7 Tips to Avoid Delhi Belly in India

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Anyone and everyone who has travelled to India will know just how inevitable it is that you will at some point during your travels get an upset stomach. It’s a fact of travel there and there isn’t much you can do to avoid it. However I’ve compiled a little list of the best tips you can adopt to try and avoid the dreaded Delhi belly.

Disclaimer: yes we still got the sh*ts. It’s India. 

1. Go veggie, ease into meat.

This is the big tip that we decided to follow as soon as we arrived in India. We are both big into meat but decided that while we got used to the richness and spice of the food we would give our stomachs a chance and stick to veggie food. India is the perfect place for vegetarians as a lot of people are veggie. It’s very well catered for with a lot of restaurants sticking to ‘pure veg’.

During our time as veggies we really didn’t miss meat too much. Indian curries are rich and use a lot of lentils, chickpeas and curd like paneer to add protein. If you’re worried about protein intake make sure you pick curries with lentils like Dal, or go for paneer. You can also get your protein fix from drinking thick milkshakes or lassi. Our lassi of choice was banana but there are loads of flavours to choose from.

 

2. Choose street food wisely

This is the one tip we didn’t follow that we think contributed to our ultimate Delhi belly. One day we decided to take the plunge and try street food. We chose a vendor that made an amazing fried potato cake covered in a deliciously sweet and spicy chick pea curry. It was heaven. It was only 20 rupees. We were amazed. How had we been in India almost 4 weeks without trying this? It would save our budget, it was better than lots of curries we’d had in restaurants.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case in India, we had gotten cocky. We went rogue and ended up trying street food that even Indians will only eat when they’re constipated. We should have known. The guy was using his hands and dipping the potato shell into a vat of liquid. He had probably been doing that all day. When we told our new friends later on what we had tried, they laughed so much. The next day Delhi belly was upon me. The moral of this story? Use common sense!

 

3. Avoid heat exhaustion

Now usually you expect to get a dodgy stomach from the food but don’t underestimate the impact heat exhaustion can have on your digestive system. We speak from experience when on our third night in Kerala Ben suddenly got up in the middle of the night puking and more with a pounding head. Ben and I both had the exact same thing to eat and I was fine. We realised that we hadn’t drank nearly enough water that day. There are simple steps to take to avoid heat exhaustion:

  • stay hydrated
  • avoid sunburn
  • cover up in loose clothing
  • take breaks from the sun and stay in the shade.

If you’re not careful heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke. If you think you have heat exhaustion make sure you drink plenty of fluids and seek medical help if it’s not getting any better.

 

4. Drink bottled drinking water

Now of course drinking water is all well and good but you need to make sure the water itself isn’t going to give you a dodgy stomach! Make sure you only drink bottled water or water that has been treated to be drinkable. Remember that Indians are used to their tap water so don’t be surprised if you see them slurping away. You are likely to have a very different reaction to them!

Whenever you buy bottled water check the seal on the bottle as some people may refill bottles with tap water and sell it as new. A lot of bottled water has plastic wrapping round the opening which is an extra indication that it’s not been tampered with. But don’t worry about having this seal as not all companies have it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use any tap water at all. We’ve still used tap water to brush our teeth everyday. A little bit is actually good for you. You can build up a bit of resistance and the tiny amount of water on the toothbrush is not going to send you into full on stomach turmoil.

 

5. Take a break

If you want that McDonalds you go for it. If you’re not used to having curry for every meal every day at home then it’s obviously going to be the same case in India. We’ve had a few periods where we’ve given ourself a complete break from Indian food. By the time we’re ready to go back to it it tastes even better. There’s no shame in wanting a taste of home. We walked around in the heat on three separate days to find a European restaurant. If your stomach isn’t used to rich food then let it have something more bland. If you’re having a dodgy stomach you might also want to stick to things like plain bread and rice just to get your digestive system back into balance.

McDonalds

6. Be prepared

When you go to India try to be a little bit prepared with a stock of diarrhoea tablets. If you have a long journey to take you’ll definitely need something to block it all up for a while. Make sure you drink a lot of water with these tablets. Another useful thing we took with us was toilet wipes. You might really enjoy the little butt shower that most Indian toilets have but if you’re feeling crappy and don’t want to be adventurous then wipes can be really good.

Delhi belly is not only caused by food and water. You can also easily get stomach bugs, particularly if you’re travelling on crowded transport. To help avoid the germs pack a good hand sanitiser. Always remember to wash hands, particularly after touching animals! They could be carrying all kinds of parasites that can make you very ill.

goat

 

7. Accept that Delhi belly is inevitable

You could take all the precautions in the world but you could still get Delhi belly. It might not be the best experience of your time in India, stuck to a toilet staring at the bathroom wall. But embrace it. Have a sense of humour. Laugh about the funny and slightly icky toilet stories you’lll have. At the end of the day you’re travelling to India to get the full Indian experience. You will try street food, you will travel in packed trains, people will sneeze near you, you may want to try a chicken curry. Do it.

Elephant poop

Trust me, a trip to India would not be complete without a good ol’ bout of Delhi belly!

 

Save this post to Pinterest by clicking on the graphic below!

 

Have you ever experienced the joy of Delhi belly? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Learning to Love India

North v South of India: The Main Differences

Body Boarding, Coffee and Shopping in Varkala

Kathakali & Indian Dance in Kerala

Spice Garden Tours in Kerala

Trekking the Tea Fields in Munnar

Periyar Tiger Reserve: Hiking and Bamboo Rafting

 

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17 Comments

  1. March 19, 2017 / 6:58 pm

    I am a pescatarian, so Indian vegetarian food is perfect to me. In general, I prefer a lot of fruits and vegetables to eat. When travelling, fresh fruit is great against dehydration and potential digestion issues. Anyway, you have summarised 7 great tips to stick with while traveling India!

    • Sarah
      March 19, 2017 / 7:00 pm

      Yes another great tip! We went a bit OTT on the fruit one day which also messed up our digestive systems! But a little bit is great for you especially for a sugar boost or extra fibre

  2. March 20, 2017 / 12:56 am

    I got Delhi belly despite taking all the precautions. It helped, though, that I was travelling with Cipro (an antibiotic) that my doctor back home had prescribed before the trip; starting on the Cipro at the first sign of gastrointestinal distress helped make the episode short-lived. Also, it’s important to know that hydration isn’t just about drinking water — it’s important to get electrolytes. At home I would use Gatorade or coconut water. Where those aren’t available, even something like fruit juice (from a bottle) is better for staying hydrated than just water. You can also travel with dissolvable hydration salts, which you can easily order online, which you dissolve in bottled water.

  3. March 20, 2017 / 1:50 am

    While I haven’t been to India yet I have succumbed many times to the belly, particularly in Asia. So I now generally go vego while travelling through Asia now. I would avoid dairy too though to be honest, especially after the fact. That can make the belly worse. It’s hard to avoid that tempting street food! Hope you have recovered okay!

  4. March 20, 2017 / 3:57 am

    Being vegetarian helps. Also the choice of eateries is very important. Street food though tasting great may lead to undesired consequences. Probably it is best to check with locals who one can trust to get pointers on where to eat.

    • Sarah
      March 20, 2017 / 7:24 am

      Yeah the first time we tried street food that vendor had been recommended to us and we were fine. When we picked randomly we got into trouble!!!

  5. March 20, 2017 / 4:45 am

    So, no matter what you do, you’re going to get it? Well, we did in central India, but I have to say southern India treated us better. I don’t know why. Good tips, though, especially staying hydrated and avoiding heat exhaustion.

    • Sarah
      March 20, 2017 / 7:22 am

      We only got sick in the north. South we were absolutely fine! I think it had something to do with hygiene in big cities as in the south we stuck to small villages and towns

  6. March 20, 2017 / 10:34 am

    I can understand why getting Delhi belly in India feel like a right of passage, but I think I’ll follow your tips and give it a miss! Wet wipes, hand sanitizer and vegetables seem like the safest option!

    • Sarah
      March 20, 2017 / 10:40 am

      Yeah you should try your best to, it’s not fun at the time (funny to look back at). But don’t let the fear of it stop you from enjoying everything india has to offer!

  7. March 20, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    Great post! It gave me the idea to write something similar about Mexico…it goes by a different name but it’s all the same-terrible!

    • Sarah
      March 20, 2017 / 5:05 pm

      What’s the name? It’s so annoying especially when there’s so much amazing food but our stomachs can’t handle it 💔 thanks!

  8. March 21, 2017 / 1:59 am

    Ah, yep, been there, done that, got the badge. I also suffered terrible heat exhaustion which was hideous and actually ended up in hospital when I returned to NZ! Awful, awful time. Most of our group was struck at some point with a dodgy tummy. Number 1 – 100% agree. I would recommend everyone go vegetarian. As for McDs’, I had it once but was also wary about the burger because of the lettuce and what kind of water it might have been washed in too…I think I picked the lettuce out of my burger. We had to check bottled water was sealed and actually we drank a lot of coke on the advice of someone who had been there for a while saying that coke is so bad for you that it will kill off any bugs ha ha!

    • Sarah
      March 21, 2017 / 3:04 am

      Yes Coke is actually a really good tip! When we’ve had dodgy stomachs we alternated between Coke & water. We never seemed to have any issues with the lettuce. I’m not 100% sure but I imagine McDonald’s have everything washed properly probably before it even gets to the restaurant.
      Oh poor you, we’re lucky it hasn’t gone that far I’ve heard a lot of similar stories!

  9. March 21, 2017 / 5:50 am

    Good to take precautions. But Delhi Belly always finds a way to get into your system.

    • Sarah
      March 21, 2017 / 5:59 am

      Agreed! If you can hold it off long enough to get some resistance all the better though!

  10. March 21, 2017 / 10:28 am

    As someone who just got to India I can say that this is perfect advice! Drinking bottled water (and ALL THE TIME) is key. But no mater what you do just accept that it’ll come at some point but then you’ll be great!

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