We have all heard travel tales of suffering due to Delhi belly or traveller’s tummy. Often this travel complaint is a result of exploring a new country, having not been exposed to certain exotic bacteria. In addition, the stress of travel can reduce immune defences meaning travellers are more susceptible to the potentially harmful bacteria that may find on some unwashed lettuce in Mexico or in a glass of coke with tap water ice cubes in Thailand.
While it’s never possible to avoid these sorts of problems entirely when travelling, by taking a few extra precautions and avoiding certain foods you might be able to prevent yourself losing half a week of your trip to recovery.
Shellfish are the ocean’s bottom feeders so can pick up quite a lot of interesting (and harmful) bacteria. If undercooked or not cooked properly, these bacteria can easily be transferred, resulting in a nasty bout of food poisoning. Thoroughly cooking shellfish should kill of most of the bacteria, but raw oysters or mussels should be avoided when travelling.
All advice forums and guidebooks stress the importance of avoiding unwashed and uncooked vegetables and fruits. Salmonella, cyclospora and campylobacter are just a few nasty bacteria which can leave you feeling pretty rough. Washing, scrubbing and peeling raw fruits and vegetables will remove outer bacteria, but may leave some, so cooking is always advisable. Try to eat fruits that you can remove the outer layer entirely, like bananas or mangos, and order cooked vegetable dishes rather than salads when you are eating out.
Pork has caused some health worries in the recent past, due to concerns it may contain the trichinosis larvae. In developed countries pork is now fine, but in the rest of the world, particularly in developing countries, different standards of hygiene mean that you should only eat pork that has been thoroughly cooked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water is one of the most common causes of tummy trouble when travelling overseas. Even in parts of Europe still, people will prefer to drink bottled water. Even brushing your teeth with contaminated water can be bad news (be mindful when you shower or swim), and drinking water from fountains is a very bad idea. Try to ensure that when you buy bottled water the bottle top is always sealed properly – sometimes the bottle can be refilled and resealed by an enterprising vendor, leaving you susceptible to whatever bacteria may have contaminated the water.
While returning home with stories of eating rat in the Thai jungle, llama in Bolivia or snake heart in Vietnam may give you a great party story, often exotic local delicacies are difficult to stomach and can give you some quite serious tummy troubles. Though a major part of travelling is about trying the national dishes and experiencing the local customs it may be wise to avoid the more extreme aspects of these and steer clear of the truly bizarre foods you may be offered during your trip.
Just remember that although we’re telling you what not to eat when travelling… there are some amazing meals out there just waiting for you to discover (and devour) them!
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