Your Favorite Soda May Just Be The Perfect Cure For Traveler's Belly

There's little that can put a damper on your wanderlust like traveler's belly. Stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea aren't conducive to exploring a new place. Food- and water-related stomach troubles are common when traveling to new places, particularly in developing countries in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East (though make no mistake, you can get sick anywhere — joy!)

But does fear of traveler's diarrhea mean you have to skip all of the flavorful, fragrant street food in Thailand's night markets? Not necessarily, and it's all thanks to an unlikely hero sitting on the shelves of the world's grocery stores: Coca-Cola. There's a ton of anecdotal (emphasis on the anecdotal) evidence that suggests swigging this most famous of drinks alongside your food while traveling can help prevent traveler's belly.

Travelers all over the internet laud Coca-Cola as a preventative against food-related issues when abroad. Hannah Logan, writing on thekitchn, swears by having a Coca-Cola after every meal after spending four months in Asia without getting sick (a welcome departure from the first time she was there). Amy MacPherson on The Mercury praises Coke for protecting her stomach while eating street food abroad. And Reddit users, including AlertEvening6098 in the r/solotravel forum, write that they met a lot of people who believe in the powers of Coca-Cola to kill bacteria.

Coca-Cola, really?

Coca-Cola, maybe. What is it about Coca-Cola that seems to be helping travelers avoid nasty stomach cramps? Some, like Seanbob3030 writing in the same Reddit forum, claim that Coca-Cola is capable of killing everything. The scientific jury is out on that, but if Coke can clean your toilet, then who knows?

Another reason why Coke might seem to be working is that it is always available, and it's in tightly sealed bottles to keep it fizzy, which means it's unlikely to have been opened. Travelers are warned to check that the seal of their bottle of water hasn't been tampered with, but how many of us do that? With Coca-Cola, you'll know it may have been contaminated if it's lost its gas.

And remember, we're talking about drinking Coke with your meals to prevent traveler's belly. Many doctors don't recommend Coke or any caffeinated beverage if you're already suffering from diarrhea, as those drinks can make it worse. On the other hand, some suggest creating your own rehydration solution with Coca-Cola (some salt can help you recover).

Beyond Coke

A lot of the advice about avoiding traveler's diarrhea focuses on the don'ts: no ice, no tap water, no leafy greens... and so on. We're going to focus on some more of the internet's dos aside from Coke for preventing traveler's diarrhea. There are several other foods and drinks eaten alongside street food or simply consumed regularly while abroad that are said to help. Travelers writing to Escape praise Pepsi over Coke, bananas, chili, and ginger.

Several users in the r/TravelHacks forum on Reddit recommend taking probiotics, with particular love going to Saccharomyces boulardii, though ask your doctor before taking anything. Other redditors in the r/digitalnomad forum recommend feeding your gut with fermented foods and drinks before you go: try kimchi, sauerkraut, and other foods like that. Finally, veteran traveler Nomadic Matt says eating familiar foods while abroad is sometimes the way to go. While you might feel like you should be eating India's spiciest curry, sometimes a McDonald's is going to hit the spot and not upset your stomach. No shame.