Yes, you can avoid the runs when you travel.
Nothing is less appealing than coming down with a dose of diarrhoea while travelling in a foreign land. I suspect fear of getting a stomach bug is a big reason why many travellers are reluctant to visit Third World countries and, if they do go, why they avoid local food.
But, in my experience, if you behave sensibly you've got a very good chance of avoiding Delhi Belly, Montezuma's Revenge, the Cairo Two-step or any of their cousins.
Over the years I've travelled in India, China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America and Africa and only once got the runs. That was after three weeks' roughing it in Papua New Guinea - including being eaten alive by bed bugs - and I think represented a gesture of protest by my poor, battered old body rather than an actual stomach bug.
The key to avoiding bugs is prolific use of hand-sanitiser. I got this message years ago while doing a fantastic rail journey from Beijing via Mongolia and Russia to Helsinki, with Perth-based Travel Directors.
Our tour leader, Jim Gill, was a fanatic on the topic of picking up bugs via the hands. On the company's first few trips, he said, most travellers got some bug or other but, when he began to insist on frequent use of hand-sanitiser, the snuffles and runs vanished.
I was an instant convert and I'm sure that was why I was one of the few in a group that spent a month in Ethiopia at the end of last year who didn't pick up a stomach bug.
You need also to be sensible about what you eat but that doesn't mean avoiding local food. Indeed, local cuisine is one of the great reasons for travelling - just take a few basic precautions: eat freshly cooked food, not stuff that's been sitting around for hours; opt for stalls or restaurants that look clean and well run; and avoid salads or fruit that may have been rinsed in local tap water or drinks containing ice.
Then again, rules are made to be broken: in Ethiopia I did risk eating tomato and avocado salads in a couple of very professional looking restaurants which our local guide assured us would be safe.
I also risked a couple of bits of fruit but only after cleaning the skin with sanitiser. By the way, I also sanitised the mouths of beer bottles that arrived at the table already open.
Even if you do pick up a bug, the wonders of modern medicine mean it needn't ruin your trip. I always take pills and sachets along just in case. But when our Grassroots Travel tour leader in Ethiopia got a couple of doses of the runs, she just popped a Norfloxacin pill and by next day was her bubbly, energetic self.
If, after all that, you still pick up a dose of diarrhoea, look on the bright side: when you get home people will compliment you on having lost weight.
Jim Eagles is a former editor of Herald Travel.