Dodging Bangkok Belly

May 12, 2015

If you’ve ever traveled to another country, you’ve likely experienced bouts of tummy troubles. It’s not uncommon for Thailand’s travelers to become afflicted with Bangkok Belly, although expats and locals experience it from time to time, too. Learn what causes it, its symptoms, and how to avoid it with these tips from Bumrungrad international Hospital.

What causes Bangkok Belly

Generally known as traveler’s diarrhea, this digestive tract disorder is caused by ingesting food or water that have been contaminated with organisms stemming from feces. These are most often caused by bacteria such as E. Coli, but viruses and parasites are to blame, too. When combined with jet lag, stress from traveling, and significant changes in diet, this is the perfect storm to create Bangkok Belly.

When traveling to a place where the sanitary standards and conditions are different from where you live, you have a higher risk of contracting traveler’s diarrhea. The infectious organisms that cause your upset stomach are typically spread by infected people using poor hygiene practices. Lack of hand washing in conjunction with poor food handling and preparation techniques are likely the largest contributors for contracting traveler’s diarrhea.


The major symptom of Bangkok Belly is loose stools. This typically occurs with the rapid onset of three or more loose stools per day or sudden urges to use the restroom.

Symptoms that often occur in conjunction with diarrhea include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pains, such as cramps. Sometimes headaches and fever are present as well.

In most cases, Bangkok Belly is not dangerous; it is simply uncomfortable and inconvenient. However, excessive diarrhea can lead to dehydration and loss of important electrolytes from the body, which is especially dangerous in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. In more severe cases, you may also experience moderate to severe dehydration, continual vomiting, high fever, severe pain in the abdomen or rectum, or stool with blood or pus present.

How to prevent Bangkok Belly

If you are careful about what you eat and drink while traveling, your risk of traveler's diarrhea can be reduced. Unfortunately, this also means being less adventurous about the foods you eat.

Eat at trusted restaurants that cook food to order and avoid foods that are raw or undercooked. Foods that quickly spoil, such as seafood, or food that has already been peeled and prepared, such as fruit or salads, should also be passed over.

And as popular as street food carts are in Thailand, these can be a cause for concern due to lack of available running water to clean hands and food preparing surfaces.

In case you are sick

Although some symptoms can be easily remedied with over-the-counter drugs, or in some cases, will resolve on their own in a few days, other symptoms may be serious problems that need professional treatment.

If you have severe dehydration, persistent vomiting, bloody stools or a high fever, or if your symptoms last for more than a few days, seek medical help with Bumrungrad International Hospital’s Digestive Disease Center. This comprehensive center offers testing and treatment of issues related to the stomach, liver, and intestines, all which can be affected by Bangkok Belly.

Bumrungrad International Hospital’s Digestive Disease (G-I) Center can be reached at +66 2011 2222, Sunday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm and Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm. Our clinics are located at the Bumrungrad International Hospital Building on the 2nd floor, North Wing.

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