Tips for Healthy Travels in India.

Every time I depart India, I feel relieved and ready to get home. But within a few months (once my tummy ache has subsided and the smell of masala doesn’t make me want to vom) I’m already scheming up the next adventure to Mother India.

In the midst of the dirty, smelly, random and weird chaos of the colorful Subcontinent, there is an explicable magic, a palpable and powerful energy – shakti! This is what draws me back every time.

I love India, all of it, I just love it.

In January, I will be heading back to India for my fourth trip since 2007. Thaddeus and I will be spending 25 days in Kovalam, Kerala to practice Ashtanga with our wonderful teacher David Garrigues.  We spent a month there with DG earlier this year and it was an incredible experience. My practice progressed in leaps and bounds and we made deep lasting friendships with our fellow practitioners. Kovalam is a sweet little tropical beach town that has a number of European tourists and lots of Ayurvedic clinics and spas.

We managed to stay quite healthy during our month in Kerala and our week in Tamil Nadu. It was only at the very end of 2 months traveling while we were in Rishikesh that we got hit by a nasty something or other that knocked us out for over a week and left us at our model weights.  🙂

I think by the time we got up north (Rishikesh is kind of infested with feral hippies), our immune systems were weakened and we were running out of our magic potions. Not a good idea to pack light when it comes to supplements and medicines! Lesson learned!

Despite what you might have heard, it actually is possible to travel to India and not get sick. But, it takes the perfect combination of luck, smarts and herbs to do the trick.

Here are my personal suggestions for how to stay healthy in India:
1 – Be smart and follow your intuition when it comes to food. If you get a weird feeling about something, just don’t eat it. Don’t eat street food or raw produce without a peel. Don’t use ice! Always drink clean filtered, or bottled water. I bring water purifying tablets with me, but I normally end up buying bottled jugs of water or living at a place where they have their own good-quality filtering systems. I always bless my food before I eat it and I think this is an important step too.

2 – If your stomach starts getting rocky, stop eating! Give your belly a break. Fasting for the rest of the day or into the next day will give your body the time to work out the upset. When you are ready to eat again, start small and light. Stick clear of the spicy sauces, oily dishes and dairy products. Just eat some rice or porridge or maybe a banana. Drink ginger tea and take it easy.

3 – Be consistent with your tinctures and supplements.  Prevention is key. It’s important to prioritize staying healthy. These are some of the suggestions my acupuncturist gave me and I think they are all really great. Obviously, you should consult with your own health practitioner for your own needs, but in general these are pretty standard and effective options.

– Grapefruit seed extract – This is an anti-microbial and anti-viral substance which is a great preventative against yucky food and water-borne diseases. It tastes uber-nasty so be sure to take the capsule form. I tried the liquid on one trip to India, and I ended up just throwing it out.  Don’t make that mistake.

– Cayenne pepper capsules – If you’re stomach is getting funky, take one of these capsules, drink a bunch of water and then fast. Cayenne is powerful and potent and can kill viruses and bacteria. Be sure to drink plenty of water or milk with it because it can give you a burning sensation at your solar plexus if you swallow it incorrectly. Cayenne is incredibly healing and has been used traditionally for indigestion, cramping and stomach pains.

– Probiotics – When you are in a new country, your system is being flooded with new and foreign substances. Taking probiotics is a good defensive strategy for keeping your gut strong and healthy. Consistently supplementing with this good flora will help crowd out the bad bacteria that could cause stomach upset.

– Activated charcoal capsules – This is a good thing to have handy, but not something to use every day. Charcoal absorbs toxins and poisons in your blood stream. I sometimes take charcoal if I feel really burdened down by the food that I eat (like if it had too much oil). Mostly I take it with me to India in case of severe diarrhea. If you’ve been fasting and taking cayenne and you’re still suffering after a day or more, take a charcoal tablet or two.

– Black walnut tincture – This is one of the most important things to take in my opinion. It contains antiseptic properties, clears out toxins and harmful pathogens, helps keep you regular and is strongly anti-parasitic.  Parasites are super icky and you do not want to get one! Take black walnut every day for your digestion while you are traveling and even for a few weeks once you return.

4 – Cleanse. restore and rejuvenate when you get home. Whenever I return from a big trip, I like to do an herbal cleanse and sometimes a short food cleanse (either kitchari or green smoothies or a juice fast).  This helps me get back on track. After an Indian adventure, doing a parasite cleanse by taking tinctures of wormwood, clove and black walnut, is a smart idea.
These are just a few simple suggestions that have helped me in the past. I hope you find them useful.

One other practical tip is to bring along a few of your favorite essential oils. I like to travel with tulsi (for respiratory congestion), lemon (to put in my water or on my hands for its antimicrobial properties) and lavender (for burns, scars and skin conditions as well as general relaxation).

Fellow travelers! What are your tips for healthy Indian adventures?

Love and Blessings.


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5 thoughts on “Tips for Healthy Travels in India.

  1. This is valuable information… thank you! And divine timing for me to have stumbled upon your delightful blog, as I am elated to be preparing for a visit to the same area in December. In lieu of providing tips myself, (perhaps I will have some to share come 2013 🙂 ) as I navigate decisions of vaccinations, etc, may I request a little more expertise from you? Are there region specific vaccines that you recommend for Kannur, Kerala? (I wish to limit my exposure to vaccines as much as possible) Also, did you take trains in this region/do you advocate them as a viable means of travel? Any other practical advice or tips for two young females exploring this region in their first trip outside the US? MUCH advance gratitude for your time. (and for your lovely writing and perspective, as well…btw)

    • Hi Janelle.
      Thanks for your comment. So happy to be of service.
      I have never gotten any vaccines for traveling so I can’t help you out there. I also do not take malaria pills because in general, I’ve not been in malaria-prone regions and the medicine itself is really rough on the body. I really don’t think either of these measures are necessary.
      I love taking the trains in India. They are remarkably easy to navigate and they are surprisingly reliable and timely (perhaps a remnant from British coloinialism). We took the 17 hour overnight train from Chennai to Kerala and it was quite fun. Definitely book A/C sleeper class. Book the best seat that you can and do it in advance. You might have to go to the tourist office in the train station to do so (that was our experience).
      The only other advice I would offer is to be sure to pack as lightly as possible because it’s a drag to carry lots of stuff on and off of trains/buses and it makes you feel like a dumb westerner to be lugging around lots of stuff in such a poor country. I always carry a backpack for clothes etc., and a slouchy over the shoulder purse and that works well. Dressing modestly is important as well. I like to buy shawls and cotton wraps in India and I always kept one in my carry bag because it’s so useful and versatile – cushion, pillow, wrap if you’re cold, dry your hands on it, cover your head, cover your mouth when you’re ridign in tuktuks, you get the idea.
      Hope you have a great trip! Stay in touch.

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