Travel Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness
By Natalee Goodman
All content or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Alternative Food Network Inc. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a reader based on the content of this site. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re in any way concerned about your health.
When you travel, you may be at a higher risk for contracting a foodborne illness. In many countries across the globe, food, water and sanitation standards vary, leaving your immune system susceptible to a multitude of bacteria to which you are unaccustomed. On AFN’s podcast entitled Food Poisoning, Parasites and Food Safety, Dr. Ashley Salomon M.D. shares valuable travel tips to help prevent foodborne illness from potentially ruining your trip.
- Wash your hands often.
This is something that everyone should do and often. Surfaces can harbour a multitude of bad bacteria and by not washing your hands before eating or preparing food, bacteria has the ability to enter your system and wreak havoc.
- Be mindful of water while travelling
Water is one of the largest potentially contaminated sources of foodborne illness when travelling. This is because water filtration standards vary by country. Dr. Ashley Salomon recommends always opting for bottled water but she cautions people to be aware that in some countries, bottles are filled with tap water, re-sealed, and then sold to unassuming travellers. Therefore, she recommends travelling with a hand held water filtration system that works using reverse osmosis to keep bacteria at a minimum.
If you can’t get your hands on a water filter, iodine tablets can also help reduce bacteria. They are sold over the counter and you just add to your water. This is not always the best option though, according to Dr. Salomon, as it isn’t suitable for people with iodine allergies. Furthermore, if the water contains stronger bacteria like Giardia, iodine will not be effective.
The easiest way to purify your water while travelling so it will be suitable for consumption is by bringing your water to a boil and letting it continue to boil for at least 60 seconds.
Dr. Salomon also reminds travellers to avoid drinks with ice. Though the drink itself may be fine, ice is very easily contaminated.
- Stay vigilant when eating out while travelling
Opt for fully cooked food (no raw fish sushi!) including vegetables. Produce can be easily contaminated with bacteria and parasites (see our other blog post) during the many steps from farm to plate and the best way to avoid is to order cooked produce such as stir fry or a sauté. When ordering meat, always asked for well done and don’t be afraid to send it back if it looks undercooked.
If you are indulging in any type of breakfast buffet look for fruit with peels, such as bananas or oranges. When peeling, be sure that the outer part of the peel does not touch the inner edible part in order to avoid contamination. When it comes to dairy, Dr. Salomon reminds travellers that dairy can contain different flora in different places in the world and is very easily contaminated so you may want to consider avoiding dairy products when you can.
- Travel items to bring with you
Dr. Salomon recommends travelling with activated charcoal capsules. They help bind toxins together in the gut and allow a person to flush them faster. However, Dr. Salomon recommends talking to your doctor first since charcoal can cause constipation. If you are looking for something that is easier on the stomach and gut, look for some shelf stable probiotics that you can easily bring with you on your trip.
If you are an adult travelling by air, she recommends bringing a colloidal silver throat & nose spray that can protect you from inhaling harmful bacteria.
Dr. Salomon also mentions a few immune-supportive herbs that you should ask your doctor about before you travel. Garlic oil extract, oregano oil, ginger, thyme, olive leaf, and cloves are anti-viral/antibiotic herbs that can aid in gut protection.