One of a travellers greatest fears can be that of contracting food poisoning while on the road, especially while travelling in developing countries, and it is not an irrational fear as food poisoning happens pretty easily. More often than not, all it takes is that delicious looking snack from the vendor by the street and bam! You’ve been hit!
But fear not, as there are ways to greatly decrease your risk of catching those bad tummy bugs with these tips, making your trip more enjoyable with less time spent in bed or in the bathroom!
One cannot fully experience the culture in a different country without savouring street food as the locals do and with the right attitude and habits, you will be able to do that without worrying too much about Traveller’s Diarrhoea.
Prep yourself with probiotics before and during your trip
At least one week before your trip, start taking probiotics, the good bacteria, to strengthen your digestive system and to keep your immunity working in tip top shape. This also helps it counter any possible bacteria imbalance in your gut that can be caused by the introduction of new and foreign bacteria. Look for lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium strains that will protect your small and large intestines.
If you are a little more cautious or have a sensitive stomach, taking probiotics while travelling may be a good idea. Some travellers never leave home without them!
Stay hydrated while travelling
A common novice traveller’s mistake is forgetting to stay hydrated while travelling. Dehydration, especially when one is moving around can cause a myriad of sicknesses as it compromises the immune system.
Keep yourself hydrated by sticking to the recommended 2 litres, or 8 glasses of water a day. You can also drink coconut water as it contains potassium and electrolytes that can reverse dehydration. Also, try to stay away from drinking too much caffeine and sugary drinks like soda as it causes you to lose more water than gain.
Drink safe water
As a general rule of thumb, do not drink water from the tap when you are travelling in developing countries. Drink water bottled or boiled water instead. If you are going with bottled water, make sure that the seal has not been tampered with. Also, stay clear of ice, especially from street vendors as they may have been made with tap water.
If you are in a place where there is little or no access to drinking water, bring along water purification tablets or use water filtering or purifying tools.
Be careful with what you eat
Stay away from food that looks like it has been left out for a while as it can be the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Instead, look for freshly cooked food. Also, refrain from eating salad or other fresh leafy vegetables as they usually would be washed with tap water. As for fruit, if you have to peel it before you eat it, then it probably is safer for consumption than those that have already been peeled and cut.
Uncooked meat such as pork, beef, chicken and fish can be a source for worms and bad bacteria and are one of the main culprits behind food poisoning so make sure your meats are fully cooked before consuming them. Try to eat smaller portions as it gives your stomach the chance to fight against a smaller amount of bacteria as opposed to a full meal of potentially contaminated curry.
Be a little choosy with where you eat
It may be a good idea for you to inspect a food stall or cafe before you decide to eat there. Sometimes it’s best to trust your gut (pun intended) instinct when it comes to these things. If it looks unclean, it may be best to move on and look for somewhere else to eat.
Choose busy stalls with high turnover instead of empty ones. Eat at places that serve their food fresh and piping hot as sufficient heat would be able to kill off those nasty stomach bugs. Also, watch the hands of those who prepare the food. If they adhere to anything that looks unsafe, like picking their nose or wiping their hands on a dirty cloth, it might be a good idea to move on to the next stall.
Bring along hand sanitizer and/or alcohol wipes
Hands go everywhere and touch everything, from dirty bathroom doors to bus station railings and you really do not want those disgusting germs entering your digestive system. Don’t forget to clean your hands before and after eating. Just a rinse will not do and use that soap! If you have none around, use hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes to keep the germs away.
More often than not, you will come across a stall or cafe that does not properly clean their eating utensils. A little goes a long way and you can use those alcohol wipes to clean your cutlery before savouring your food.
Eat fermented and antibacterial food while travelling
Keep your gut healthy and equipped with all the necessaries by eating food that can kill bacteria and those that strengthen your immune system.
There are plenty of traditional fermented food around the world that can help such as sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir, natto, pickled vegetables, kimchi, miso, tempeh and cottage cheese that are full of those much-needed lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains.
As for natural antibacterials, maintain a diet that contains garlic, ginger, onions, honey, cinnamon, cranberries, elderberries, oregano, turmeric, coconut (oil), pineapples and lemon.
Do you have tips to avoid food poisoning you’d like to share? Do let us know in the comments below!
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