What makes your stomach misbehave as you huff and puff on your way to the summit? Here, we dig out tummy trouble stories and find ways to set the unfortunate problem right.
“Hurry up!” Saranbir Singh frantically waved to the four trekkers who were trailing behind him on the trek to Roopkund on May 25, 2013. It was D-day for Saranbir who was on his first trek with Indiahikes as an assistant trek lead.
“Just after we departed, I felt my tummy twist in an unpleasant way,” Saranbir said. While our now Head of Research and Development, Manish Pasad was leading the team, Saranbir was somewhere in the middle with four trekkers following him.
“I was dying to go and relieve myself, but first I had to wait for the trekkers to go past.” The moment the four trekkers hiked past, Saranbir ran behind a tree and, well, attained “nirvana.” While Saranbir did face a fair amount of discomfort, he was able to complete the trek with the help of some medicines that controlled his loose motion.
Sometimes, the situation gets beyond control. Our trekker Harsha Deepak, who attempted the Chadar Trek in January 2015, recounts a sad story involving tummy troubles during one of his previous treks.
“This happened during the trek to Kumaraparvata in the Western Ghats,” Harsha begins. “We had a friend and fellow trekker with us who didn’t like being told. So whatever we told him to do, he did just the opposite. During lunch we told to him to eat light – rest of us had one dosa each – but he gobbled up four dosas!”
The result was disastrous. The errant friend’s stomach protested vehemently. He got dehydrated from the frequent visits to the loo and had to be grudgingly left out of the last leg of the trek.
Green Trail expert of Indiahikes, Izzat Ansari has also experienced a grumpy stomach. “I continuously felt like I had to relieve myself while on the trek to Roopkund. Guess it was just the stomach getting used to the stress and the high altitude,” Izzat said, then added, “But I also suspect it had something to do with the water we drank at a village on the trail.”
Why do you have tummy troubles?
“It all stems from the fact that your immune system takes a hit when you’re climbing high altitudes,” says Arjun Majumdar, founder of Indiahikes, “Because your body is taking up lot of physical stress during the trek, your natural defenses dip. Your stomach, in such cases, is the first organ to get affected.”
That means a teeny-weeny pathogen, which otherwise could have been harmless, poses difficulty in conditions when the body’s defences are compromised. Top it with a dollop of junk food and you’ve speed-dialled tummy troubles.
“Trekkers don’t always keep a check on the food they eat before reaching the camp”, complained one of our experience coordinators, who prepares everyone for the treks. “Then they blame it on the water in the mountains.”
So a sensible thing to do would be to keep away from greasy junk food while on your way to the base camp. No momos, no chaat; just nod in affirmative when you see the simple dal, chawal, roti and sabzi. “Use your common sense,” nudges Arjun.
What if your stomach is upset?
“If the trekker has made just 3-4 rounds to the loo, we let him/her be so that the body flushes out the pathogens and acclimatizes naturally,” Arjun says, “but if the frequency of loo-visits goes up to 7-8, a course of an antibiotic – such as Norflox – is advised.”
To conclude, I will leave you with the following pointers you should keep in mind:
1. Get your bowel movements in a routine. This could take some days, so begin a couple of weeks before your trek
2. Steer clear of street/junk food a couple of days before landing at the trekking destination.
3. Keep your meals light.
4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
5. Keep your personal dose of medicine handy in case of emergencies.
6. In the end, the trick is to be prepared for such situations and to stay calm.
If you have overcome your tummy troubles on your trek, let me know the steps you followed in the comments below!