Dealing with Stomach Infections Overseas


Today is a travel tip and we’re going to discuss the socially awkward topic of overseas stomach infections (OSI). Also known as stomach aches, gut rot, Bali belly, an angry army of leprechauns in my pot of gold and a host of others names I’d not associate this website with. Before you go you’ll be warned about all sorts of things and given insanely overpriced remedies for “worst case scenarios”. I’m here to tell you what’s up…

Bought into the hype before leaving spending stupid amounts of money like $56CDN on some pills for a stomach issue if it “goes on for X days” and or signs of blood. (seriously)  Don’t you generally only take something if you’ve had issues for a bit of time? Anyways,  I still have it despite countless stomach infections.

We have a saying here at SHABL – “If you’re not getting sick, you’re not exploring”

Anything you need can be picked up locally and for pennies on the dollar, literally. Do pay the extra few dollars for the name brand medication if you’re really feeling ill, it’s much better regulated … I think … Compared to the generic at least … I think. If you aren’t into that you can always try these charcoal tablets, they seem to work but have never gotten involved with them in any serious way.

You should know you will have stomach issues, even if you eat at the local McDonald’s. It’s not that the rest of the world is dirty as we’re all mammals , it’s just parts of the world are clean freaks and if you’re from there you have an infant like immune system compared to others with that of a horse. Not going to go into details on how to nurse yourself back to health. Take whatever pills someone gives you that you moments ago acted out a sore stomach too and get on with things.

Don’t let the fear of a bad stomach slow you down, the food is too delicious to miss out on and it will acclimatize over time. That said, rotten street meat is rotten street meat and even a local person would get sick and many do. Also stay away from street sushi, I’ve done it so many times and have a 27% success rate without catastrophic consequences. You CAN greatly reduce your risk with street sushi if you come early in the day, if you’re the last customer and she’s giving you double… BEWARE.

Stomach infections are the common cold of the road, don’t fear it but deal with it.

Question: Did you travel overseas? Did you need fancy expensive pills? Did you get sick!?

Tips hat,


  1. Kevin

    October 14, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Ah yes, blood. That’s when you have reason to get yourself to a local lab for another adventure story. Most stomach stuff will pass (pardon that one). When the blood starts is a-whole-nother thing. Having had amoebic dysentery in Egypt and Syria, I’m still not super cautious (but get nervous when a symptom reminds me of it). As serious as it sounds and is, the solution is pills best with the guidance of a doc and test. Why? Because if you don’t clear it up — even if you think you have — it can easily go to your liver and mess you up good for life. Take the prescription though and all is fine. Bonus: an amazing weight loss program. Check out my free e-book: the Amoebic Diet, coming soon to a reader near you. Or probably not.

    • Rob

      October 14, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Speaking of amoebic dysentery, yes it sucks. Was kidding with someone the other day that if you want to lose weight, drink a shot of water from a local inner city water way and you’ll be off the races in no time. Your friends will ask your secret and only you’ll know!

      Solid advice Kevin, thanks for sharing.

  2. James Shannon

    October 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Didn’t get any stomach ailments miraculously, but did get a few nasty respiratory infections within my first months … lol foreign pathogens!

    • Rob

      October 15, 2011 at 9:11 am


  3. Kelly

    October 14, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Got amoebic dysentery in Japan last summer from swimming in a lake up near Nagano. I’ve lived in China for almost four years now, and I’ve never gotten nearly as sick as I did in Japan last summer. Did, however, lose almost 15 pounds in ten days since the only thing I could stomach was Vitamin Water and then I got uber sick from the horse-pill antibiotics they prescribed me. Those things kill everything-good and bad–in your body, and it took me a good few weeks to be back to normal.

    All that being said, if you are going to get amoebic dysentery, Japan is the place to do it. Their hospitals are immaculate, cheap, and efficient.

    Now, having blood taken in China is a whole other story. Since you need to have blood work to get a long-term visa here, I usually walk away from the clinic thinking: “Well, if I didn’t have HIV before this, I ~definitely~ have it now.”

    I do worry about hep c sometimes, but never enough to stop me from eating street food or buying fresh soy milk that a lady laddles into my reusable container from a large vat on the side of the road. Or from eating the street yoghurt made daily by this lady on my street. Actually, the bacteria in the yoghurt probably keeps my digestion in check…

    • Rob

      October 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

      Seems more and more people are getting. Wouldn’t recommend having it in Africa. Was lucky to be at a guys house who worked as an expat, if not would have been MISERABLE.

      Crazy how got it in Japan and not China.

      Thanks for stopping by Kelly.

  4. Clujo

    October 17, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Madagascar, Egypt and Samoa for me.

  5. ChadC

    November 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I’ve been traveling for about six months now and every time I do a web search in a new city I seem to come across your blog. This time it was a search for food tours in Bangkok, at least that’s what I was interested in before I woke up doubled over with cramps this morning. I kinda figured after the last two weeks in Japan, Korea, and China something was gonna get me. A pampered American immune system has seemed to have gotten me sick within a few weeks on every new continent. Very glad I paid the copay for my stash of antibiotics before leaving the US.

    • shabl

      November 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      @ChadC haha so glad to hear that SHABL comes up for all the searches but definitely not laughing that you’re sick. I eat a plethora of really shady gear from the street today and as I type this it feels like their is a circus clown juggling radioactive waste in my stomach.Try some local medicines and save the expensive $US stuff for real emergencies, that said might as well use them first or you can be like me, pay $100 for it and then never use it. Hope you’re feeling better soon and thanks for commenting, love hearing who reads this blog.

  6. Gangnamstyle

    October 31, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I’m an herb and vitamin consultant. When traveling abroad, I always bring with me psyllium/bentonite clay. It’s nasty as hell when you drink it with water but I assure you it would clear up the problem the next day. Also, take probiotic to bring back the friendly bacteria to your stomach because bentonite clay will clean up everything in your gut.

    • Rob

      October 31, 2012 at 10:30 am

      I am familiar with psyllium and it works wonders.

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