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What is the fastest way to acclimate to microbes in a new location?

We're always told not to drink the local water when travelling due to local microbes our bodies are not equipped to handle as foreigners.

What's the fastest way to acclimate to and assimilate these microbes without getting sick should someone decide to move to a new place in the world?

4 Answers

top answer by
Kristal from San Francisco

Hi Joshua, 

You definitely need to know yourself and your body, if you are someone who has a low tolerance for foreign substances my best advice is to take it easy. The following are things that carry the most bacteria or are usually the most different to what you're used to: water, ice, dairy, deli meats. You safest starting with fully cooked things and vegetables you can peel. Once you introduce these into your diet, your body will acclimate to the new bacteria and acclimate, making it easier to eat a greater variety of things and not get sick. I would also suggest not eating things they are selling off the street as it usually sits there are picks up whatever is in the air. This is a sure fire way to get you sick. Everything in moderation! 



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answered by
Gina from Minneapolis

Hi Josh! I'm pretty bold about my eating habits abroad, but water is the one thing I just will not [mess] with. It's not uncommon for people around the world to just use bottled water—and I'm talking about locals. Sometimes they can't handle what's in the water either and it's just straight up not safe. I drank water that wasn't fully boiled in China and holy gods was that a bad scene—but I've rarely had a bad experience with street food. (Caveats: I have a pretty tolerant stomach and I've learned how to spot a safe-bet street food vendor—quick turnover, hot food, good looking ingredients, robust local crowd). Just be sure to find out how the locals handle water before you start dabbling in microbe acquisition. 

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answered by
Roxanne from Montreal

Well, there's the saying " pell it, coock it, or forget it". It all depens on were your going.  When i whent to China a few years ago, they alsway served wathermelon for desert. It loocked so good. Our tour organiser said to wait 3 days befor trying it, and then go slowly, but don't drink the water even to brush your teeth.

In France and  Italy, i bruch my teeth with the tap wather.  And slowly ease in on drinking it.  It all depends on your own systhem.  Try taking probiotics a few weeks befor leaving and during your trip. 

When I went to the Middle East (befor all the troubles), I observed the saying except one evening.  We were at friends, the lettuce looked so good I took a few leafs. Had some rubbles for a few days but nothing important. Others in the group brushed there teeth with tap water. We were looking for  Immodium and bananas for the rest of the trip.

So go easy with the local water.  Go slowly with the local watery foods for the first few days. You should be ok. 

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answered by
Don from Kathmandu

I could drone on here about the now infamous bok choy incident of 2014. I won't. I don't think my system could stand even remembering the horror of three nights spent sleeping toilet-side, head pillowed by cold tile, blowing bits of fecal fertilized bok choy from both ends. 

Instead let me offer some advice garnered from several traveling decades and 10+ years living in Asia.

1- echoing the others who've answered here: know your body. If you're prone to illness, in a lowered immunity state, tired, and / or unfit then take all possible precautions;

2- know your food / drink sources: A famous adventurer / researcher once told me that he acclimated by always being acclimated. Simply stated, he drank local water, ate local food, wherever he went. I tend to agree with this --- with one caveat. Microbes are the least of your worries. In fact, unless you plan on 5 staring it, never venturing out of your hotel, then it's guaranteed you will come into contact with microbes sooner or later. The real worry, at least my real worry, is serious pollutants - heavy metals, toxics, plastics, chemicals, etc - that are beginning to saturate food and water supplies in even the remote areas of our planet (you can blame globalization / capital for this). Look for evidence of industrial / farming pollution in the areas you're traveling. Stay clear of them. A simple dose of Cipro will cure even the worst case of kathman-do-poos; but nothing will save you from industrial poisons;

3- don't be stupid: watch your drink (alcohol) intake. Avoid suspect ice sources. An adage from an IGO I worked for: buzzed people make stupid choices; drunk people make deadly decisions. I'll add a note of reality: you live to laugh about stupid choices. The other is the stuff of statistics. Research clinics, their reputation, where their doctors were trained, do they speak your language. Know where the better clinic(s) are located. 

Then, go outside and play. You didn't spend your hard earned bucks to eat a Hyatt Regency hamburger in Delhi. Adventure is the root of the adventurous, and is the core of our being. To deny chance is to deny life. Go. Kathmandu

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kathmandu (city)
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