How do you avoid food poisoning when traveling? It’s a question people often ask me and one that I’ve had a lot of experience with – both good and bad.
Food poisoning doesn’t discriminate. It happens to the best of us. It can strike anytime, anywhere. It’s the arch nemesis of the foodie traveler; those of us who seek out unique local cuisine like it’s travel a badge of honour. So what if the “traditional” food safety guidelines don’t work for you? What if avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables, raw shellfish or beverages that aren’t sealed or bottled will seriously impede your enjoyment?
It’s not the most romantic of subjects, but, in my experience there is a way to strike a balance between staying healthy and eating like the locals, that will keep both your digestive and culture hunger at bay. Because the last thing you want is to be spending an entire trip in the bathroom, alone, alternating between the toilet and the sink while your friends are out enjoying everything the city has to offer.
How To Avoid Food Poisoning When Traveling – What Exactly Is It?
But first, let’s get the errr digestive facts over with – unless you want to stick to boiled rice and crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s a fairly high chance you’re going to make more frequent trips to the toilet when visiting a developing country. It’s called travellers diarrhoea, and up to 70% of us get it, so you’ll need to come to terms with that before you travel. The good news is it’s not so much a painful poisoning of the digestive tract as it is a reaction to the sudden change of diet that goes with experiencing new places. Although uncomfortable, the most this unavoidable condition will ever cause is inconvenience (at the amount of trips to the bathroom) but you can still go about your daily sight-seeing practically unscathed.
Proper food poisoning is when you can’t actually move from the feotal position, let alone experience a new city. It comes from eating food contaminated with viruses, parasites, bacteria or other toxins, and typically leads to dehydration, loss of appetite, nausea and all those other fun things I spoke of above. In a nutshell, it sucks. And this is what we’re trying to avoid with the following handy hints. I can say that by following all of these tips, I have never had any issues. Touch wood.
How to Avoid Food Poisoning When Traveling – Some Guidelines
- Eat garlic by the bucket load. Your travel partner probably wont like it but you can say I told you so when they get sick and you don’t! Scientists have found Garlic to be at least as good, if not better than Probiotics and Antibiotics combined at fighting off food poisoning and promoting good bacteria growth.
- Same goes with a glass of hot chamomile tea every day.
- Start taking a daily probiotic dietary supplement a month before your trip and continue to take them during – coating your stomach with bacterial cultures that aid digestion and fight the so-called bad bacteria is always a good move.
- Wine, then Dine. Drinking wine with your meal, in addition to being practically a holiday prerequisite, may help ward off food poisoning before it happens. Scientists at Oregon State University recently found that wine can put the kibosh on three common food pathogens: E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. In lab studies, the wine’s combination of ethanol, organic acids, and low pH appeared to scramble the bugs’ genetic material. All wines have some effect, say researchers, but reds are the most potent.
- Eat wisely – Use the Internet to get great recommendations and information about local eateries. TripAdvisor is your one-stop-shop for this.
- Drink 3 litres of bottled water daily during your trip to help you stay hydrated and to keep your digestive system functioning 100%
- Exercising just a couple of times per week while your on holiday will help give your digestive and immune system that extra boost it needs.
- Contrary to popular belief, don’t take Imodium (or similar anti-diahhoria medications) unless you really have too. When your body is trying to eliminate toxins, its kind of counter-productive to deny it that ability. So if you’re going on a tour, or about to fly, then sure, take some meds, but otherwise try to keep away and let your body do its work more efficiently.
- Avoid food on buffets, in favour of food that is freshly cooked and hot. (Street vendors are often a good source for this, since they are serving your food the moment its prepared. In saying this, make sure that the food is in fact boiling and bubbling in the carts).
- Going on from the above, try to eat hot meats rather than cold ones – there will be less potential for bad bacteria.
- Eat smaller portions of every meal. In the event that a meal you eat is contaminated, your body can either fight off food poisoning completely or be affected minimally by sickness when you eat small meal portions versus large meal portions.
- Inspect the appearance of the eatery or vendor before buying food. Fairly obvious but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who just dig in. Look at the condition of the tablecloths and the menus if there are any. If you see a cockroach, run for the wind.
- Try to eat raw fruit that can be peeled, such as bananas and oranges. Otherwise eat any fruit or vegetables that can be manually peeled. Peeling raw food lifts away any potential contaminated water or pesticide residue.
For more detailed information on ways to avoid food poisoning when traveling, visit the Healthy Travel Blog. PS – I am not a healthcare professional, I am simply highlighting my tried and tested ways I have used to avoid food poisoning when traveling.