I got a serious case of Bali Belly on my first long visit to Bali. Bali Belly is the same as Montezuma’s Revenge — it’s traveler’s diarrhea and it isn’t fun (when is diarrhea?). So I set out to ensure it never happens again. Below is the process I now follow to ensure I don’t suffer it again. I’ve tested the procedure once so far and it worked.
First Step: Gut Prep
Add to your daily diet plenty of yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics that help with digestion. I’ve recently started experimenting with fermentation and making my own sauerkraut and kimchi and have really been enjoying it and they taste great!
Another thing you can do to help your gut flora is to take probiotic supplements. A week before I travel to Bali, I’ll boost my flora with GNC’s Ultra Probiotic Complex 100. They’re freeze-dried and don’t require refrigeration, which is good because I take them with me and the week following my arrival, I’ll continue taking them.
Second Step: Avoid
This one should be obvious — do what you can to avoid eating contaminated food and water. Stick with bottled water as much as possible and be cautious of what you eat. Refrigeration isn’t always used where I go, so food sits out on the counter top until it’s ready to be re-heated and served. The locals have a gut flora that’s developed a tolerance for this but traveler’s haven’t.
Third Step: Containment
You’ll eat something that won’t agree with you. It’s inevitable. I take the following with me when I travel now:
The charcoal tablets will theoretically absorb any toxins from your gut. Even if that doesn’t really happen, the charcoal helps firms things up, so to speak, which helps. If I think I’ve eaten something sketchy, I’ll pop a couple charcoal tabs as a precaution. The pharmacist did warn me to not take other meds within a couple hours, just in case they get absorbed by the charcoal.
Also remember to stay well hydrated. It’s easy to get dehydrated in a hot climate with diarrhea.
Final Step: Recovery
I had Bali Belly for three weeks while I tried various home-remedies to fix it, including homemade ginger tea, loads of yogurt, etc. Here’s what finally worked: a big fat steak with tons of garlic using this recipe.
My gut takes a bit longer to digest steak, so it slows things down a bit, giving the garlic some time to kill bad bacteria (garlic is anti-bacterial). I then had garlic for every single meal for three days to carpet bomb my gut. After three days I started adding fermented foods to my diet and for the first time, things were looking much better.
Just remember to Prep, Avoid, and Contain and hopefully you won’t need to Recover!
Let me know if you have have tried-and-true methods for avoiding traveler’s diarrhea.