Keeping the bugs at bay during travel in S E Asia is something that needs to be considered before you travel. Hygiene isn’t good in many places and pollution is often high. Stomach “upsets” or “travelers’ diarrhea” are common with travelers and is usually caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria or, less commonly, with parasites or viruses. (I’ve personally known people to be hospitalised in Vietnam and having parasites removed from their intestines! ) Travelers’ diarrhea is also prevalent in countries other than South East Asia but the terms commonly used to describe it include “Montezuma’s Revenge,” “Aztec Two Step,” “Turista” in Mexico, “Delhi Belly” in India and the “Hong Kong Dog” in the Far East.
But don’t let that put you off; it usually only lasts for a couple of days. I spent 3 months traveling around Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, with no incidents of stomach discomfort. And I ate everything I wanted to eat, street food, or not. (street vendors sometimes have the most delicious food!).
Was I simply lucky? Maybe. Maybe not. I DID prepare myself before I left.
How to get a healthy gut before traveling
Take Priobiotics. (That’s the opposite of “anti-biotics” right?) Antibiotics are indiscriminate bactericides, meaning they destroy ALL bacteria, good and bad. They stuff up your immune system.
Priobiotics do the opposite.
I began taking probiotics a couple of months prior to leaving on my travels, and took enough with me to last the journey. Buy “shelf-stable” probiotics – not those that need to be kept in a fridge!
Vitamin C: This can be purchased over the counter in pharmacies in most countries, and I top up my system every day .
Stay healthy whilst traveling
Water: Ensure you drink clear fluids frequently. It’s easy to become dehydrated when traveling, especially in hot climates. Check that the seal on the bottle of water is unbroken before purchasing.
Unless you’re certain the ice has been made from pure filtered water, you’re best to request “no ice”. (I saw how ice was delivered in one instance in Vietnam. It came in a big block on the back of an open truck, and the workers chopped it up using rusty machetes. I rest my case!)
Foods should be well-cooked and served warm. Raw vegetables, uncooked meat or seafood, and other foods maintained at room temperature should be avoided.
I love the selection of fruits in S E Asia, especially Vietnam. When buying raw fruit from markets or stalls choose fruit that can be peeled.
There are a great range of really nice teas in S E Asia. Of course, hot beverages are safer than cold. Vietnamese coffee is great, but very addictive. (I should know!)
Carbonated drinks are good, and the beer is cheap, and good.
I like to travel with a bottle of hand sanitizer in my bag, and use it often.
p.s. Did I say “beer is good” already?