Westerners should beware of the Bali Belly

As a Westerner I have had many experiences traveling to foreign lands and grateful for every time I have been able to get a new stamp in my passport. I am sure many of you feel the same way, however sometimes travel isn't always as glamorous as all the photos, instagram and facebook posts are showing. That is why I am here to get real with you about the nutritional aspect of travel. What I am now calling the Bali belly and how to avoid feeling sick whilst traveling in Southeast Asia or any foreign country. 

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Are you one of those travelers who have traveled overseas and find yourself a bit sick to your stomach? Looking for the closest toilet that you can find? Are you not sure why or how you got to feeling this way? Well, one piece of advice I have for you is that you should not eat food off the streets in Southeast Asia if you 1. have a sensitive stomach or 2. not too sure how long that food has been sitting there. I am not here to tell you what to do, but sharing my own experience with you whilst in Southeast Asia in the past few weeks. I also highly recommend drinking bottles water in all countries you visit. I even would go as far as using bottled water to brush your teeth. I made the mistake of not using bottled water to brush my teeth and that very well may have made my stomach even more sensitive. I drank plenty of bottled water, but you know when the locals are not even drinking tap water, than it is best to stick with what the locals do, which is potable drinking water, from a bottle. 

While in Bali the chicken satay looked oh so tasty, but the after effects of eating chicken satay isn't one I would wish on anybody.

Now, mind you I have had a sensitive stomach for many years now, going on eight years, however to avoid making matters worse, try to do your best to avoid 'street food,' at all costs. I am not telling you something you may not already know. I am not about you not supporting the street vendors or make a living selling food on the side of the street, however I share this story for your best interests. 

After looking up parasites on the world wide web, and what sounds like scenes from a movie, you realize that eating street eats is not the smartest endeavor. When hungry you don't always stop to think, oh right, this chicken may have been sitting out in the open air for hours, exposing the meat to all sorts of bacteria, that as a Westerner we may not be familar with, nor want to become familiar with.

The standard for food preparation in many parts of the world is a lot stricter than other parts, including parts of Southeast Asia. I will say I am not here to put down or knock Asia's way of doing things, but sometimes we as Westerners are just not cut out for what we may face, which inclues food preparations overseas and non-potable drinking water. We truly are quite spoiled to have such amenities in North America and other parts of the world. Sometimes we take the fact we can drink from the tap for granted, although I am a big proponent of bottled water, regardless, specifically in glass bottles, not plastic, for the sake of the environment.

In regard to the food overseas, the oils being used may affect those who are sensitive like me, or even just the way they batter and fry the local cuisine. I managed to be daring and try some chicken satay at a roadside vendor as I really hadn't stopped to eat all day, and boy was I sorry and still paying for it. Jetlag continues to keep me wide awake, but the occasional stomach pain does too, which thankfully has been subsiding in the last few days. 

I am part of an amazing online networking travel group for female travelers and one of the ladies in the group, just posted about how she is alone on her first solo excursion in Nepal experiencing similar issues that I had in the last week. After two hospital visits, this young lady, was told she has a gastrointestinal infection, and the doctor at the second hospital gave her the precautionary measures that I am giving you right now. Stay away from street vendors, of course unless you have a stomach made of steel, and start off with very plain foods upon entry to a new land. Why do I suggest such boring recommendations? I do so for your own benefit and well being, as your digestive system may not be accustomed to the copious amount of fragrant spices, sauces and the like that come with food overseas. This also includes food borne illnesses.

When heading overseas, do yourself a favor, grab some probiotics, activated charcoal and drink lots of water during and after a long flight. If you are experiencing any specific intense pains in your digestive tract (stomach and abdominal area), go to your local hotel staff who will ensure you get taken to see medical help, as in the case of the gal I just wrote about, the diagnosis could turn into something much worse. Lastly, another thing to have on hand is grapefruit seed extract, or as I learned tonight, Australians have a specific product known as, 'travelers friend.' Whatever it is you use for upset stomachs, bring it with you on your travels. You won't be sorry, unless you eat the street food and end up like I did.