Gut Happy, On The Go

Anyone who loves travelling, especially to less developed nations, will tell you that food poisoning is among their top concerns. No matter how tempting they look, many travellers are sceptical about trying exotic local delights for fear it might ruin the rest of their trip.

The fear is not unfounded. Many parts of the world still do not have proper hygienic practises but there is no inclination to change because the locals don’t seem to suffer any problems eating off the streets. Tourists, however, may not have the stomach for it!

Regardless of how careful you may be with your food or water choices, there’s no telling whether you might pick up a nasty bug somewhere. The only way to avoid it is to strengthen your gut with probiotics so that you will not fall prey to food poisoning.

“The use of probiotics has a long history, starting with the travellers of yore who fermented milk in sheep bags until they turned into a sourish liquid which is later called yoghurt,” said Prof Dr Gregory Leyer, the Global Probiotic Technical Director with Danisco Corporation USA, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently for a media briefing on Kordel’s Protect™, a scientifically formulated blend of HOWARU® premium probiotics targeted for children.

Recent research has shown that a significant number of immune cells are actually located at the gut. This is probably the reason for the oft-quoted cliché ‘you are what you eat’.

“Research shows that probiotics can have two effects on immunity- they stimulate sluggish immune systems to produce more immune cells and strengthen the system, and they can also regulate immune cells that are over-stimulated, which leads to autoimmune conditions such as asthma and allergies,” he explains.

This makes it a perfect travel companion, provided it is taken a few days prior to travel for it to reach and colonise the gut.


Most people already know that probiotics mean ‘good bacteria’. Probiotic supplements come in many forms these days- capsules, powder or as cultured food or drinks. There are also single strains or multiple strains of bacteria, the most common being lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Dr Leyer pointed out that multiple strain probiotics tend to have higher efficacy compared to single strains.

In a six-month study in China among 240 school-going children aged 5-8, the children on probiotics are less prone to flus and colds and take far less antibiotics than the control group. “Even those who caught the cold or flu tend to recover faster; within 3 days compared to a week for children in the control group,” Dr Leyer relates.

He adds that less use of antibiotics in childhood is linked to lower incidences of antibiotic-induced diarrheoa and allergies in later life. Studies are now being conducted on adults and athletes.

Are probiotics better taken before or after meals then? Dr Leyer’s advice is to take it with meals, but not with cold or acidic food and drinks, as it may reduce their efficacy. They are also fine taken with medications or antibiotics, with the added advantage of lowering antibiotic usage over long term as the immune system gets stronger.

The best part is that probiotics consumption is safe, with few  side effects except for bloating in some rare cases. It is also safe to take a larger dose as a precautionary measure when you are travelling to less developed countries where food poisoning is common, he adds.


Children’s immunities are easily affected by multiple factors, such as lack of sleep, stress or irregular diets– all factors associated with long-distance travel. Having a weakened immune system makes them more prone to acquiring illnesses, which can be a real damper when on holiday.

Holidays aside, most children experience six to eight upper respiratory infections and two or three gastrointestinal disturbances every year. Children attending day care are 1.5 times more at risk of upper respiratory tract infections compared to those cared for at home.

“Our research was mainly driven by parental concern about their child’s high absenteeism rates, which has a negative impact on academic performance especially in the case of recurring infections,” explained Dr Leyer.

Preventive measures such as probiotics can help parents better manage their children’s immune system for healthier, happier children. Kordel’s Protect™, which has undergone a patented stabilisation process that does not require refrigeration, comes in powder form which makes it easier to carry around when travelling or to be mixed with drinks or milk for consumption.

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