Which came first? The Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge or the Cairo Two-Step?
As part of my research into Indian food for our upcoming trip to India and Nepal, I came across a recent newspaper article about the discovery by British researchers of a vaccine “against the curse of the Delhi Belly”. Apparently, researchers from the University of Cambridge have come up with a single pill which will cure the diarrhea which so many travelers have to deal with, usually within the first week of their stay in a foreign country.
Traveler’s diarrhea is not a very entertaining subject, but it comes to the surface regularly when preparing for overseas travel. The disease rarely leads to serious health consequences, but the two or three days lost to that illness during a trip can quickly affect or even ruin a good part of your vacation. I find no comfort in the article stating that it affects more than 10 million people each year and up to half of all international travelers and that it is “most common in India and other tropical countries”. However, I frankly don’t recall ever getting traveler’s diarrhea, even though I have traveled all corners of the world many times and have lived more than four years in Mexico, where the illness is referred to as Montezuma’s Revenge, the Gringo Gallop, the Aztec Two-Step, etc… But I am getting older, so my immune system is probably not as strong as before, and it’s been a while since I’ve been to India; will it be different this time around?
Bloggers on the internet seem to indicate that the disease still affects a lot of people traveling to India. The several different names given to the illness, from Delhi or Bombay Belly to Gandhi’s Revenge, only attest to its reach across the sub-continent. It is not reassuring to read that the Delhi Belly was the first nickname for the traveler’s diarrhea to be mentioned in print, and that was in 1942, in reference to the diarrhea affecting Americans on duty overseas. I am not sure if that information is correct, as I would think even the Roman Legions, Mughal conquerors and Spanish Conquistadores had the same problems. I should probably read Marco Polo’s narrative to see if he encountered it on his travels to the east.
For our trip to India and Nepal, preventive measures seem to be the prudent course of action, recognizing the obvious fact that we can only reduce rather than eliminate the risk. Reading that one should be wary of handling the Indian currency itself, because of the germs the bills carry, almost makes one want to walk around wearing disposable gloves every day.
Drinking only bottled water, eliminating ice, closing the mouth while showering (a major concession since I love to sing in the shower!) are obvious first steps. We are used to drinking water only from sealed water bottles on our travels, but it would seem that, for India, we will have to take even stronger precautions. Too many people in India are refilling empty water bottles with tap water and resealing them with krazy glue. The first layer of protection would be to stick to the three major brands of bottled water in India, Bisleri, Aquafina and Kinley (from Coca-Cola). But that may not be enough. I think that our approach needs to be to take our bottles of water only from our five-star hotel each morning and bring them with us during our day of touring; the alternative would be to avoid water all together and move to carbonated drinks or beer (I was a heavy beer drinker when I lived in Mexico and it did preserve my health, since I never experienced Montezuma’s Revenge!).
As for food, the situation is more complicated. The advice gleamed from dozens of internet sites on the matter of eating in India seems uniform in terms of avoiding meat, fish, raw vegetables and fruit (other than the ones you can peel) and street food, and favoring the hot vegetarian cooked dishes of India. But since I am taste-allergic to coriander, yoghurt and chiles, this narrows down considerably my food options. Can I find some tasty lentil dishes which don’t come with added dairy, yoghurt, coriander or chile? The search is on!
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!