Gut Health Whilst Travelling

gut health whilst travelling
Different kinds of fermented veg of which you can find variations all over the world

If you go to India, everyone (when I say everyone, I mean white westerners) says you're gonna get 'Delhi belly' (which is a terribly racist thing to say so call ppl out on it plz). But due to our lack of spice and our governments chemically cleaning our drinking water, it's pretty inevitable that sensitive westerners get the sh*ts not just in Dehli but in many places. Yes, the first time I went to SE Asia we had some chicken on the beach and then we got really bad sh*ts. It was really really bad for like 24 hours. We were just lying in bed, running to the toilet, shitting ourselves, maybe throwing up, running back to bed, etc. We were on an island in the Philippines and there wasn't really access to anything one has access to in a big city. The next day we were okay though. There's this really hot (read: hot in the traditional sense of of the word) photo of me from there cause my stomach is really flat from all the shitting, see below (talk about the untenable beauty standards of the modern beauty industry). It might've been the rice, to be fair, not the chicken but I just didn't know any better back then. The second was also in the Philippines, in Manilla. We were still omnivores back then... .even though I got the food poisoning probs from a salad lol. When I went back to SE Asia later I was vegan - and I never got sick.

The absurdity of mainstream beauty standards: my bod ending up lookin like this (on the left) after 24 hrs of shitting

To Drink Or Not To Drink? Tap Water Whilst Travelling

Firstly, I was always told that when you go to, say, SE Asia, Greece, etc.: 'don't drink the water, get bottled water'. But I read about two people, one of them is called Graham Hughes, who's the only person in the world who's been to every country without flying (that we know of) and he always said he just drank water wherever he went and his body kinda like got accustomed to it. You know, if the locals drank it, he also drank it. And he's not the only one.

Recuperating Your Gut Health If You've Got the Shits

#1. Fermented stuff:

So you need some of those beneficial probiotics to get your gut health back in order. Here are some of the most popular and easily accessible (and plant-based, yay!) fermented foods that can aid you in healing:

  • water-based kefir: There's this woman, I think she goes under the name of This American Girl, and she always carried kefir with her cause it helped keep her gut bacteria healthy. Take water-based kefir, cause that's vegan (yes, it is, we wrote down why in this blogpost).
  • kimchi: which is a kind of Korean pickled vegetable-mix, very yummy!
  • escabeche: spicy, fermented pickles from the Latin American, Mediterranean region, yum!
  • sauerkraut: cabbage, water and salt, simple and effective like German industrial planning (actually present in many cultures, like Russia and China, full of the good stuff, vitamins A, C, K and B). Note: store-bought ones might taste like the real thing but ain't got the real thing in them: the live probiotics! Opt for biologically fermented sauerkraut, i.e. buy it from yer local marketplace or make your own (it's simple, believe me);
  • kovászos uborka: honouring my (Tamás here) home country, pickled cucumbers in a jar with some salt, water and sourdough bread (for the bacteria that makes it ferment) chucked in, sat on a windowsill (the sun makes it come alive! it's alive!!)

Rice & po-tay-toes as Samwise Gamgee would put it

#2. Foods that soothe the stomach

They once used to say that you should only eat certain plain foods after vomiting, there was even an anagram for it: BRAT, as in: bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast (plus plain salty crackers). Important note: BRAT is not recommended anymore, there is no scientific evidence to support that all or any of these actually work.... in practice, however, eating plain, bland, carby-starchy-mildly salty food has helped us after vomiting - combined with lots of water! Here's an incomplete list:
  • toast: make sure it's vegan plz (for a list ingredients that vegans don't eat, check here plz);
  • dry crackers: same as the above, no eggs, egg powder, dairy, whey, etc.
  • steamed or cooked potatoes: yumm + they are actually healthier steamed and cooled than boiled or cooked;
  • cooked rice: a classic.

Note: bread an pasta are a nicht-nicht. Oily foods also. No alcohol or coffee or anything acidy for that matter. And once again: lots and lots of water - which brings us to our next point!

#3. Hydration: Water with Electrolytes

In SE Asia, they sometimes they put electrolytes in bottled water - for a good reason. Lucozade is particularly good in this regard. Tanbay got really dehydrated when he has the shits, he actually had to see a doctor and she really told me off for not making him drink. Here are some other bottled water brands that might help (though electrolyte water will be sold under various names in different countries and regions):
  • Essentia Water
  • AquaHydrate
  • Vita Coco
  • CORE Hydration

Just ask around in the shop or look for alkaline / electrolite water when looking at the bottles. You can also get electrolyte pills or powders at the chemist that you can put into your tap water.

Ginger and herbal tea for an upset tummy :)

#4. Over-the-counter Medicine

There's a whole list of medicine and pharmaceuticals you can buy, here's a list. To be frank, we're not a big fan of medicine in the form of pills and tablets, unless they are absolutely necessary. We do recommend going with the most natural stuff you can opt for: vitamins, especially vitamins B and D. Also, over-the-counter probiotics like Normaflore and other probiotic supplements... or you could just have your daily kimchi or sauerkraut instead.

#5. Sleep, Nap, Rest

You probably won't be able to get up and do stuff anyway, being bed-ridden is part of the thing... so go easy on yourself, sleep, nap, eat, and of course, vomit and shit when you feel like it. Have a bottle of water nearby at all times and maybe a bucket or a pot in case you don't have enough time to run to the loo. Maybe a friend who sits there and hold your hair as your hurl. Bonding moments. Yum.

Wrap Up: Gut Health Whilst Travelling

Ultimately, my conclusion is that I went to SE Asia twice, I got food poisoning twice, so I decided that when I go to a place next time where I can't necessarily drink the water I'll just research it more. Also, this was before I knew about sauerkraut and kefir, kimchi and other fermented stuff. Here is a wonderful TEDx talk about gut health and the gut micro-biome in case you're interested in the science behind it:

P.S.: If you're interested in a way of travelling and getting accommodation cheaply, you might wanna check out our posts on housesitting. was kind enough to provide us and our readers with a 10% discount, (click to use discount :)

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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