When we’re off to enjoy a little R&R (rest and relaxation), we don’t want to be struck down with a case of S&D (sickness and diarrhoea). But traveller’s tummy, heat stroke and heat exhaustion, or simply not knowing what to eat when faced with unfamiliar foods, can affect us all when we’re away from home. It’s particularly important to avoid food poisoning and dehydration if our immune system is already compromised or we’re living with health issues. So here are some simple tips for a safe and healthy getaway.
Before you go
Talk to your health team (or that of the person you’re caring for) to make sure it’s safe for you to travel, you have all the relevant vaccinations and you have sufficient medication to see you through your trip.
Read up on the local cuisine and have a think about the foods you might enjoy – you could even take some recipes to help you make the most of the local produce. This gives you time to check with your care team about any foods you’re unsure about.
Think about mealtimes If you’re used to having dinner at 6pm but the local restaurants don’t even open until 9pm, you’ll need to plan how to fit your eating into the local way of life. A bigger breakfast, later lunch or an afternoon snack can keep energy levels high while you embrace your destination’s foodie culture.
When you’re there
Make the most of local markets and food stores A visit to the boulangerie for fresh croissants in the morning; a browse of an Italian street market for freshly picked Pomodoro; a stroll through the spicy scents and colours of a Marrakech souk – these are what holidays are made for. Use it as an opportunity to expand your repertoire of food and recipes, and tap into the culinary tricks and traditions of the locals.
Stay hydrated Make sure you keep sipping drinks – you need a minimum of 1.5 litres of fluid a day and more if you’re active or it's very hot. This will help to boost your energy levels and reduce risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Take a look at this blog for more tips and refreshing drink ideas.
Drink bottled water If you’re worried about water quality, stick to bottled water to avoid risk of tummy upsets.
Wash fruit and vegetables Use bottled water to wash fruit and vegetables to reduce risk of food poisoning, especially if you’re immune system is vulnerable. If you’re poorly, it’s better to avoid raw produce entirely – including salads – and always eat freshly cooked, hot meals.
Don’t assume the hotel is a safe bet Eating out is one of the joys of travel but it’s better to be safe than sorry if you’re not in peak health. Again, stick to cooked meals to reduce risk of food poisoning.
Keep your energy levels up A savoury snack, a cake or an ice cream can give you a much-needed energy boost when you’re flagging.
Make smart choices However tempting that unpasteurised cheese or fresh seafood, if your doctors have advised you not to eat something, try to follow their advice. Food poisoning will last longer than the taste of those few mouthfuls.
If you feel poorly
Food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting generally start after a few hours, although it can occasionally take longer for the bacteria to have built up in your system and make you feel ill. Seek medical advice and stick to bottled water and simple dry foods, such as plain toast and plain rice, until your tummy settles.
Diarrhoea The change in eating that comes with a holiday diet may be to blame for your symptoms. Reduce roughage and fat, avoid spices and dairy foods temporarily, and cut back on dried fruits until symptoms improve. Make sure you stay hydrated, so keep sipping water and other drinks to keep fluid levels topped up. You can find more tips to help here.
Constipation Sometimes a holiday can have the opposite effect on our digestion and we become bunged up and bloated. Plenty of liquids, fibre-rich foods and naturally laxative fruits such as figs and apples can all help. See here for more ideas to get your gut moving.
Have a good trip!