Dealing with Delhi Belly
If you typically get grossed out by this topic – do not read any further!
One of the most common pre-South / Southeast Asia travelling topics that arise is the dreaded Delhi Belly. Especially if you are visiting India. Questions arise like: ‘What are you going to do if you get it?’ ‘Do you have your poop drugs yet?’
My response: I have the drugs but who knows what I’ll do until I get it… What even is it?
Delhi Belly (also known as travellers diarrhoea) – is a digestive tract disorder that commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps. It’s caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
I had a fairly relaxed view on this topic knowing that I would avoid the water in Asia (even brush with bottled water – although I know people recommend brushing teeth with tap water wherever you are in order to get used to any ‘bad stuff’), only eat what I know had been freshly cooked and avoid salads. I believed that I either wouldn’t get it OR if I did get it, I could deal with it easily. Being a little ill and relaxing in a hotel room isn’t too bad right?
Sadly, I was wrong and actually experienced it twice, once in Sri Lanka, which I must say was manageable and only lasted a couple days. The other however, was in our last week in India just before we left Varanasi for Delhi and lasted the best part of 2 weeks. Leaving me bed bound throughout our stay in Delhi and over the Holi festival ?.
Who would of thought I’d get Delhi Belly in Delhi ?
So a little bit more about the stomach flu…
Symptoms: (vary depending on the person and the degree of flu)
1. Diarreah… of course
This is a constant ongoing side effect that will last the best part of a week or two. In my case it was closer to 3 weeks.
For the first part of my illness (and what I thought was the worst part), I did not take any medicine or drugs as I as it is best to allow your body to naturally get rid of all the bad bacteria. By taking drugs such as Pepto-Bismol and thereby limiting the amount of bad bacteria leaving your body, you may have a longer recovery time.
2. Projectile vomiting
From reading and my own experience, normally lasts about a day at most but be aware that relapses can occur a few days after just when you think things are getting better.
3. Dehydration – which leads to weakness and possibly nausea.
This is an obvious side effect from the diarrhoea and vomiting. You will naturally loose a lot of body liquid. It is therefore necessary to drink as much water as possible and if you can, dissolve re-hydration tablets to replace electrolytes.
4. Loss of appetite – The last thing you are thinking about is where your next curry is coming from so stick to plain foods you can stomach.
5. Cramps & Bloating – Distract yourself with a good film!
How to deal with it.
Sadly, after extensive research I found no real cure for my stomach flu. And I know for anyone reading this with evolving symptoms or at the peak of the illness, this is not what you want to hear.
But here are a few things that can help:
- Plenty of water
- Re-hydration tablets
- Bland, starchy foods
- Allowing your body time to deal with the invasion of badass bacteria
- Pepto-Bismol (if you have to head out despite being ill, this is a good’un) – provides relief from diarrhea and upset stomach including heartburn, indigestion, and nausea.
- Anti-diarrhoea medication e.g immodium
Methods to avoid stomach flu
1. Be on top of your game with washing your hands! and ALWAYS carry hand sanitizer with you (Hayley was a hand sanitizer ninja & it paid off!)
2. Always look for food that is freshly cooked and if you are unsure… stay away!
3. Only drink bottled water and if in places such as India, avoid ice as it could made with tap water. As mentioned before, we also clean our teeth with our bottled water.
4. Avoid salads or fruits that may have been washed under a tap.
Through my illness I lost a lot of weight: muscle, water and fat and I have tried to capture these in the photos below. The 1st was taken at the peak of my illness and the 2nd was a week after.
On the right is me a week later in Thailand, nothing necessarily changed apart from my ability to walk around and explore and my appetite returning but it made such a difference!
It can be frustrating missing out but be patient and rest so you can enjoy the next part of your trip.
I am very stubborn and did not see a doctor during my recovery but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. After sometime, if you are still really struggling or worried about your condition then it is definitely something worth considering.
But for now, eat and drink clean, be careful and stay away from the dreaded Delhi belly.