25 Oct Bali Belly After Returning Home? 3 Steps to Getting Over It
Getting traveler’s diarrhea when you’re on holiday is bad, but still having Bali Belly after returning home can be even more worrying. But, as a globetrotting nutritionist who specialises in helping travelers avoid and treat IBS-related conditions, I’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to do to get over Bali Belly in 3 simple steps.
What is Bali Belly?
Let’s just do a quick recap from our epic Bali Belly prevention and treatment blog. Bali Belly is just a shorthand name for traveler’s diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, bloating, etc. suffered by tourists in Bali. It is technically an acute case of gastroenteritis and is almost always caused by eating contaminated food or water.
The most common types of G.I pathogens or microorganisms that cause Bali Belly are bacteria (e.g. E. coli, Campylobacter, Shigella, etc.) and parasites (e.g. Giardia, Dientamoeba fragilis, Blastocystis hominis, etc.). Put simply, you have a gut infection. And while most gut infections are self-limiting (i.e. go away by themselves), some are a bit more stubborn and will outlast your holiday. This is why you may still be experiencing Bali Belly after returning home.
Why You Need to Treat Bali Belly Before it Causes Long Term Damage
I’m sure you’ve all heard of IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome that is. Well it too is most commonly caused by an acute case of gastroenteritis that leads to longer term problems. It’s what I help women overcome on a daily basis, sometimes after they’ve suffered in silence for years. And trust me, you don’t want to walk down that road.
Here’s a few reasons why a bad case of Bali Belly can turn into long-term chronic IBS if not treated properly:
– bacteria and parasites go undetected on traditional MCS (microscopic) stool tests, leaving them to grow and proliferate for years
– pathogens can cause damage to the intestinal lining (e.g. leaky gut), which persists even after they have left the GI tract
– travelers often self-prescribe and access broad-spectrum or ineffective antibiotics while overseas, wiping out much of our good bacteria without killing off the infection
– infections and antibiotic use can lead to reduced numbers of good bacteria and a general imbalance within our microbiome (called dysbiosis)
Hopefully you understand now why you need to treat Bali Belly after returning home, before it does long term damage. Ok, let’s get into what you need to do about it.
Three Steps to Getting Over Bali Belly After Returning Home
Step 1: Get Tested, Properly:
Something I always tell my clients is ‘test, don’t guess’. The symptoms of Bali Belly can be caused by a large number of different bugs, all of which require a different treatment approach. A practitioner that specialises in IBS or travel-related digestive problems (or both, like me!), will be able to order you a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) from a reputable lab.
As part of this test, they will also request a PCR analysis, which uses DNA technology to test for the presence of the most common parasites and bacteria. Don’t waste your money on a traditional MCS (microscopic) test, as they rely on visual identification. Which, as you may have guessed, is nowhere near as accurate… and also the reason why so many people with IBS are never diagnosed correctly, just FYI.
If you’d like to learn more about getting tested, head to my clinic website HERE – it’s all online so I can work with clients all over Australia and internationally..
Step 2: Use an IBS healing diet to manage symptoms in the short-term
An effective IBS healing diet needs to incorporate the following five things:
#1 Short-term and focussed on gut healing. They are not a life sentence, so don’t get stuck on one of these diets for more than a few months. Always find and treat the root cause.
#2 Anti-inflammatory. Incorporate foods like omega-3 fats found in oily fish and walnuts, antioxidants and minerals found in dark coloured fruits and vegetables (beetroot, broccoli and blueberries are a good start).
#3 Doesn’t exacerbate symptoms. The most inflammatory foods are processed and packaged foods, like; gluten and gliadin-containing grains; casein, whey and lactose in dairy and anti-nutrients such as saponins, phytic acid, oxalates, tannins and lectins to name a few. It doesn’t need to be forever, but you’ll likely feel better without these foods.
#4 Starves off any overgrowths or infections. As most bacteria and parasites feed primarily off sugar and carbohydrates, some degree of refined carb restriction can be helpful.
#5 Has enough variety (+ nutrient-density) to ensure you’re not going to develop any nutritional deficiencies and encourages diversity of the microbiome.
With all that in mind, the most commonly used IBS diets include the low FODMAP, SCD, GAPS and Paleo diets. Do some research and use the principles from these diets. But only in the short-term while you’re testing and treating the root cause!
Step 3: Use Natural Supplements wisely
While you can chose to use antibiotics for some identified root causes of Bali Belly, I’ve found greater success and certainly less long-term damage with clients who use a more natural approach. These protocols for those with lingering Bali Belly after returning home involve support products as well as antimicrobials for pathogen elimination.
Here are the main reasons to use supplements:
– Supporting digestion: digestive enzymes and stomach acid can help us break down and absorb the nutrients from our food while bad bugs are causing damage.
– Supporting nutrition: gut dysfunction can cause us to struggle with the absorption of vitamins and minerals (also not helped, by the limited diet sufferers tend to implement). Using a multi-mineral drink, omega-3 fish oil and amino acids from protein in the form of gelatin, collagen or protein powder can give you the boost you need to fight the good fight.
– Supporting detoxification: this can be in the form of liver support for removing toxins or vitamin C and magnesium for keeping the bowel clear in constipation-dominant cases.
– Rebalancing the microbiome: with pre- and probiotic-rich foods and supplements… only good quality ones, obviously.
– Pathogen eradication: You need targeted and specific antimicrobials for each of the different types of infections, something that is too broad for this post but something that your travel / IBS practitioner should be able to help with. Products like berberine, olive leaf and allicin (from garlic) are some of my preferred options to use in combination.
Healthy Travel Tips For Those With Bali Belly After Returning Home
1. Get tested by a health practitioner using a CDSA and PCR stool test.
2. Try an IBS diet to manage symptoms but don’t get stuck on it for more than a few months.
3. Supplement with natural products to support various systems of the body and to eliminate the bacteria and/or parasites identified in testing.