or antibiotics.
kerouac is online now  
May 30th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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jumper22- Have you specifically talked to your doctor about this? It sounds like stress or irritable something or other, not food (since others eat the same and do not get sick).

Maybe you just like Italy better and are more calm.

Do the antibiotics really stop this from happening? Have you tried it before? Seems a strange medication for what you describe.

suze is online now  
May 30th, 2007, 01:58 PM
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I think jumper is leaving in a day or two so probably doesn't have time to see a doctor. Perhaps doing that in Dublin would be a good idea, if necessary.

It isn't clear that this even is a travel-related illness now (at least not to me), but one can search for a travel medicine clinic and specialist on this website, which is the Society for those Specialists (I believe you need to pass a test by them to be a member and listed):


There are two in Tennessee where jumper lives, Dr. Stephen Felts in Nashville and Dr. David George in Memphis. They both seem to focus mainly on immunizations, and things like that, though. I checked out their board certification and credentials, and while both are board-certified in Internal Medicine, only Dr. Felts has a sub-specialty certification in Infectious Disease (although both self-report as Infectious Disease specialists). That is a subspecialty of IM, and the Am. Board of IM does the certification. Of course there are a couple good med schools in TN, and these physicians may be affiliated with them.

At least that ISTM website lists travel medicine specialists in other countries, also, and there is one in Dublin. Well, just thought this might be of help to someone, although its usually more what you seek out when going to less developed countries. I had a friend who just went to a travel medicine clinic because she's spending a month in internal Mexico, and she found it a very useful experience.
Christina is online now  

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