I’ve been there. In Uyuni, Bolivia. One of the smallest, baron towns you travel through within the Americas. To suddenly be hit by Viral Gastritis.

Most likely from a dogey piece of food in La Paz market. Uyuni didn’t even have a pharmacy.

Preparing for war

I locked it down. Found the nicest accommodation I could Hotel Los Girasoles and prepared for war. Telling myself I can get through this. I did. But, I dragged it out for three gruelling days rather than 12 – 24 hours had I known the below tips / strategy. It was my first experience years ago. Travelling solo and getting the ye olde food poisoning bug.

I was in a third world country and not in the comfort of a 5-star hotel or easy-peasy England. I’ve had a fair few more instances since then. I’ve also been with a fair few other travellers as it’s happened to them. These tips are learnings from myself and advice from others whilst on the nomad road. The steps are a little challenging, especially if you have a fear of being sick, but they do work.

Let me just state

I’m a simple northern lad from the north east of England that lives a nomad travel life from a back pack. I am not a medical professional. These tips are purely from my own experience and what has helped me in the past when I know I’ve got a stomach bug. Always seek out medical help whenever you are ill in foreign countries.

How I get rid of food poisoning effectively when travelling

Travel with these helpful aids and preventions

1. Charcoal tablets

I was never a believer in these until I began to try them. Through trial and error, I’ve found they really do work. But you have to catch the stomach upset / bacteria early on. They help absorb the bacteria and place a solid lining over your stomach.

As soon as you feel a little weary or your stomach begins to feel a little strange after a meal or a sceptical place. Get two down you. Once you start being sick or you’re in the foetal position close to beginning, it’s to late. You’ll take them but vomit them back up. Regardless they’re worth the try. I get mine, which I was recommended because of their high quality, from here. Check out the reviews.

2. Electrolyte powder

I go into more detail on why this is a great product to carry when travelling below. Not just for stomach bugs but also for health in general when in hot climates’ and exercising.

Ultimately, your body cannot re-hydrate during and after a case of sickness without these. They are just as essential to take as water. I get mine from here. One bag lasts me approximately a year of travelling. And I consume them almost daily when exercising in hot countries to achieve better performance.

3. PeptoBismol

You can pick this up from anywhere. This will help stop your stomach from going into spasms after being repeatedly sick. Often muscles around your abdomen will spasms and contract making you feel and be sick. When you actually don’t need to be. Sometimes it’s purely a post sickness reaction that you can’t stop for a while. PeptoBismol will help stop this and help aid nausea.

4. Green and Camomile tea

Both contain anti-inflammatory, soothing properties that aid your stomach after vomiting. Chamomile specifically is very soothing. Green tea also helps restore the healthy bacteria in your gut. Which has essentially been totally ejected from your body.

5. Brown Casta Sugar or natural Caco Sugar

Simple glucose to add to water to help replenish your stores after being sick. To give you energy and help keep fatigue at bay until you can hold food down.

6. BCAA tablets (if you’re a fitness nut like me)

These aren’t essential but if you’re worried about loosing all that hard earned muscle through lack of nutrition intake for a couple of days. These can help prevent it. Your body is a clever machine and will turn to break down muscle protein for energy if it feels it needs to in periods of fasting. 12 hours vomiting without food intake won’t make to much of a difference. But once you start getting into days of not in taking adequate nutrition your body will break down muscle.

BCAA are the foundations of protein synthesis and muscle building. The body can’t produce these and so they must be ingested from food/supps. It’s often difficult to find adequate sources of nutrition to supply your body with the required levels of BCAA for maintaining and increasing fitness whilst travelling. Having these little gems helps with that. Grab them here

I wrote a more detailed post on the affects of a stomach bug with regards to fitness and what to expect here (coming soon)

7. Glutamine tablets (if you’re a fitness nut like me)

As stated above the same applies here. Taking these supps aids in reducing muscle breakdown and improves protein metabolism. Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in your muscles—over 61% of skeletal muscle is Glutamine thus it’s essential to meet your body’s demand for it. Grab them here

I wrote a more detailed post on the affects of a stomach bug with regards to fitness and what to expect here (coming soon)

How I get rid of food poisoning effectively when travelling

It’s not just about gulping water, understanding the simple science

Your body or more specifically your body’s cells cannot in take fluid without having an imbalance of salts to do so. When you have sickness and diarrhoea you not only loose the fluids and food in your stomach. But also salts and healthy bacteria that you gain from eating those foods. The bacteria play one role but the salts are key for hydration and balance throughout your body.

Allowing your body to ingest salts (electrolytes) means your body’s cells are negatively balanced after absorbing them. Which means they will then draw in fluid. They will draw in water that you’ve depleted from your system through vomiting. Without salts (electrolytes your cells aren’t unbalanced and can’t draw in water effectively. Meaning the water, you drink keeps passing through your system when vomiting without being absorbed. Think of the salts acting like a sponge with the water.

I always travel with these salts. For exercise or hard trekking and also for times of fluid loss through sickness.

The steps to take

Just to re-iterate this is solely from my personal experience, I’m no medic.

These steps can help you shorten a 3 day vomiting, feeling sick, dragged-on-upset-stomach experience to a 12 hour spell. You are going to need to help your body be sick by sticking your hands down your throat. And you are going to need to push yourself to be sick in intervals rather than wait for your body. Which can drag it on. Digging a little deep. Mentally telling yourself you are going to get this out quickly and effectively will help.

Step 1. Pop these

As soon as you feel it coming on or it begins, take two charcoal tablets. I get mine, which I was recommended because of their high quality, from here. If you’ve caught it early enough they can help stop the bacteria, absorbing it and coat your stomach lining. If it’s too late you’ll just vomit black for a little bit. but it’s worth a shot.

I’ve had it before where it’s begun for me and my girlfriend has immediately taken them assuming she’ll also get it. It prevented the sickness for her and the toilet situation was much lighter. She still felt ill but the symptoms weren’t half as bad. It’s also happened vice versa where I’ve taken them earlier than she has. I didn’t get the full sickness that she did. I was never a believer in charcoal tablets. After some trial and error, I am now.

Step 2. Get these items

(If you haven’t already got them.) Whilst you can still muster energy to walk. Go buy some: Electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade of pharmacy grade ones; Electrolyte powder or salt sachets; Sugary drinks such as concentrated mango or apple juice (not too acidic); Bread and jam; Lots of bottled water.

Step 3. Be sick, breathe, be sick, breathe

Once you begin vomiting you’re going to need to help your body reach deep and get it out. The bacteria are sitting all over your stomach lining right down to the last bit of food that’s in there. The quicker you can flush your entire stomach out, the quicker you’ll flush out the bacteria that’s causing the sickness. Whilst your body fights what’s left.

After every vomit breathe for a second. Then stick your fingers down your throat to force your stomach to bring up more. Repeat this 5 or 6 times if you can. Really reach deep to bring it all up. If you leave your body to vomit on its own you may only get two spells out and drag out the vomiting. Stop after 5 or 6 big vomiting spells.

Step 4. Intake water, salts and sugar

It’s time for a 5 – 15 min break. Grab:

  • 2 mouth fills of water on its own
  • 1 mouth full with salts in
  • 1 mouth full of the sugary drink.
  • 1 BCAA tablet (not essential as stated above the reason why I do)
  • 1 Glutamine tablet (not essential as stated above the reason why I do)

Sit and chill for between 5 – 15 min. Your body will intake a small amount of the above to help replenish.

Step 5. Repeat

You need to carry on a get out everything in your stomach, right down to the bile. Either by 15 min you’ll be feeling slightly sick again or if you managed to get everything out in the first round you’ll be feeling ok. Perhaps don’t need to repeat.

In my experience I’ve needed to repeat steps 3 and 4, three times to really get everything out. Get your head back over the toilet and get your fingers down your throat again. It’s going to need a few goes to begin the process of vomiting again but it will come. Repeat the steps 3 and 4 until you really feel you’ve vomited deep and got everything out.

Step 6. Don’t make your stomach go into spasm

After three or four cycles of steps 3 and 4 your stomach muscles are going to be going crazy. At this point it’s best to stop and relax and listen to your body. If you keep pushing it your stomach will begin to spasm. Making you feel sick / want to be sick even if you don’t need to be anymore. It’s a delicate balance or getting the bad stuff out and not over doing it. At this stage I would normally take some PeptoBismol 10 min after finishing the final round on step 4. It will help settle your stomach.

If you start to feel sick, or you are sick again. Repeat steps 3 and 4 two more times. Again it’s about balance. Pushing it but not so far that you put your stomach into spasm.

Step 7. Recuperate essential nutrition

Hopefully after a few hours of hell the sickness has stopped. Your body is most likely still going to be battling bad bacteria for a day or two but perhaps it’s not needing you to vomit it out. Now’s the time to slowly begin in taking essential nutrition. Every 30 mins continue to intake:

  • 2 mouth fills of water on its own
  • 1 mouth full with salts in
  • 1 mouth full of the sugary drink.

Once you’ve had a many hours watching Netflix and keeping this down. it’s great signs. But not signs that you should go destroy a pizza or a bowl of spaghetti which is probably what you’re craving.

Step 8. Recovery

For the first two days keep your foods simple and healthy to replenish lost vitamins and minerals. Resist the urge to binge on comfort food that’s heavy. Good foods are:

  • Ginger, honey and Lemon tea: Helps cleanse and detox remaining toxins or bacteria. Anti inflammatory for your stomach and easy energy from honey.
  • Rice: Simple glucose and energy.
  • Natural yoghurt: Help replenish healthy bacteria.
  • Egg white: Build your protein stores backup to help your body re-store and rebuild cells.
  • Banana: Magnesium and potassium for salts and simple sugars for energy.
  • Brown bread with butter and jam: Energy, easily digestible carbs and essential fatty acids.

Listen up

Let me just state again. I’m a simple northern lad from the north east of England that lives a nomad travel life from a back pack. I am not a medical professional. These tips are purely from my own experience. They have helped me in the past when I know I’ve got a stomach bug. Always seek out medical help whenever you are ill in foreign countries.

Know any other remedies or have any other tips for travel stomach bugs. Leave a comment below and I’ll add you to the list in this post. Healthy travels!

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TRX Traveller

Travel with Fitness Blogger permanently backpacking the world. TRX/bands/bodyweight expert | Travel & home workouts. Sharing EPIC destinations, functional fitness & nutrition tips.

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