Having travelled Sri Lanka and southern India, and pretty much eating whatever I liked, I was pretty confident about the constitution of my stomach while I was in northern India.
Here’s what I learned:
- I’m not as tough as I thought
- Delhi Belly can strike anyone
- You can’t really do anything but ride it out
I lasted all of 24 hours in the country before I was struck down. To be fair, we had been eating street food, but also to be fair, it wasn’t anywhere close to the most dubious street food I ate on the trip. They do say that it doesn’t necessarily always come from food – it can be something you pick up on your hands and inadvertently put in your mouth – it can simply be your stomach reacting to the strange or spicy food, the time change, the travelling and so on.
I was extremely disappointed in myself – why, you ask? Not because of the inconvenience and repulsiveness of suffering diarrhoea, but because it meant that I had to stop eating for a time.
And let’s be honest, a big part of the reason I love travelling is food. A big part of the reason I love life is food. I live to eat.
I was lucky, a sleepless night with a funny feeling in my belly led to my body flushing it all out in the morning. It was short-lived, took place pretty much within an hour, and I was safe in a hotel. I skipped the day of sight-seeing because I felt nauseous and had a nap instead. The banana I ate went went right through me, and because an overnight train was looming, I opted to fast. Luckily I was keeping down water, so it was that and hydration tablets until the following day.
The thing about any kind of gastric upset, is that you’ve gotta give your body time to recover. If you eat too soon, or eat too weird too soon, you can be back to square one – which I absolutely didn’t want to happen. So for the first 24 hours I ate no food. The second day I stepped it up with some plain crackers and rice. And then… I was fine. Our tour guide had told us two things about Delhi Belly. That if we get it on a travel day then Immodium is absolutely essential. And secondly that he recommends antibiotics. I was lucky, I didn’t need either.
I think most people on our trip felt a little bit of something at one point or the other. A lucky couple got it in the nasty way, like me. Personally, I’m happy to risk a little to taste some of the amazing specialties of the region, to enjoy chai and samosas on the street, to take that spice level up just a notch.
But if you’re going to India, or even anywhere in the third world category, don’t assume you’ll be ok. Pack the Immodium, pack hydration tablets and whatever else happens to be your particular remedy. Better to have it and not use it than need it and not have it.
But most of all, enjoy the food. Eat at safely at you can, to do the adventure level you desire.
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