I will never forget that time I had a layover in Istanbul, and I met a man who took his little son to the airport lavatory. The little boy had an upset stomach, and neither was very happy about it. I found out that they flew into Istanbul from India. After a while, the father said “don’t worry my dear, it is quite normal, we spent some time in India and you’ve got a ‘Delhi-belly'”. The expression was stuck in my mind. One to be aware of! But “Delhi-belly” wasn’t going to stop me from travelling!
Visiting different parts of the world is fun and trying out the local food is part of the experience, but the more foreign you go, the more you have to be smart about what you eat.
Where does this problem come from?
Food grown overseas carries bacteria that causes problems when the body is not accustomed to it. The proper term is ‘traveler’s tummy‘. The most common illnesses that occur this way are salmonellosis (caused by salmonella bacteria), E. coli infection and Norwalk virus. Local travel books usually provide information about ongoing health issues for foreigners in the region.
Drinking water is the very first thing that a smart traveler would have to be wary of. Sticking to bottled water is the safest way to go. All dairy foods – anything based on milk, cheese, cream, mayonnaise – be very wary. Seafood dishes are also problematic and will cause various intestinal problems. The safest drinks are coffee and tea, but Arab countries like to put cardamom in it, and then it is back in the problematic foods category. The traveler’s mantra for hundreds of years has been: “Cook it, wash it, peel it or forget it”. Meats are safest when ‘well done’ or even ‘very well done’ – much to Anthony Bourdain’s horror. Carrots and mint are your friends. They are known cures for an upset stomach.
But you have to eat something
Purchasing food from street vendors is as local as you can get, but it can be risky even on home turf. Experienced travelers will be able to assess in a split second whether to go for it or not – as will the streetwise New Yorker. Mum’s advice applies 100% here – wash your hands before every meal!
A balanced diet would always be the answer to a blissful holiday. Lots of protein – rice, for example, basmati rice in particular – and liquids, most of all water. I must repeat myself – safe, bottled water is what I meant by this last remark.
Once the whole enterprise of a trip has been completed and your home is on the horizon you ought to consider a general cleanse. Who knows what sort of foreign bodies you may have brought home with you from your travels, but the likelihood is that they will wreak havoc upon your unprepared immune system. Detoxification can be done through short-term liquid diets, or more bearably some fun with a simple detox tea. These are the most popular sorts: green tea, japanese matcha tea, dandelion tea, the list goes on… Either one will help you get your digestive tract back on track and ready for your next big trip.