The People's Perspective on Medicine

Raspberry Powder to Fight Travelers’ Diarrhea

Travelers' diarrhea can be a problem, but there are solutions. One reader recommends raspberry powder. Pepto-Bismol and coconut may also help.
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Whether you term it Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge, travelers’ diarrhea is no joking matter. You don’t even have to be trekking through rough terrain in undeveloped places. Researchers recently found that a majority of North American medical students traveling in Israel developed symptoms of travelers’ diarrhea (Israel Medical Association Journal, Aug. 2019). If you drink contaminated water or eat food with unfamiliar bacteria lurking in it, you may suddenly need to rush to the restroom. Beyond the urgent need to defecate, you may also have nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps and possibly even fever. Needless to say, none of this is pleasant, especially when you are far from home. If you end up becoming dehydrated, it could even be dangerous. 

There are ways to protect yourself from diarrhea when you are away from home. People often travel abroad for the US Department of Defense. More than a thousand of them enrolled in a study (Journal of Travel Medicine, May-June 2015). Optimal treatment of severe travelers’ diarrhea includes antibiotics and antidiarrheal medicines. In some places, travelers would find it difficult to purchase these drugs. Are there other treatments that can help for this problem?

Does Raspberry Powder Ward Off Travelers’ Diarrhea?

Q. This may sound silly, but we New Zealanders and Australians travel a lot to resorts in Asia like Thailand, Bali and Vietnam. A favorite anti-diarrhea ploy is to take sachets of pure raspberry fruit powder or raspberry cordial containing not less than 30% raspberry.

I take a dessert spoon of the powder or a 1/4 glass of cordial the night before I leave and then each morning when I wake up. I don’t suffer from the trots during my holidays. This remedy is great for families travelling with kids.

No Science on Raspberry Fruit for the Trots:

A. Thank you for sharing this intriguing remedy. We could find no research to support your treatment plan, but it does seem benign. Traditionally, herbalists recommended raspberry leaf tea for diarrhea (Current Medicinal Chemistry, June 2004). On the other hand, no one seems to have studied raspberry leaf for this purpose, either. However, raspberry shoots are rich in ellagic acid and have antimicrobial activity (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Dec. 12, 2014).

Pepto-Bismol Can Help:

Another low-tech treatment for mild travelers’ diarrhea is bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) (Journal of Travel Medicine, April 1, 2017). It will turn the stool black, but that is not something to worry about if you use this anti-diarrheal medicine for just a few days.

Other travelers have reported that consuming coconut can be helpful. In addition, this article from the Mayo Clinic offers ways to remember not to drink the water or consume unwashed fresh produce if you are traveling outside North America, western Europe, Australia, New Zealand or Japan.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Meltzer E et al, "Acute diarrhea in North American students after relocation to Israel: A pilot study." Israel Medical Association Journal, Aug. 2019.
  • Lalani T et al, "Epidemiology and self-treatment of travelers' diarrhea in a large, prospective cohort of department of defense beneficiaries." Journal of Travel Medicine, April 1, 2017. DOI: 10.1111/jtm.12179
  • Patel AV et al, "Therapeutic constituents and actions of Rubus species." Current Medicinal Chemistry, June 2004. DOI: 10.2174/0929867043365143
  • Krauze-Baranowska M et al, "Chemical composition and biological activity of Rubus idaeus shoots--a traditional herbal remedy of Eastern Europe." BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Dec. 12, 2014. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-480
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It has to be better than the Cipro that my PC doc gave me for travelers’ diarrhea. It may have cured the trots but also gave me tendon problems down the road!

Just wanted to add my experience with raspberry for diarrhea…no matter what the reason.

For years I suffered with I.B.S. It started from taking Metformin for Diabetes and continued long after I dropped it. After going to E.R. for a blockage after consuming Imodium D too much and too often, the nurse told me to try raspberry leaf tea instead. It doesn’t come in bags. It’s loose tea, put in a tea infuser.
Rarely do I need more than one cup of strong brewed tea.

I actually take a thermos cup of the brew in the car if I’m shopping, etc. It’s NEVER failed to work its magic. I’m interested in the powder as well, as an alternative. Hope this gives someone the freedom from “the trots” that can make your life hell. You will forever thank me, as I do the E.R. nurse.

We are always reminded ‘don’t drink the water’ but few tell people not to have ice in their drinks. Doesn’t the water to make the ice come from the water we are not supposed to drink?

Yes. You should avoid ice in your drinks when traveling where the water supply is iffy. Also, don’t use tap water to brush your teeth.

My remedy is charcoal tablets which, in the West (allopathic medicine), is used to absorb poisons or overdoses that are best not vomited out. On a trip to Madagascar, after struggling with “travelers’ diarrhea” using Imodium, our guide suggested charcoal. It worked like a dream when no fever or bloody stools are involved. Many other tours later, it is still working and wondering if a week or more of sustained hot temperatures create this environment by destroying microbial gut balance.

I like using the charcoal tablets because they are harmless if taken two hours apart from taking medication or nutrition (meals). Apparently they absorb gas or excess toxins and help your gut come into balance. Charcoal tablets are cheap and found in major US pharmacies and used by many traveling Europeans.

Another option is to take Jarrow brand (I don’t have stock, it’s just the best) S. Boulardii (Saccharomyces boulardii) capsules daily while traveling to continually re-seed the gut microbiome. Works well I’ve found. Can be adapted in larger longer amounts for Crohn’s, etc. 4 caps-4x day for 4 weeks, 3 caps-3x day for 2 weeks then 2 caps-2x day for 2 weeks. Amazing things happen when you re-populate the good guys!

I had a similar problem in Israel. I did swim in the Dead Sea a few days before the problem started. I didn’t swallow any water, but who knows. It hit 3 of us on the same day. Take some absorbable underwear on your trip, esp. if on a group tour and can’t control your travel schedule. Doesn’t prevent anything but reduces anxiety a ‘little.’

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