by Richard Cawte

3 essentials to take on your travels…


Whether you’re on holiday or a business trip, few things are more debilitating than a dose of diarrhoea. Most of us will take a pack of Imodium, or something similar, with us as a standby just in case. I prefer a more natural approach and here’s why:

Possible Side-Effects of taking Imodium.

It’s always interesting reading the list of “possible side-effects” printed on the sheets that accompany any pharmaceutical product. My guess is that few of us bother, preferring to pop the tab and trust it will do the job. If you do take the time to do this, you may be shocked at the extreme reactions that are possible in some cases.

The active ingredient in Imodium is Loperamide hydrochloride. Other ingredients include Aspartame (E951) – an artificial sweetener used in many diet-sodas which I’ll come back to another day.

Here is a sample of possible side-effects quoted on the Imodium leaflet:

  • “Allergic reactions, including wheezing, shortness of breath, passing out or swelling of throat and neck.
  • “Skin rashes, which may be severe and include blistering or peeling skin.
  • “Loss of consciousness…uncoordinated movements.
  • “Itchiness or hives, stomach pain, burning sensation of the tongue, miosos (narrowing of the pupils of the eye, headache, dizziness…”

So, the bottom line, for want of a better expression, is that whilst these side-effects are said to be rare or uncommon the chemicals used in producing Imodium are potentially harmful to some people when ingested.

 Are there more natural remedies available? Yes is the answer!

Here are some simple things I take in order to help steer clear of this.

1. Activated Charcoal.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 22.47.02Carry activated charcoal tablets with you and take at onset of any stomach upset.  This will naturally cure most symptoms within 24 hours without harmful effect on body.  Charcoal tablets are very light and easy to carry, even if you’re back-packing.

The first time I cam across activated charcoal was in Bali about twenty years ago. I was due to make a speech the next day and found myself laid up in bed barely able to move from the bathroom. Desperate to get something to fix the problem, I made it to the hotel shop where, after some graphic sign-language with the lady behind the counter who spoke almost no English, I was handed a pot of charcoal tablets. On a piece of paper she wrote “1 hour, 16. 2 hour 16.” That seemed like a lot of tablets to me, but I took them – and was fine to make the presentation the next day.

The Science: charcoal is highly porous and acts like a sponge, soaking up all the unwanted bacteria and allowing them to pass out through your gut. Note: don’t worry if your stools appear black whilst taking charcoal. This is to be expected and is not harmful.

2. Grapefruit Seed Extract.

DSCN1348Take a bottle of grapefruit seed concentrate with you. Again, this is light and easy to carry. Mix 6 drops of the concentrate with water and drink twice or three times per day as a preventative. You’ll find the taste extremely bitter, but the results are worth it!

The Science: although preliminary research suggests the extract of grapefruit seed may have antimicrobial and anti-yeast properties, there is little research to date on its effectiveness for parasites, but its antimicrobial properties make it a valuable part of your travel-kit.

3. Capsicums.

file7521340779822Eat plenty of capsicums. I remember my father, who was a university man, telling me that a food-scientist friend of his often visited the tropics and never got sick. His magic remedy was to eat plenty of raw capsicums on his travels, especially the green ones.

The Science: capsicums contain high levels of natural anti-biotic.

Note: All three of these can be taken as preventatives as well as curatives. I’d much rather avoid diarrhoea than fix it!

Where can I find them? 

You can buy charcoal tablets and concentrated grapefruit seed extract at most health stores. Look for capsicum in local shops or markets wherever you are travelling. They grow in many countries and are widely available – and inexpensive too.