(Warning: this post is about illnesses and might be too graphic for the faint of heart--or stomach)
Having recently recovered from a rather severe but short illness, I now feel that I have experienced enough "Middle East sickness" to give hints for future sick travellers. My first illness in Egypt was a mix of food poisoning and the curse of the Nile, and my second illness was a rather nasty virus that has been moving around Amman and that took most of my family here out for a couple of days. (For example, I was so sick that within ten minutes of drinking anything, I would throw it all up, rather violently, and this was even after I had thrown up several times and emptied my stomach of all food that had previously resided therein. I was so sick I could hardly walk the 20 meters from my room to the bathroom. Sorry for being so graphic.)
Therefore, I thought I would give hints for future travellers who would like to avoid, as much as possible, illnesses that come naturally from eating street food and living in a different country.
First of all, I don't drink Coke, or anything caffinated, in the America. I just don't. I call it part of my religion, although I know there are plenty of Mormons that will tell me that the General Authorities drink Coke. I don't care. I don't.
In the Middle East, however, it is a wonderful idea to drink Coke with your street meals. When I lived in Houston, we would use Coke to clean our toilets, because it eats away at anything in its path and completely destroys the mold in about an hour.
And this is what it does to your stomach. You can see that this might be harmful, except that when you eat street food, Coke cleans out your stomach wonderfully. At the very least, it is a good idea to drink something with carbonation, like the wonderful orange Mirinda drink that is abundant here. This helps prevent upset stomachs, and the coke syrup eats away at germs and bacteria.
If you do get sick and can't keep food in in any way, Coke is also another wonderful idea. After your stomach has been emptied and you have lost all sources of nutrients, Gatorade or electrolytes (you can get them in packets here and put them in your water bottle) help immensely. However, if you really can't keep anything in your stomach, drink Coke slowly. Like take at least 15 minutes to drink a can of it.
And then let it sit.
Several hours later, try a little bit of bread. If you can't keep this down (I have found pitas are the best), go back to just Coke. But if you can keep it down, gradually work your way up to other foods. Avoid meat for at least 24 hours after you have kept your bread down.
Above all, make sure you drink enough water so you don't get dehydrated. This is incredibly important.
Finally, I have also been told that "lebene" is excellent for sick people. My family gave me quite a bit when I was sick--but I hate lebene. It is like liquid cream cheese with lemon juice in it, and I can hardly swallow it when I am not violently throwing up. However, it seemed to help others in my family--mine just went straight down the sink, instead of sitting in my stomach for 10 minutes before going into the sink.
Oh, and make sure you have plenty of toilet paper. Carry it with you in your purse, buy kleenexes (or Fine) from the street sellers, or do whatever you want. Sometimes the "toilet hoses" just don't cut it when you are ill.