The traveler’s diarrhea is popularly known as Delhi Belly. The main worry of most of the people traveling to India is about Delhi Belly. Infect most of us when travel from one part of India to another part has the same thing in our mind. No one wants to get stuck in a hotel room due to a bad stomach and spoil the holidays. I came across several westerners while working in the fashion industry and during my travels in India, most of them worry about what to eat or not eat. Most people think that being an Indian we don’t face Delhi Belly’s problem and can eat anything. Well if you ask me reality then most of us who live in cities also fear traveler’s diarrhea. Let me tell you some of my basic tips on how to avoid Delhi belly in India.
India is a diverse country and food preparations, as well as habits, change from states to states.
Most of the Indians living in cities don’t drink tap water neither we use it for cooking. Most of the Indian homes have water purifiers and we use RO filtered water. We also take precautions in everyday life. Yes, we have one advantage over westerners that we are accustomed to some of the spices. Though the use of spices varies from one part of India to another. In short, we are accustomed to Indian food and culture.
Despite all this, I have had bad stomach issues while traveling. Most of them I had managed but I had a couple of bad experiences. When I got stuck to the hotel room. During one of my trips to Hyderabad, I had loose motions all day and I was in the room the whole day. My stomach was gurgling and every half an hour I had loose motions. The most dreadful part was that I had an overnight bus from Hyderabad to Goa.
If you are traveling by train, it is still ok because there are toilets but there are no toilets on Indian buses. They stop at 2 or a maximum of 3 places where you can relieve yourself. I remembered some of my family’s tips and used them. By evening, I was in a position to sit and travel. It was very uncomfortable and tiring because I was drained but I survived. I will come back to those tips when I will discuss how to deal with Delhi Belly.
How to prevent Delhi Belly while traveling in India
First of all, let us discuss some of the basic precautions we should take to avoid Delhi Belly.
Wash your hands frequently
Most of the restaurants have a washbasin with soap and running water. Wash your hands before every meal.
I carry a small travel size liquid soap bottle and wash my hand with it.
Also, keep wet wipes and hand sanitizer with you. These are available everywhere in India. In case if you don’t wash hands due to some reason then sanitize your hands with these every time you eat something. Even if you are taking out something from your bag to eat.
Don’t use ice
India is hot and humid especially if you are traveling in the South of India or coastal areas. It’s a natural reaction to opt for ice in soft drinks.
Never use ice to cool your drink.
You never know what kind of water used to make it. Avoid ice at all costs. It’s easier to get cold drinks in bottles and cans in India.
Eat fresh and hot food
Most of us when visiting a new place, search on TripAdvisor and other popular travel portals for best places to eat. This is useful information but sometimes it’s not enough or it is old.
Always choose the place when you see some people at an eatery. If there are people that means they have fresh food. If you see locals eating or people with their kids eating then it is even better.
Order hot food, it is even better if it is made in front of you or after your order.
The fried items may not be healthy due to the amount of oil in them but they are free from bacteria and other germs which can create stomach issues.
Another very important point is what you order. Generally, most of the Indian restaurants have a long menu. They have Chinese, Italian, Mexican, South Indian, North Indian, and God know what all on the menu. Never order something which doesn’t belong to that area. Order something that is ordered most.
I remember we were in Orchha and one night we decided to go to a top-rated restaurant. From the last two days, we were having Indian food and we got excited to see several other items on the menu. They had wood fire pizza and we ordered that after checking if it’s fresh. What we got was a pizza with a burned base and made with pre-cooked base. The cheese was too sour. So, stick with fast-moving items that are consumed by most of the travelers and locals in that restaurant.
Street food and restaurants food
There is no guarantee that a well-known restaurant’s food is better than the street food stall. Most of the time street food is fresh because they don’t have a refrigeration system so they make in limited quantities. If a street food stall is busy then there is no harm in eating from them. Just check how he is handling food, flys, conditions of utensils used for cooking, serving and general hygiene.
I had bad my fair share of stomach issues and strangely on a couple of occasions, it was after eating at well-known restaurants.
As I mentioned in the beginning about Hyderabad. We ate at a well-known restaurant’s buffet. I had a non-vegetarian buffet and my friend had a vegetarian buffet. There was some meat or chicken item which was not fresh in the buffet and I had loose motions due to that. So, if you get a great deal for a buffet as we got, think twice before opting for it. Try to avoid buffet if you don’t have good feedback.
Avoid non-vegetarian food from multicuisine restaurants. For example, if you go to old Delhi and eat from a non-vegetarian eatery in Chandani chowk then you can be assured that food is fresh. Though you may find it too oily but it is not stale.
Have Probiotics in your diet
Make probiotic your best friend while traveling. Keep probiotic capsules and consume them regularly. If you don’t want to carry too many and on a long trip to India then you can easily buy them from any pharmacy. You can also consume a probiotic drink named “Yakult” from the supermarket.
Also, consume Yogurt at least once a day. In India, yogurt is known as curd/Dahi. It has probiotic properties and helps in keeping the system well. Lassi is also good because it’s made by beating curd.
If you are not sure to consume open dairy products then you can buy small packs of plain curd from supermarkets or grocery stores.
Don’t drink tap water
Never drink water straight from the tap. Most of the people living in Indian cities drink RO treated water at home. Tap water is not safe for drinking.
You can use it to brush the teeth. Some guide books on India recommend that you should not use tap water for brushing. This is over-exaggeration.
Don’t eat cut fruits
Avoid raw salad and never eat cut fruits.
The main reason is you don’t know how they had washed the fruits and vegetables. What was the hygiene level of utensils used while cutting?
If you want to eat fruits, buy whole fruits from the market. You should thoroughly wash them under tap water. Then dry them with a clean cloth or tissue paper before eating.
Sanitize your hands after touching currency
Earlier I had mentioned that wash and wipe clean your hands before eating.
Other than this wash your hand after touching currency notes. According to a study a currency note can have up to 3000 different bacterias on it.
Always sanitize your hands after handling currency. Don’t touch touching your mouth and face.
Test your stomach and system
The aroma of Indian food and spices is robust. For some people, it’s too much to handle but for some, it tantalizes their senses and makes them hungry.
If you are in the second category and like to try exciting smelling dishes. Then always eat it in moderation.
It can be pleasing to senses but may or may not be for the stomach.
Sometimes our stomach is not used to greasy and spicy food. If our stomach disagrees with what we consumed then it can be a problem. So when you like to try something new, take small portions and see how you feel afterward.
What to do if you have Delhi Belly
God forbids if you have Delhi Belly. Don’t get panicked if you are having loose motions. Most of the time the body’s immune system responds and drains out what is not good for us. Once your body is free of the undesirable item you will be ok. Let the system clean itself.
Drink water and electrolytes
But you will lose lots of water during loose motions. If you don’t consume enough water then your stomach may be free from the problem but you will not get ok. You may have diarrhea and it will drain your energy. Ultimately recovery will be slow.
So while you are having motions or vomiting consume double the amount of water.
Don’t drink plain water. If you have electrolyte then mix it in water. This helps in maintaining energy levels.
If you are not carrying electrolyte like me when I had a bad stomach in Hyderabad.
Ask your hotel to provide you sugar, salt, and lemon.
It is very easy to make electrolyte. Take 6 level teaspoons of sugar & 1/2 level teaspoon of salt. Dissolved them in 1 liter of clean water. I have mentioned lemon because the solution of sugar and salt does not taste good. When you are not well then it’s difficult to consume something tasteless. Adding lemon helps in maintaining taste and hence help in drinking. Moreover Lemon has lots of benefits.
No carbonated drinks
Don’t drink carbonated beverages. These drinks have high levels of sugar which can create diarrhea.
Take natural probiotics
Take yogurt/curd because it has probiotic properties and helps in the soothing stomach. You can also drink Yakult.
Eat light and easy to digest food
When you get a bad stomach and Delhi Belly avoid oily food, fried items, spicy and greasy food. Instead have rice and yogurt. If you are in South India you will easily get curd rice. In different parts of Gujarat, Mumbai and some of the North Indian cities you will get ‘Khichadi”. Eat Khichadi with curd.
One fruit that you must eat when you get Delhi Belly is Banana. Whenever I had stomach issues while traveling I resorted to banana and sugar+salt+lemons drink. Banana has magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber which are very good for the stomach. Also banana is one fruit that is pesticides free.
Take Charcoal tablets
Activated charcoal helps in relieving abdominal discomfort, bloating and wind. These tables have a soothing effect on the digestive system.
In case if you don’t feel better after a day then consult a doctor. If a doctor suspects an infection then you have to take a 3 to 7 days course of antibiotics. It will eliminate the root of the problem. Though in most cases you will get ok once the system gets rid of unwanted.
It is advisable to take medicine Imodium if you have to travel. Else wait for a day.
Some basic precautions while selecting places to eat and what to eat can help in avoiding Delhi Belly when traveling in India. Use your common sense and be aware of your body while eating meals. These basic tips will help you in preventing Delhi Belly and having a good travel experience in India.