I had never heard of “traveler’s diarrhea” (commonly known as “Montezuma’s Revenge”) much less experienced it until I actually travelled outside of the US. Believe me, it was a true “emptying” of my soul experience.
Many travellers don’t even know about traveler’s diarrhea, but I am here to say that it is real. After a little research, I found out it is one of the most common travel ailments. Forty percent of those who travel to Mexico, for example, become victims of the “revenge”.
And you know all those “exotic” foods you picture while on the plane? You know, the little delis where the little cute puggy grandma is stirring and frying, well believe it or not, it’s those foods (and water) that are contaminated.
For the prudent and wise, however, here are some choice-worthy precautions:
Stay away from salads and fresh fruits!
Avoid dairy products like the plague. In many tropical destinations, especially off the beaten path, pasteurization or refrigeration is questionable at best. Oh, I almost forgot about the food that has dairy as an ingredient. You know what I mean. Like the batter the cute puggy grandma uses to dip and deep fry her eye popping delights — beware and stay away!
Don’t touch food that has been sitting around for who knows how long (even if the cute and puggy grandma winks at you).
Boil it, peel it, disinfect it or don’t eat it! Fruits that can’t be peeled (grapes, starfruit, etc.), please soak them in a mild iodine wash or bleach solution.
Water, boil it, filter it, or disinfect it! While travelling in developing countries, treat ALL water, unless it is purchased bottled water. Oh, don’t forget to check the seal, not because someone has intentionally added cynide, but because recycling has caught on in some areas and empty bottled water bottles could be refilled with tap water. Of course, carbonated water is the most tamper-proof.
Make sure you eat food that is steaming hot.
Take Acidophilus Tablets ~ For the proactive traveller, mosey on down to your local health supply store and pick up this genuine “friend to all travellers”. What is it? Acidophilus is a natural yogurt culture that can assist your body in dealing with bacteria. Another alternative, just eat yogurt.
CARRY IODINE TABLETS AND KEEP HYDRATED
Lastly, in your zest to be pure of contaminants, don’t dehydrate yourself. You need to drink water! Be careful, but don’t be stupid! One simple way to always be prepared is to carry iodine tablets with you. Drinking enough water helps you to stay healthy while traveling.
Now, be advised, traveler’s diarrhea is real, but there are ways to ensure that your trip doesn’t leave you stranded on the toilet bowl while everyone else is having a great time. Be a wise and prudent traveler!
Evan Hendrix has traveled extensively and has lived many years in developing countries.
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