Alcohol as prevention of traveler’s diarrhea

Mark S. Riddle

There is a popular belief among some travelers that daily consumption of small portions of spirits may prevent traveler’s diarrhea. Is there any truth to this?

Mark S. Riddle, MD: I wish there were. Studies have been done where they mix an alcohol with a bacterium and say, “Look, it kills/stifles the bacteria, so alcohol should be good!” Certainly, in the past, in the 18th or 19th century during cholera pandemics in London, those who drank beer did not get cholera because they were drinking beer that had been sterilized and pasteurized.

But in terms of recent reliable evidence, there is no evidence to suggest that alcohol consumption in any form will reduce your risk of traveler’s diarrhea. There is nothing to say that it will increase your risk either. Personally, if I am in Mexico, I like to have a margarita when I travel, so I probably do that, but sorry, no help there.

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