What is Bali Belly?

What is Bali Belly?

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What is Bali Belly?

Authored by Dr Richard Bennett on 07.08.2019
Medically Reviewed by Dr Aifric Boylan
Last updated on 20.08.2019

What causes Bali Belly?

  • Bali Belly is also known as “Traveller’s Diarrhoea”
  • It comes from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water
  • You get watery diarrhoea, and sometimes vomiting, fever, bloating or tummy cramps.
  • It usually lasts between 1 and 5 days
  • In 10% of people it lasts more than 2 weeks
  • There are other conditions you need to consider. Dysentery leads to blood or mucus in your poo- urgent medical attention is required. Giardia is a specific parasite that causes lots of farting, bloating, tummy pains. It tends to last a long time.

treatment for Bali Belly

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How can you avoid Bali Belly?

There are a few tips that may help you avoid getting Bali Belly.

  • Make sure all meat and seafood is thoroughly cooked (not raw or rare)
  • Avoid the following foods while travelling:
    • Sushi
    • Unpasteurised dairy products milk/cheese/ice cream
    • Raw and peeled fruit and vegetables
    • Green leafy vegetables like spinach or lettuce
    • Sauces or mayonnaise
    • Street vendor food
    • Buffet food
    • Food that was hot but has been left to cool
  • Water:
    • Don’t drink tap water
    • Don’t use tap water to brush your teeth
    • Don’t use ice made from tap water (though the government-issued ice is fine)
    • Drink bottled water – carbonated is best
    • If you wish to drink tap water, you must boil it continuously for more than 5 minutes first
    • Water filters and chemical treatments are unreliable
  • Hygiene:
    • Wash your hands after using the toilet
    • Wash, then completely dry your hands before preparing or eating food
    • Using alcohol hand sanitiser gel if you are unable to wash your hands
  • Swimming:
    • Avoid getting water in your mouth when swimming in pools or in the sea
    • Don’t swim if you have any open cuts or grazes
    • Don’t swim if you have Bali belly (as you may spread the illness)
    • Don’t swim in pools that look cloudy
  • Children
    • Don’t allow them to crawl around
    • Wash, then dry their hands before they put them in their mouths
    • Follow the water precautions described above when making up formula milk
  • Other measures
    • It’s possible that taking probiotics (usually marketed as yoghurts, drinks or tablets) reduces the chances of getting Bali belly
    • Getting the cholera vaccination (which is given orally) before you travel may also reduce the chances of getting Bali belly
    • Certain medications for gastritis or reflux can increase the chances of getting Bali belly
      • You should not stop them suddenly if you’re taking them regularly
      • You may wish to discuss this with your family doctor
      • You can reduce the risk by taking them before bed instead of in the morning

What is the treatment for Bali Belly?

  • No matter how careful you are, you may still be unlucky, and unfortunately, getting Bali Belly once doesn’t protect against future illnesses
  • The most important thing is to avoid dehydration, by taking plenty of fluids. Oral rehydration salts (such as Hydralyte) can help.
  • Antibiotics have been shown to help in some cases
  • Medications to treat nausea and prevent vomiting may help
  • It may help to avoid dairy foods for a while (milk/cheese/cream/ice cream)
  • Stick to simple, plain foods like toast
  • It is safe to take anti-diarrhoea medications (eg. Loperamide) if needed. There is NO evidence that anti-diarrhoea medications stop “bacteria or poisons from leaving the body”. 

If you have concerns about Bali Belly, particularly if symptoms are severe, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible.

Article Resources & further information


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Mayo Clinic

what is bali belly
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About the Author:

Richard Bennett
Dr Richard Bennett is an experienced UK-qualified GP, based in Melbourne. He attended medical school at Imperial College in London, and subsequently worked at Charing Cross Hospital and Royal Surrey County Hospital, before completing his vocational training in General Practice. For many years he was a GP owner in Norwich, where he was also an Executive Board Member for the Local Health Authority. He is a full time doctor working in a busy Melbourne GP clinic, as well as a founder and director of Qoctor. He is a regular contributor on the topics of migraine and mental health.

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