August 2, 2011

Avoiding "Delhi belly"

Travel wreaks havoc on the body.  First you stress about the details of leaving and packing.  Then you sandwich yourself onto a pressurized jet-powered tin can and hang out at 35,000 feet for a few hours with 300 or so of your new best friends.  After that, you end up in totally different time zone.  And you haven't even begun to subject yourself to the local cuisine.

Unless you are traveling to Canada or Europe, chances are pretty good that you'll end up in a place with questionable tap water.  If the water isn't safe, that generally means avoiding it for drinking (and likely for brushing your teeth), never drinking anything with ice in it, and staying away from raw fruits and vegetables unless you are absolutely sure they've been washed in iodine solution or the like.  Otherwise, you'll get to say hello to your little porcelain friend and hang out for a while:

O hai!

I've been mostly successful in not getting sick while traveling to countries lacking decent water supplies (we'll have a little talk about my fun time in Egypt one of these days), but my upcoming time in India will take this to a whole new level.  Honestly, India takes everything to a whole new level.  Here is the advice that I've been given and/or read in order to avoid spending a few days chained to a toilet:

1.  Only drink and brush your teeth with bottled water from a country other than India
2.  Check the seal on each bottle of water (remember that scene from Slumdog Millionaire?)
3.  Wash you hands and use hand sanitizer
4.  Don't eat any raw, unpeeled food
5.  Stay away from dairy
6.  Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer
7.  Only eat food that has been well-cooked
8.  Only eat vegetarian in order to avoid contaminated meat
9.  Only eat meat/starches in order to avoid contaminated fruits and vegetables
10.  Avoid sweets
11.  Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer
12.  Gorge on probiotics (like yogurt) before the trip
13.  Drink whiskey after a meal
14.  Take 2 Pepto-Bismol tablets twice a day to coat the stomach (apparently this also turns the tongue black after a few days)
15.  Only eat at busy restaurants and food stalls
16.  Use grapefruit seed extract

If I took all this advice, I would consume nothing in India but rice, water, and whiskey, my tongue would turn black, and my hands would be VERY clean.  Now what fun is that?  If I my ultimate goal was to keep my body feeling near-perfect, I wouldn't be taking this trip.  Fatigue, weakness, and sickness are often simply a part of the travel package.  And though I will be taking some of the precautions listed above, I'm not going to obsess over the issue.

But I think I just might try that Pepto-Bismol thing...  mainly because I want to see if my tongue really will turn black.


  1. Tongue will turn black as will your stool! But it is antibacterial so it is good for travelers diarrhea. Or, you could call your pharmacist friend who would tell you the drugs to take :)

  2. Ooh, fun with colors! It'll be just like kindergarten! Perhaps you're on to something with this consult-a-pharmacist idea... know anyone whose brain I could pick? ;-)