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‘If you go into India thinking you are going to be ill, you’re half way there.’ My famous words at the very start of my trip to India starting off in Mumbai.
Whilst I still stick to this and I definitely believe that if you arrive in India worried that you’re going to get Delhi Belly, if being sick is all you think about and you avoid foods and drinks because of it, you are sure to get ill – you’re practically manifesting it!
However my positive thoughts of not getting ill decided to defy me after one month of being in India!
I guess you’re reading this because you have just got Delhi Belly, Food Poisoning, Travellers Diarrhoea in India, or you want to avoid it (or you’re just curious), so I’m going to tell you my story which you’ll probably be able to relate to and tell you how I eventually managed to cure it. And I got it pretty bad!
Important Side Note: I’m not a trained expert but Emily from Along Dusty Roads is and she has written this great post on how to deal with travellers diarrhoea.
It started one month into my trip around India and in Delhi, hilariously! After a day in Delhi my friend text me the next morning to say her boyfriend had been up all night ill, we couldn’t work out what from as we’d all eaten and drank the same thing and we felt totally fine! He stayed in my bedroom all day as they had had to check out ready to get an overnight train to Varanasi. Thankfully after some tablets we’d got from the pharmacy, sleep and electrolytes he did manage it onto the train and within a few days he was better.
I arrived in Amritsar the day after, ate a few bits of street food thinking I’m invincible and then the cramps hit in the middle of the night – oh no! What was worse is that I hated my accommodation, my room and the bathroom even more but I was happy that I at least did decide to go for a private room with private bathroom because I definitely used it enough. I was sick a few times in one go which made me feel a lot better and the rest was liquid filtering out of me.. at the other end (TMI I know but you’re probably going through it too soo no judgement!).
The next day I let myself stay in bed, cancelling my plans to see the Golden Temple but knowing I had to go out that evening to the Wagah Border otherwise I would miss my chance as I was leaving the next day.
I re-hydrated with electrolytes from a sachet which I always recommend having a few sachets of in your bag, do not wait until you get ill to get them, they are so cheap to get in pharmacies in India. If you don’t have any, head out to a pharmacy or ask someone to get some for you as soon as possible (staff and other people in hostels are generally happy to help out when you are ill) , add the powder to a bottle of water and slowly drink it.
I also had some charcoal tablets in my bag. I’ve liked taking charcoal tablets for travellers diarrhoea or just a bit of an upset tummy in the past because instead of blocking the flow it binds and absorb the bacteria responsible.
I’m not a medical expert but in my experience of travellers diarrhoea I think it’s best to let whatever has upset your body leave your body rather than taking immodium etc to stop it. With that being said if you have a journey coming up or something on where you’ll be away from a toilet, do have diarrhoea tablets on hand to stop it!
I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway and trying to fast I knew was a good cure to travellers diarrhoea and when you do want to and need to eat, avoid eating anything that could not be cooked properly, avoid dairy and definitely avoid spice!
Plain rice is a good option, I’ve tended to like having french fries in the past as they are safe, anything fried is essentially safe although not that healthy. As a snack when I’m hungry but can’t actually eat I find plain biscuits are good like digestive’s and they can be found in India shops, even the smaller shops.
Bitter foods are good too like broccoli so plain rice and steamed veg works well.
Most of all it’s important to stay hydrated- Water and also bitter drinks. Ginger and Lemon tea is pretty much perfect as it’s good for digestion anyway and will be so even more now, Ginger and Lemon tea is very popular in India so I had a glass or two of this.
I battled through that day, and the next, plus having a 5 hour bus journey, I was getting better, or so I thought!
I ate carefully the next day including just a Lassi for dinner as recommended by this post for an Ayurvedic approach to diarrhoea as a probiotic. I felt better the next day and ate normally – 3 standard meals including Thali for dinner which actually had quite a few spices. I was soo hungry and ate a lot of it but that didn’t make my tummy very happy!
Up until this point I hadn’t taken any antibiotics as it felt like it was a one night / 24 hour thing, I didn’t want to dose my body with tablets if I was getting better.
In hind sight and if I get this again, I’d get some antibiotics straight away as it wasn’t worth how I felt next, and this was 4 days after I was first sick.
I woke up in the night and it felt like everything I had consumer recently came out, until there was no more, but then I had a sip of water, and that came out too, then I needed electrolytes so I made myself a bottle of this in the middle of the night, and that came out too, this was the worse it had been!
Thankfully I was staying in the Mountains of Dharamsala in North India in a lovely hotel in Mcleod Ganj which had a cafe onsite so after staying in bed after my alarm had gone off (the alarm I had set with full intentions of waking up that morning and going out to explore), I made my way to the cafe upstairs.
This day was bad, I had a Lassi which didn’t help and I laid in bed all day in the fetal position. It was crazy that I had first gotten ill in Amritsar 4 nights before, I got better, and then got ill again!
What was even crazier is that my friend’s boyfriend was better, but she was now ill, with the exact same thing as me. One minute feeling ok and then feeling bad again. I guess Delhi Belly had got us and it seemed our illnesses all stemmed from Delhi but hit at different times!
I read and I napped, I fasted all day apart from some plain biscuits and I struggled down a small amount of plain rice that night and another Ginger and Lemon tea. I felt like I’d either done the hardest workout ever or been beaten up badly, I was so achy with no energy because I had nothing inside me and had been drinking limited amounts too and I wondered if I would ever get better?!
I took some homeopathic medicine for food poisoning which was given to me by the hotel owner, I still didn’t want any tablets that were too strong. I took those that night and didn’t get up all night!
I woke up feeling amazing, these tablets were a miracle although they came in an unknown box so I can’t give you the name. I ate carefully, more carefully than the days before- porridge, a toasted vegetable sandwich, plain rice and steamed vegetables even though I was starving and wanted so much more.
‘I’m feeling so much better’ I announced on my Instagram making plans for the next few days so I could finally see the area and doing yoga for an hour, I felt great!
But oh no, I woke in the early hours of the morning stomach groaning and had to head back to the toilet – what the hell is going on I thought? Getting up that morning meant it was 1 week since the night I got sick in Amritsar, is it normal to have food poisoning for one week??
This is when I knew I needed stronger tablets, I went to the pharmacy and he gave me Ofloxacin & Ornidazole Tablets which my friend was also given and I was given by another pharmacy in my next location so these must be the best tablets for travellers diarrhoea, at least in India anyway!
A quick google search and a look on Wikipedia tells me these are: an antibiotic useful for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections. When taken by mouth or injection into a vein this includes pneumonia, cellulitis, urinary tract infections, prostatitis, plague and certain types of infectious diarrhea…intense but at least they worked!
He also gave me Prebiotic & Probiotic Capsules. I took one tablet from each packet twice a day until I finished them.
These made me feel so much better after just 1 day, and after 2-3 days I felt back to normal.
I finished them after 5 days and I had a bad stomach the day after again, this could have been coincidence but I felt to be safe and to not let this continue to stop my travels, I bought another set of each tablet and the pharmacist gave me the same without me asking, so again, this must be popular treatments for Delhi Belly! I had now moved to Rishikesh and was keen to get back on with my life!
I’m writing this over 2 weeks later and feel totally better thankfully!
I was just so surprised how long it stayed for although travelers diarrhoea is known to last 7-10 days apparently which is very inconvenient for us and not nice!
I hope I don’t get this again in a rush but if I do I will take the antibiotics straight away this time, it’s nice to try to treat it naturally but I still ended up feeling so bad for so long. I will however still be careful with what I eat, not rushing to eat as soon as I feel better. And when I am ill I will try fasting or just eating plain rice and Ginger & Lemon Tea!
Later on in my trip to India I ended up with bad stomach again and after going to a hospital I actually had a Parasite so going forward I will definitely go and see a doctor if the sickness / Diarrhoea continues for a few days to get a stool sample taken for a parasite and some blood tests incase it is anything worse than just a bit of Delhi Belly.
I hope this helps you know what to do and lets you know you are not the only person who gets ill. Head to a pharmacy as soon as possible and if you feel you have to, go to a doctor too!
Going to a Doctor in India is also why Travel Insurance is needed! If you are about to come to India (or go travelling anywhere else), or even if you’re in India with no insurance, look into WorldNomad’s. I’m covered by them and they can cover you even if you have left home for your trip already!
For more of my posts on India see:
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
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