If you're a gringo like me, the fear of Montezuma’s Revenge hangs pretty heavy. Stomach issues can turn a travel adventure into a bedridden hotel stay.
If you want to avoid those ominous rumbles, here’s how you can enjoy the eats abroad, worry free.
Also bring some vitamins to help keep your immune system strong. Think Vitamins B, C, and Zinc.
This may also be a good time to catch up on your routine vaccines as well as any immunizations you may need for your travel destinations. Here’s a good guide from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Easy Does it
Street food is your lady in red. After a night on the town that sizzling kebab can be irresistible. But keep in mind street food is where you’re most likely to pick up the pathogen that will keep you in the bathroom for the next few days.
Ease into it. Wait until you’ve been there for a few days and your body has had some time to acclimate. Start with small portions, and try to go to places on recommendation.
Wash your hands before you eat. Bring a small bottle of antibacterial with you on your trip and use liberally.
Know Where & What to Eat
A dead restaurant around dinner time is not a good sign. Go where the people are. A busy restaurant means social proof, and likely the food is fresher than you’d find elsewhere.
As far as fruits and veggies go, stick to stuff with skin, or that hasn’t been peeled. Think bananas, mangos, and oranges. Avoid salads, where the components were probably rinsed with tap water.
Make sure all of your food is well-cooked, especially meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish.
Bottled water is your friend. Be aware that when you order a glass of soda or a mixed drink from a bar, the ice in your water is from tap. So order without. Drinks like coffee and tea are fine because they’re made with boiled water.
If you’re really on the alert, brush your teeth with bottled or boiled water.
You can also use a water treatment tablet, like chlorine or iodine, to make your water safe to drink. You can find them at pharmacies or sporting good stores. Check out Potable Aqua or Military Water Purification Tablets.
Don’t Psych Yourself Out
If you go into your trip thinking you’re going to get sick, it’s going to happen. Don’t spend the entire time walking on dietary eggshells. Allow yourself to try the local fare, because really, sometimes there’s nothing you can do. And that’s okay.
My first trip to South America I was super worried, and way too wary; I used bottled water to brush my teeth and avoided street food like the plague. I got sick.
My second trip I was much more relaxed, still careful but way more open about what I ate and drank. I was fine. I really believe in the power of attitude during travel.
If You Get Sick
Stick to bland foods like saltines. Try to buy bottled, carbonated water, and drink a lot of it; getting dehydrated is a big concern and can make your situation much worse. Don’t push yourself and get plenty of sleep.
If diarrhea or vomiting lasts for more than a few days, get medical attention.
And carry around a roll of toilet paper.