As an unsuspecting traveler in my early twenties in India, I began my journey with Ayurveda to heal my digestive system from a persistent cornucopia of parasitic infections. My yoga studies have brought me to India from my home base in New England annually for 17 years now. That’s a lot of travel in India! I have taught yoga on tours with Westerners and have been responsible for helping keep the students healthy. These life experiences make me a good candidate to offer some tips on how to avoid getting sick in India.
I certainly do lean on Ayurvedic medicines and eating practices to keep the gut in balance. What follows are my top recommendations, including Ayurvedic meal routines and easy-to-find herbal formulas to pack in your travel bag.
1. Get on the plane with a happy belly. Start now!
This year I traveled right after Christmas, which is historically a bit of a tough time for my gut. I love Christmas cookies! I had a much harder time keeping healthy this year in my travels because I didn’t come out of the gate strong. Ayurveda sees what the body is accustomed to as an important element in digestion. If your diet and routines are far from what you see below, you will do well to start practicing some of the food observations here a month before you fly. Easy Digest liquid extract is also a wonderful formula to keep handy for those times your digestion might need a little boost. Another way to aid your digestion is by sipping on some CCF Tea throughout the day or after meals, especially after too many Christmas cookies!
2. Eat light.
Your gut, given the chance, is going to manage the changes in atmosphere nicely. But overeating is hard to manage. Avoid overdoing all those amazing delicacies—I know sometimes it feels like you may never see this particular specialty again, but enjoy responsibly, and keep in mind your gut is only able to process the amount of food you can hold in your two palms at each meal. Avoid eating a lot before you expect to be sitting for long periods.
3. Keep it movin'.
I have noticed a direct correlation between constipated types and travel-related gastrointestinal difficulties. If you are not the type to poop easily, you may consider getting on Triphala before you travel, and staying on a routine of 2–3 tablets before bed while you are in India, continuing with that routine for a few months afterwards, or as long as your body benefits from it. I also recommend a short Ayurvedic cleanse before you hit the road. You can find information about this on my sites listed below, and may also wish to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner about a cleansing program well before you go.
4. Bolster the immune system.
It is all about the immune system. Again, get strong before you go. Start the diet routines now. Get plenty of rest, bring along some vitamin C. And supplement with Banyan's Immune Strong™ herbal formula with turmeric, kalmegh, licorice, tulsi, and more. Also available in a liquid extract which makes it especially easy to travel with.
5. Avoid excessive sugar.
You know the bugs love sugar. Go easy on the chai and the sweets. You can expect, if you are in India longer term, to have some sweet cravings from the vegetarian, often overcooked food. Don’t let it take you over. Licorice tea is an easy sugar-free option for satisfying those sweet cravings, while at the same time bolstering your immune system.
6. Rest up.
I know it’s so exciting, but avoid over scheduling. You must make sure you are resting enough to give your immunity the time it needs to keep you well. With herbs like bhringaraj, valerian, chamomile, and ashwagandha, I Sleep Soundly is the perfect formula to ease the restlessness that can so often come with traveling.
7. Yoga for digestion.
Lie on your back on the floor and bring one knee up alongside the rib cage, keeping the other leg straight. Hold the knee with same-side hand, compressing the ascending (right side) and then descending (left side) colon. You can circle the knee gently. Repeat. Remember never to suppress the urge to pass wind or move the bowels.
8. Try not to snack.
Allowing for space between meals will let your gut completely process each meal. Adding more food into the mix before the stomach is fully emptied can create fermentation, which is the ideal atmosphere for little friend parasites to flourish. For some added reinforcement, vidanga and neem are two awesome bitter herbs that enhance the body's natural defenses and detoxification processes.
9. Watch where you eat.
Go to places where lots of people are enjoying the food and has a good turnover. It’s not out of the question to ask to poke your head in the kitchen to be sure it’s looking well-kept back there. You will get lots of smiles! Avoid raw juices, even though they are always on the menu. They always have white sugar added.
10. Positive Thinking.
You are going to be fine! Be kind to your gut, meditate on clean digestion, be thankful for all of your foods, and know that I have seen many travelers enjoy India without any disturbance.