Holiday heaven or holiday hell?

It’s ironic or down right sadistic that I’m sat writing about this subject at home when I should be either watching the sunset in Menorca or getting ready for dinner…, anyway external forces dictate otherwise so I’m being all stoic and carrying on regardless in true British upper lip stylie.

Truth is, for all the fantasies and dreams I have of fabulous holidays I can count on one hand (actually two fingers), how many great holidays I’ve had where my stomach hasn’t sabotaged it, in fact I’ve had some horrific holiday experiences with my honeymoon being the worst of them all – the edited version is us in Mauritius and me having to stop the taxi driver on the ride back to the airport so I could make an emergency pit-stop in some sugar cane fields, the picture, if you dare to visualise it, is me squatting down over a make-shift hole and using my not finished book as toilet paper, I think this was what you call a cringe-worthy moment in one’s life. All thanks to ‘Gambas’ on the last night. The second most hideous memory is me considering ‘going’ in a plastic bag on a toilet-free 12-seater plane heading towards Chichen itza in Mexico, I literally felt like dying. After that excursion I spent the rest of the two weeks in our hotel room. I look back and think how did I get through those moments and sometimes, why did I bother in the first place!!

For anyone with Crohns, Colitis, IBS or any other stomach condition, going on holiday can be a nightmare – stress, heat, different water and food all make relaxing and enjoying yourself quite a challenge.

I actually believe that I developed Crohns after contracting Hepatitis B in Spain when I was in my late teens. Copious amounts of seafood and paella resulted in one almighty stomach bug that stayed with me for months after returning home. Back then I knew nothing about what to eat, and not eat abroad, so wasn’t aware that hepatitis B was often linked to shellfish who filter the sediment and crap off the bottom of the sea, it’s this stuff that carries all the bacteria.

So what can you do to prevent a bad tummy and protect yourself as much as possible?

  1. You all know it but DON’T DRINK THE WATER, or have ice cubes in your drink. Instead ask for an iced glass or go for a drink like beer that doesn’t require ice.
  2. Avoid the salad bars and salad choices on the menu – I know this one is hard if you eat clean as fresh produce is the staple, instead go for cooked veg.
  3. At breakfast opt for omelettes and cooked foods rather than fruit salads and yoghurt. If you want fruit choose ‘wrapped’ fruits such as oranges or bananas.
  4. If you are at a good fish/seafood restaurant and can see the produce on offer chances are you’ll be ok, however, if you are all inclusive or you see huge pans of paella or seafood dishes being cooked on mass I’d say give it a wide birth.
  5. Avoid street food at all costs!!!
  6. Pick dishes off the menu which are hot meals, eating something which has been heated through has more chance of killing off all nasty bacteria.
  7. If you do get ill stick to basic food. Avoid alcohol, dairy, refined sugar, fizzy drinks and caffeine. Instead eat the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, apples (stewed), and toast (dry).
  8. Keep hydrated but always drink bottled water.

And what other things can you do?

  1. If you have an existing condition such as crohns or colitis make sure your travel insurance covers your illness
  2. Carry hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE
  3. If you have a serious condition avoid going on holiday to developing countries
  4. Consider self catering where you control what you cook
  5. Take a small stash of ‘safe’ food in your suitcase. My guilty secret is ready salted Hula Hoops, they help me out every time.
  6. Make sure you have enough, and then some, medication to cover all eventualities. The worst thing is seeing a doctor abroad and shelling out an arm and a leg for medication.

Good God, as I sit here I’m remembering more and more holiday food nightmares, another highlight being a dodgy takeaway in Turkey which claimed 6 out 8 of our party in 24 hours. That said I have fabulous memories of holidays in South Africa, Egypt, Greece, America and the list goes on, in the end it’s about being sensible and doing what you can to limit the risk. I know it’s holiday and you’re supposed to let your hair down, however, I’d rather keep my guard up and my food down (and in) 🙂

Egypt 2010, a tummy trouble-free holiday


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