As a naturopath and educator, a very big part of my life is involved with consulting about and recommending to clients some very tiny organisms--bacteria, in fact, and to be more specific, good bacteria known as probiotics. So when I took a recent trip to mainland China, I had a unique opportunity to test the effectiveness of probiotics in a foreign travel situation in which I would be exposed to sanitation standards different from those I was used to at home in California. So, prior to my two-week jaunt around five major areas in China, I increased my normal probiotics intake as a precaution. After all, I was entering a land where swine flu, bird flu, SARS, among other infections, are known problems. I also packed several over-the-counter diarrhea medications "just in case," although if I contracted any of the aforementioned diseases, diarrhea would likely be the least of my problems.
Our first night in Beijing was at a five-star hotel with all the amenities. As I surveyed the room before getting ready for some much-needed sleep, I saw a sign in the bathroom warning not to drink the tap water. (For the uninitiated, this warning also applies to not using the water to brush your teeth.) I knew that for the next two weeks, I would be traveling through big cities as well as some very rural areas, and US-grade water would not always be easy to find. I resolved to eat and drink whatever I wanted during the entire trip--including tap water and ice made from it--and to manage my intestinal health with my arsenal of probiotics.
At that point, I was taking approximately 10 billion CFUs (I'll explain this later in the book; this is the standard form of measurement for probiotics) of twelve different good bacteria in one chewable tablet with each meal. After five to six days into the trip, I got my first "gurgle"--a little intestinal discomfort telling me that trouble could be on the horizon. One person in our tour group had already succumbed to intestinal distress and was spending the day at the hotel. I immediately doubled by probiotics dose for the next two meals, and I felt great by the next morning. I returned to my original dose of 10 billion CFUs per meal.
The sightseeing was incredible, but the schedule was very rigorous. We would leave the hotel at 7:30 AM and often not return until 10:00 PM, with little down time during the day. The combination of physical stress, unusual food three times a day, questionable water supplies, and lack of sleep all contributed to a considerable stress load. I must confess that I did pass up one beverage that was offered to me: snake wine, in which rice wine is served with dead poisonous snakes coiled inside the container!
Although my tour companions took advantage of the diarrhea medications I brought with me (as well as some probiotics I offered to get them on the road to recovery), I never had to use them myself. My intestinal health was normal for the entire trip save the one day I increased my probiotics for two meals. Probiotics are a great travel companion!
I tell this story not to encourage you or recommend that you should recklessly drink the water against the advice of local experts whenever you travel to a foreign country. In other words, don't try this at home, folks! I am a trained natural health professional; I know my own system, and I was a guinea pig in my own special, controlled experiment. But what my experience does do is serve as an illustration of the power of probiotics, a power I know well but am constantly impressed by as I work with clients and help them identify probiotics programs that will work best in their real-life situations.
So get prepared! Settle into a comfortable armchair and take a trip with me. You've got your ticket in your hand. Learn about probiotics and how they can transform your life for the better.