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Eating the local food is by far one of the greatest pleasures of traveling.
Yet, despite the appetizing foods and aromas of regional specialties, lurking in the background is the desire to avoid an upset stomach when traveling.
At Authentic Food Quest, we travel through food with the goal of showcasing local and authentic dishes. At times, this means eating on the streets, at local markets, and trying unusual foods.
Over the last eight years of traveling through local food experiences, we’ve learned how to keep our stomachs happy.
So far, we’ve been fortunate not to experience any major stomach problems after traveling or while on the road.
As you think about eating local specialties at your next destination, put any trepidation aside.
Here are our 10 simple, tried, and true tips to prepare you stomach for travel and prevent an upset stomach.
Have fun and eat local!
1. Get Travel Insurance
As you consider your travel plans, one thing you cannot leave home without is travel insurance.
Travel insurance is important for protecting you from unknown circumstances, including trip delays, accidental injury, and of course, gastrointestinal problems.
We have always used travel insurance on our travels, and it saved us on more than a few occasions.
From a chipped tooth to emergency root canal surgery, our travel insurance has been very useful when needed.
And when we don’t have to use it, it provides peace of mind knowing we are covered.
READ MORE: Check out our comprehensive travel insurance review including a detail comparison of HeyMondo and Safetywing.
2. Avoid Stomach Problems While Traveling with Activated Charcoal
Ever since we discovered Activated Charcoal, these pills have become an essential part of our packing gear.
Used all over the world, activated charcoal is a natural treatment used as an antidote for hundreds of poisons.
It works by absorbing poisons and toxins in the digestive tract, binding them together, and reducing their potency.
In South America, Southeast Asia, and Mexico, these “magical pills” have helped calm our upset stomachs while traveling.
We use activated charcoal preventatively before and after meals.
Every time we haven’t felt quite right after eating street food, popping two pills of Activated Charcoal calms things down.
These natural pills quickly neutralize poisons. They offer peace of mind and are essential for any food traveler.
3. Filter Water With Grayl
Accessibility to clean and potable water while traveling cannot always be guaranteed. In many parts of the world, enjoying clean drinking water is a luxury.
As you book your flights and accommodations, don’t forget to do some research about the drinking water situation.
You want to enjoy your trip, and the last thing you want is an upset stomach while traveling.
In Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Turkey, drinking tap water is not recommended.
To enjoy clean drinking water and keep us safe from any stomach problems, we use Grayl water bottles.
These ultralight purifier bottles allow you to easily make clean and purified drinking water. With one press and in under 15 seconds, water from virtually any source is easily made potable.
According to Grayl’s website, the water is purified against all types of viruses, chemicals, and heavy metals.
We use our Grayl water bottles regularly. From purifying water to cleaning vegetables, making coffee, or simply quenching our thirst, they are indispensable.
What we really like about them is that they are light and not fragile and don’t need to be hooked up to batteries to work.
Furthermore, you can enjoy clean drinking water without the waste of plastic bottles.
4. Prevent Stomach Problem with Colostrum
Stomach problems while traveling send shivers down our spines. We are culinary explorers, and our job is to find the best local food wherever we travel.
So as you can imagine, we can’t afford to get sick on the road. One of our greatest fears is succumbing to the dreaded traveler’s diarrhea from eating at local markets or street stalls.
Digestive problems and an attack on the GI system is no fun for any traveler.
Fortunately, we heard about Travelan and its alternative Colostrum from fellow travelers and were intrigued.
Colostrum can help with digestive health by promoting gut health and supporting digestion.
By keeping the gut healthy and reducing uncomfortable symptoms in the digestive tract, you can enjoy eating worry-free.
There’s no prescription needed for Colostrum or Travelan and you can buy it easily from Amazon.
RELATED: Read our full review about Preventing Traveler’s Diarrhea
5. Drink Lots of Water
Drinking lots of water regularly is sound advice to stay hydrated. It is also applicable to your overall health, including keeping your stomach healthy and helping the digestive system.
When the stomach lacks water, it makes the digestive function more difficult and less effective.
With good hydration and water intake, the stomach digests and absorbs nutrients more efficiently. This helps you stay regular and decreases the chances of getting an upset stomach.
We personally drink a LOT of water and always carry our refillable bottles with us. We like SIGG bottles which are aluminum, meaning light to carry and BPA-free.
For an easy test to know if you are drinking enough water, go to the bathroom. If your pee is clear or pale yellow, that’s good enough. If not, it’s time to drink more water.
6. Sip Using Reusable Bamboo Straws
Bamboo straws are our newest addition to our “keeping our stomachs safe” culinary kit.
In Thailand and Vietnam, we were astonished by the amount of waste caused by plastic straws.
Further, in Vietnam in particular, we were shocked by the way cups for water were shared amongst strangers.
If you are unsure about the cleanliness of a cup or glass, using straws becomes necessary.
Instead of using plastic straws, carrying your own reusable straws is an ecological way to go.
Your personal reusable bamboo straws will help avoid any stomach problems while traveling. The straws are easy to pack and come in a convenient carrying bag with a cleaning straw.
If you consider how much water you drink at every meal, carrying reusable bamboo straws makes perfect sense.
Not to mention, you’ll be drinking safely while taking care of the environment.
7. Use Sporks and Chopsticks to Prevent Upset Stomach While Traveling
You already know germs easily spread through food, but have you thought about the utensils used?
When traveling and enjoying local food, one can never be too certain about the level of hygiene.
Even though you may be ordering a hot dish, which kills the bacteria, the utensils provided may not be clean. And if you’re not prepared, you may be tempted to use the questionable cutlery.
Not knowing where we’ll eat and to prevent having an upset stomach while traveling, we always carry Sporks with us.
These handy fork and spoon combos with a serrated knife edge are easy to pack and convenient for traveling.
In addition to the sporks, we also carry bamboo chopsticks in our culinary tool kit. Depending on the dish, reusable bamboo chopsticks can work better than sporks.
These eating utensils have come in handy in unexpected ways. You’ll probably find the same too.
8. Take Probiotics
Probiotics are known to help with digestive health and overall gut health. Our stomachs contain trillions of friendly” bacteria that participate in maintaining healthy gut flora.
We seek out natural probiotics wherever we are traveling to. For instance, while in Bulgaria, we discovered Bulgarian yogurt, which is famous worldwide for its health and digestive properties.
In Turkey, Salgam is a fermented turnip juice known for its probiotic benefits. It’s an acquired taste and one we learned to appreciate for gut health.
If you cannot find probiotics in the local food on your travels, then probiotic supplements are a great alternative.
You can travel with probiotics tablets and use them as needed. One thing to pay attention to is the expiration date. Past the date, the supplements might not be effective anymore.
Probiotics are particularly effective in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
9. Wash Your Hands Frequently
One of the most important tips we have on how to prepare the stomach for travel is simple – hand washing.
It might sound like an obvious tip but, it’s not always something that we think about and do systematically.
Gastroenteritis, also called stomach flu is typically transmitted by hands and spreads quickly.
And the best way to stop and avoid this common stomach problem is to wash your hands thoroughly.
It is a simple gesture and should be top of mind when traveling for food at any destination.
At local eateries and street food vendors around the world, we now see vendors providing hand washing stations.
From Singapore to Mexico, you can safely enjoy your meal by washing your hands before and after eating.
10. Carry Hand Sanitizer
When there are no bathrooms and no washing stations, what do you do to keep your hands clean?
One of the best and easiest solutions is to use travel-size hand sanitizer.
If we learned anything from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that hand sanitizer is a new staple in our carry-ons.
It’s super useful to keep our hands clean when eating, taking public transportation, or shopping at a local store.
Easy to slide in a bag or pocket, this sanitizing solution can prevent tummy troubles.
To get to know the destination or the place you’re visiting, eating the local food is part of the experience.
Learning how to prepare your stomach for travel is important to allow you to fully enjoy the journey.
For us, food is about discovery. The flavors and local food experiences reveal unforgettable things about a destination.
Done safely, local food experiences will enrich your travel experiences. Use these tips and eat boldly on your next trip.
What are your tips for avoiding an upset stomach while traveling? Please let us know In the comments below.
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Disclosure: Please note, these tips are from our experience of traveling through food and should not be construed as medical advice. These tips are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with all matters regarding your health.
Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
Find out more about Authentic Food Quest