Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I really wasn't sure what to expect in India with respect to my strict vegan diet. This was my third time, but my first time to visit as a vegan.

I am very sensitive to infections through the water and I ALWAYS get a bad belly, even when others don't. I've gotten a tummy ache every single time I've visited SE Asia including my two trips to India and my trips to Thailand and Bali. Because of this, I'm overly sensitive to drinking non-bottled water or things washed in non-bottled water.

This made it rather difficult for me because that ruled out salads and un-peeled fruits and veggies.

The net-net is, I ended up eating some not 100% whole wheat and rice products and consumed a bit of butter and cream as well. Also, some of the dishes were a bit oily. Having said that, I was able to find a number of dishes that seemed right on target and the fruit was great. I think my deviation was probably not that nutritionally significant.

What was the most shocking for me was how amazing everything tasted. I think this is in part because our vegan recipe repertoire is still rather limited and I tend to wolf things down with no seasoning at all when I'm busy. Every dish I ate was like an explosion of flavor in my mouth that sent me off on some sort of gastronomical journey. I don't think I ever appreciated Indian spices this much.

The menus almost always had more veggie dishes than carnivorous dishes and often 1/2 of group at any meal was vegetarian. They told me that some flights only serve vegetarian meals and some apartments don't lend to people who eat meat. Wow.

I am seriously considering whether there is some way for me to spend enough time among the microbes to build up an immunity to "enriched water" and eat in Indian with abandon.

Venkatesh was also explaining his meditation to me, which sounded great. I'm going to try to find some place to study.

Maybe I better go buy a tie-dye t-shirt and some Birkenstocks too. ;-P


I was told that eating the local yogurt drinks helps the stomach to build up resistance to the local bugs. Your posts are making me want to visit India. I have been veggie for over 10 years now.

Hey! I love meditation and yoga, and I wear Fluevogs (, as all of us should. THey've got a shop in SanF too.

Meditation for the soul and yoga for the GI tract.

As I lose weight and get it shape, it appears that the tightness of my muscles and my ability to control my relaxation is the next big project...

Interesting note about yogurt and resistance. That makes sense I guess.

Jason, what's special about Fluevogs?

Unfortunately, continued exposure to the water from childhood is pretty much the only way to build resistance. One useful safeguard is to eat only things that are hot - that way you keep half the nasties away.

Hi Joi, you might find that not eating meat will also expose you to less of the bugs in India - I've spent about a year in India over many trips, and really appreciate the quality and availability of vegetarian food.

One tip - I've found that grapefruit seed extract works well as a low level bug-buster, when travelling in slightly dodgy hygiene situations, and that you can double the dose if you suspect something coming on.

The other tip for India travellers, is skip the plastic bottles, as in the rest of the world, they are an environmental nightmare, both in their production and in their disposal. Best thing is to watch for the filters that you'll find in many places (cafe's restaurants etc) - they are pretty much fail-safe (ozonate or UV on top of filtering).

- Mitra

Being a vegetarian (or vegan) is fairly common in India, especially in the south. One thing you can do while in India is pick up a good vegetarian recipe book. These are available in almost every book store. Also (which means 'chef' in Hindi) is a nice website with lots of vegetarian recipes in English.

I couldn't help responding to the 'evolutionary' answers to this entry.

Actually plastic water bottles may be used again where renewable systems are in place like Germany, there, plastic bottles have a deposit charge just like glass bottles which is returned to you if you bring them back to the store. The transport of plastic bottles uses much less energy than glass bottles because they are much lighter. However, a coffee or tea is a good thirst quencher as well, so is just fruit, even though its somewhat mute to discuss using or not using water bottles in India when you took a flight to get there...

Yogurt is generally a bad idea, unless it is vegan yogurt made from plant milks, since a calf had to die in its production. Without calf, no pregnancy, without pregnancy, no milk, without milk no yogurt. "Veal" is a "side product" of milk exploitation.

Similar response demands the advertisement for the "Fluevog" shoes made here. Fluevogs are made of skin, and it really doesn't matter if that skin comes from animal persons of nonhuman species or from "Chinese prisoners", it's just perverse. I checked the site and they do have some 'vegetarian' models, (contains milk or egg extracts perhaps? - Why not vegan?), which are IMO incredibly ugly.

If the statement that one needed to grow up in a specific region to develop a resistance to strands of bacteria or other microorganisms was true, nobody who got sick by such means would ever recover, so that statement is nonsense. The moment you recover, you've become resistant. Perhaps the person confused bacteria with virii.

Your best choice to build up resistance to differing bacteriological environments is to let your immune system learn by casual exposure but don't be too risqué. You would not want to contract the various forms of Hepatitis. Stick to well heated vegan foods and drinks and you should be OK. A pump spray of ethyl alcohol for spraying fruits you just want to eat while out and about is a nice helper. If available in your country or your destination, get the non-denatured ethyl alcohol as otherwise the fruit would taste very bitter if you don't peel it. Desinfecting ethyl alcohol is often denatured for tax reasons.

Nuts and seeds and everything that is stored dry should not risk bacterial infection, as bacteria must have moist conditions.

I don't think people in India have the same outlook as those in the west so the idea of veganism isn't really there in the way that a typical westerner would see it.