As an avid traveler, I often get asked for my best tips. Well, here’s one: Coca-Cola. Yes, my friends, the same carbonated beverage that can actually clean your toilet has become my preferred partner in crime when I travel. I swear by this brown, bubbly liquid to protect against food-related tummy troubles.
Truth: I’m not entirely sure how it works. Maybe it’s the sugar content, or the carbonation; maybe it’s some combination of the two or the comfort of a familiar beverage in a foreign land. (Handily, you can find it almost everywhere you go in the world, and it’s also generally pretty inexpensive).
I’m aware that there’s not a lot of science to back up my belief in the powers of Coca-Cola, but for me, so far, it has been a game-changer.
How I Discovered the Magic of Coca-Cola
When it comes to travel, one of my biggest concerns is food poisoning or some sort of bacterial infection. As a girl with an incredibly sensitive stomach to start with, factors like water, heat, meat quality, and even spices can instill fear in this hungry traveler.
While this might not always be an issue in North America or most European countries, it’s a huge issue in Asia, India, and South America. When I first traveled to Asia in 2014, I got sick in less than a week. I spent days in bed at my Thai hostel, grateful for my new friends who would venture out to bring me fresh drinking water and plain rice or bread.
Thankfully, it didn’t cost me anything but time, but even that was awful to lose. After that incident I began to question everything. I grew wary of street vendors, meat, and fruits or vegetables. I paid a small fortune to eat in restaurants rather than in the streets and, a couple times, went without a proper meal because I couldn’t find anything “safe.” It was awful, and I hated traveling that way, but the idea of being stuck by the toilet for another week was worse than skipping out on food.
Then, a couple weeks later, I met a fellow traveler who changed my life forever when he shared what seemed like the strangest tip: drinking a Coke with any meal he was wary about.
At first I laughed, but then I began to wonder. Trying local food is part of the fun of travel and exploring different cultures, and I was tired of skipping out on those fried noodle dishes, fruit shakes, and saucy skewers. Knowing that I had a decent back stock of Imodium in case, I decided to give it a try.
So, did it work?
Well, I recently came home from my second trip to Asia. I spent four months stuffing my face with street food of all kinds, from pad Thai and coconut rolls to fish and plenty of fruit shakes. I had a Coke with probably 70 percent of those meals and not a single one of them made me sick. The fact that I can enjoy a meal without having to lock myself in the bathroom for days after is pure gold.
Is my story scientific proof? Absolutely not. But what I do know is I am sticking with this tip.
What’s your secret for battling traveler’s tummy? Share your best tips in the comments.
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Coca-Cola Is My Secret to Battling Traveler’s Tummy