Travel Health

How to Cure Diarrhea Abroad

diarrhea guide

You’ve all faced it, you’ve all got your own home remedies for it. Just in case you need it, though, here’s the official Road Junky diarrhea survival guide. You can thank us later.

Just about every traveller who heads to the Third World ends up experiencing diarrhea. At first the whole subject is kind of embarrassing until you discover that in many countries it’s normal breakfast conversation to chat about your bowels.

Diarrhea is usually caused by bacteria coming from shit. It might be that the cook didn’t wash his hands properly in the kitchen or it could be that the water you drank was contaminated. There are as many different causes as there types of diarrhea.

You may end up with every kind of colour of shit coming out of you, even luminous green. Don’t worry, diarrhea is rarely a danger to your health unless you have amoebas – then get medical help.

How Not to Get Diarrhea

9 times out of 10 travelers get diarrhea because of something they eat or drink. In fact, in many parts of the world there’s no choice but to drink bottled water. Even the locals do it. The tap water may not only be contaminated but may also contain unhealthy amounts of heavy metals. You’ll be safe with sodas, tea and water that’s boiled for a few minutes.

At the same time drinking local water from good springs and wells can be recommended as that way you acquaint your body with the local antibodies to keep you healthy against infection. Mineral water that’s been bottled for months on a shelf isn’t a good long term substitute for local flowing water.

If you have to drink some dubious water than a few drops of iodine will make it safe. Again this is only a short term solution as you don’t want too much iodine to build up inside you.

Street food is notorious for giving travelers diarrhea. The food has often been sitting around for a long time and, in warm temperatures where there are many flies, all kinds of bacteria have time to multiply.

Never eat rice in a warm climate that’s been sitting around for more than a couple of hours. It’s a moist food and a particularly good host to bacteria that can cause diarrhea.

Only eat salad or fruits with peel if you’ve washed them well yourself. Parasites have no ability to hold on and so if you scrub your apple or lettuce well then it should be okay. Watch out for holes in the fruit though where some insect could have burrowed in carrying parasites.

Rice, oats and whole wheat bread will keep your bowels in good shape.

If the climate is cool or damp you’ll want to eat less raw food and more warming dishes like soup and ginger tea. Ginger in particular is a good remedy for both diarrhea and constipation.


The Ultimate Diarrhea Cure

Imodium will plug you up if you’re about to get on a bus or a plane but best to  only use it for emergencies.

The number one healthy cure for diarrhea though is rice and yogurt mixed together. In fact just ordering boiled rice and curd in India is enough to alert half the restaurant to the state of your bowels. Eat it three meals a day and nothing else and your troubles will soon be over.

Others prefer to go on a 24 hour fast. This is also good but make sure you drink plenty of water as diarrhea leaves you dehydrated.

Another hard-to-believe cure from the world of Chinese medicine is to put some salt in your belly button, cover it with a few strips of ginger (no, we’re not kidding!) and heat the area with a cigarette. This stimulates the spleen which will regulate everything else.

Once your bowels have calmed down a little it won’t hurt to eat a few raw cloves of garlic with your next bowl of rice.

Do not eat anything fried. Do not eat anything sweet.

If the diarrhea continues it means you may have amoebic dysentery. This can be serious, especially if you shit blood and that point you might want to consider antibiotics.