I've been to India many times, beginning in 1979, and usually I've gotten sick. Looking back I feel that, with the exception of amoebic dysentery, I have had every known human stomach bug and throat infection possible. I have also contracted hepatitis from the food in India. I've also had dengue fever which was terrible.
|1979: In the top Mr. Iyengar is looking at me. In the bottom picture, that's me touching my toes. In those years I didn't even take a vitamin pill.
So, having said that to give you confidence, here is my guide for staying healthy in India.
• Travel slowly. If you try to move to a different city every day, you're going to wear down your immune system and expose yourself to entire new strains of disease and infections daily. The slower you travel and the more rested you are the better off you are going to be mentally and physically. If you wear yourself out through stress and lack of sleep then you better have a strong religious practice because only God is going to save you.
• Clean your hands after using the toilet and before you eat. If it's possible, you are wise to not to touch your nose and eyes in public as well. These days many people carry hand cleaner with them, but avoid antibacterial soaps that can create health problems over time. It is still rare to find toilet paper in Indian bathrooms.
|Here I am in 1983 under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya. I got hepatitis on this trip.
|Christopher Titmuss in 1983. He has been to India every year for 40 years. He almost never gets sick and by his own admission he has an "iron gut." Not many people are so lucky.
|Taken in 2015, on the left is me and second from the right is Christopher Titmuss. He still enjoys India.
• Don't eat anything fresh unless you peel it or wash it thoroughly yourself. A few restaurants have sterling reputations so you can gorge yourself on salad in those places. Otherwise be careful. I was once on a meditation retreat where they served fresh mint leaves as a garnish. They look so delicious that I couldn't help but eat some. I got sick for days.
• Many people won't eat off a spoon or plate that has come back from the dish washer wet — bacteria thrive in wet places.
• Also, many people, including me, won't eat milk, meat, or fish products in India. Anything that requires refrigeration or that deteriorates rapidly once refrigeration stops is probably unsafe in India. Keep in mind that even under the best conditions all animal products in India are very risky due to the fact that the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones is largely unregulated.
|Vegetarian and vegan food in India can be delicious.
Vitamins and supplements
Basically there are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe in vitamins and supplements and those who do not. If you do not, stop reading now.
You need to take a multivitamin. If you take any of the Centrum vitamins keep in mind what one writer said,
"Centrum Silver has a love affair with inorganic nutrients and the less expensive lower activity forms of nutrients. For example, the vitamin D in Centrum Silver is ergocalciferol (D2), the less effective form of D. It uses synthetic beta-carotene rather than naturally sourced beta-carotene, which is not only less effective, but may actually be harmful. It uses phylloquinone (vitamin K1) as opposed to menaquinone (vitamin K2), even though virtually every study shows that K2 is far and away the more active form.7 It uses B12 cyanocobalamin as opposed to methylcobalamin and inorganic sodium selenite versus the organic form of selenium, methylselenocysteine."
So find yourself a good organic vitamin. I take http://www.lifestar.com/Pages/multiplex.html
Next you need to take B 12 in the form of methylcobalamin and not cyanocobalamin. What I take is Vitacost . Just put it under your tongue and leave it there. If you don't eat any animal foods, take one a day. Otherwise, one every other day should be fine.
You also need to worry about your Omega 3's. You can get this in fish oil or as a vegetarian supplement.
The best vegetarian EPA-DHA supplement seems to be Ovega-3. If you don't know how important this is for you, read this. You can read about Ovega-3 here: http://www.ovega.com/what-is-ovega3.
If you are over 40 you better take Ubiquinol. this can help your heart and brain. It is extremely popular in the USA.
Antioxidants can help you fight disease. This is the antioxidant I take:https://www.baselinenutritionals.com/products/ultimate-antioxidant.php
I think it helps immensely. If you feel like reading about it try this:http://jonbarron.org/anti-aging/ultimate-antioxidant#.VVDOGflVhBc
Let's keep going. About half the people you meet in India will have diarrhea and the other half will have constipation. Nearly everybody complains of having too much intestinal gas: it is easy to become "the rocket man." Fortunately, relief is cheap and easy. All you need to do is take a digestive enzyme. My health guru, Jon Baron, said that this would be the one supplement he would take with him if he had to choose only one. This is the one I recommend: Now Vitamins - Digest Ultimate
If you want to read more about digestive enzymes, try the description here. A friend mixes a more expensive brand with a cheaper brand. You can try digestive enzymes sold in India and they may help, though they will not be as good a quality as some of those available in the West.
DON'T OVEREAT. If you do, you'll put a big strain on your digestive system and poisons that might have moved right through your system will stick around. It is going to help if you chew thoroughly as well.
On my last trip to India everything was going well. Then, after a few weeks, I started to wake up in the morning with a severe headache that would last all day. Then I was able to find wheat grass and spirulina tablets and the headaches vanished.
Spirulina, most people know, is a superfood which means there are all kinds of hidden benefits. It is produced in India and is available there in the better health food stores.
Wheat grass, depending on who you talk to, can cure almost anything. In India it seems to be fairly popular. I visited a TB/HIV-AIDS clinic where on a daily basis they planted about one square meter of wheat grass. Because it took seven days to grow they had about 7 m² of wheat grass.
Every day they would harvest one square meter and give the wheat grass juice to the patient's. They said that it produced incredible results. I tend to believe them. This is what I take in India.
I hope that all of that helps.
|I can't really advise swimming in the Ganges River at Varanasi if you want to stay healthy in India. But if you do it, be sure that you don't have any open sores on your body and don't put your head under the water.
Here are some things that are not essential but might be interesting.
More than 10 years ago I stopped being able to do backbends. The problem was that my wrists hurt too much to hold myself up in the wheel pose. I asked all kinds of yoga teachers for help and didn't get any. Then more or less as an experiment I started taking L-carnosine, DMAE, and acetyl-L-carnitine and my wrist got well enough that I could go back to doing backbends. What I take is not cheap at all, but there are more generic brands out there: https://www.baselinenutritionals.com/products/ever-young.php?_ga=1.113888068.230578334.1431359005
Besides all of that I have a daily meditation and yoga practice. I enjoy it and I believe that it helps keep me healthy as well.
If you want more of my thoughts on health have a look at:http://thomasriddle.net/health/ and http://dharmalaya.in/staying-healthy-in-india/ . You are also wise to check out http://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/ There you will find the most famous book on emergency medical treatment: Where there is no Doctor.
Okay, I wish you good health and happy travels,