If you’re of a genteel disposition you may want to stop reading and move along now. If not, and you want to know how to avoid the dreaded, sometimes joked about and often discussed Delhi Belly on your trip to India — then read on!
Last year we spent two months in India and the first question almost everyone asks us is “Did you get sick?” to which we can wholeheartedly reply “No.”
Oli had an episode which we can only describe as the “don’t chase TEN pints of IPA with a Domino’s incident” but on the whole, he was fine and I never got sick.
I hope this doesn’t seem completely culturally ignorant but, alongside not knowing quite how to dress, knowing what to eat — and what not to eat in India are the questions most people ask me about my time there.
Sometimes I think people don’t believe me when I tell them: “Nope. Never got sick. Not once.” They look at me curiously (and a little disbelieving perhaps) when I promise I didn’t get through my trip surviving on a diet of bananas and Oreos.
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How to avoid ‘Delhi Belly’ in India
Yes, I ate meat and street food and train snacks but despite the occasional tummy grumble after too much curry (my eyes are a lot bigger than my belly) I was never ill. No diarrhoea, no cramps, no actual vomit.
HONESTLY. I travelled from the spicy south eating fish curries and spicy samba to the north where the food is richer, heavier (and more delicious, in my opinion…..)
So how did I do it?
Brush Your Teeth With Tap Water
This one shocks some people, but to be honest it’s my foolproof method to avoid sickness in any country I visit.
Clearly I never swallow the tap water and I definitely don’t gargle with it but I do brush away and rinse without stressing. I’m pretty sure this has upped my tolerance to whatever can eventually make you sick sometimes.
If It’s Busy, Eat
At a cooking class in Udaipur with the amazing Shashi, she told us that the most important thing when picking somewhere to eat is seeing lots of hungry people chowing down.
Most curries are variations on one basic sauce so often a huge batch is prepared in advance. Likewise with rice (which is known to be a hotbed of food-poisoning bacteria if not heated/re-heated correctly).
So it follows that if a restaurant is quiet, there’s a distinct possibility that your food is, well, kinda old food.
If it’s busy, the food turnover is quicker which means no icky rice for you.
If It’s Hot, Eat
Use your head here, I’m not suggesting you avoid ice cream because it’s cold but as a rule, heat kills most things (nutrition included!)
So when you are in a new place and want to experiment, make sure whatever you eat is piping hot. You can obviously see when it’s super hot, but don’t be afraid to ask for it to be cooked for longer or simply go somewhere else.
The easiest way to eat hot food with a high turnover of customers was on the street. I know, I know! It sounds counterintuitive, but for me and Oli — street food was a winner and we regularly indulged in kebabs and grilled meat from street vendors.
Don’t Eat Food From Dirty Places
Ok this is pretty bloody obvious, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people (us included) who were happy to eat at a train station with rats running around the cooking area.
And believe me, these rats ain’t nothing like the baby tube mice you see in London , these babies were BIG.
As a rule, we didn’t eat from quite little vendors at the train station. We did eat at the super busy little restaurants where the locals ate, following the rules above (Is it busy? Is it hot?) and this seemed to serve us well.
Drink LOADS Of Water
I’m a pretty firm believer in the old two litres a day rule and I think that it’s even more important when you’re hot, tired, and eating unfamiliar food.
Dehydration will make you sick regardless of getting food poisoning, so do yourself a favour and make sure you rule that one out first. I always felt like the water would flush a lot of, ahem, crap from my system too — so any little bugs would bugger off (sorry, couldn’t help myself!)
I always pack a stack of rehydration sachets to mix with water for an extra boost of hydration if I fall ill too. You can pick them up wherever you travel, usually for a lot cheaper than in England.
Was this at all helpful? What are your top tips to avoid getting sick when you travel?
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