Avoiding Montezuma's revenge
- Last Updated: May 23, 2014 by Mike Mercer
- Food, Safety, Tips
What causes Montezuma's revenge?
Montezuma's revenge, also known as Traveler's diarrhea (TD), can take a lot of the fun out of a Mexico vacation. TD is most often caused by drinking contaminated water or by eating fruits or vegetables that haven't been properly washed. Ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by fecal matter is the primary source for this type of illness. Approximately 10 million International travelers are affected by TD every year. Frequent bowel movements, abdominal cramping, bloating, fevers, and diarrhea are some of the most common symptoms. One of the most common culprits to attack the gastrointestinal tract is the E. coli bacteria, but there are many other types of bacteria, protozoa, parasites, viruses and amoebas that can also cause TD.
How can I keep from getting sick?
It is always important to practice proper personal hygiene, and even more so, while we are visiting another country. To guard against illness we should avoid eating of any dubious foods and beverages. You will want to stay away from drinking water straight from the tap and stick to drinking bottled water, hot tea, hot coffee or carbonated beverages that come in a bottle. If you order bottled water at a restaurant, insist it come to your table unopened and with the seal still intact, allowing you to open the container yourself and thereby prevent the unscrupulous practice of selling used plastic bottles filled with untreated tap water. You will also want to avoid ice, since there is no way of knowing if the ice was made with untreated water. It is also recommended that you use bottled water for brushing your teeth. Avoid eating any raw fruits or vegetables, including leafy green salads, unless you have washed, peeled and prepared them yourself, using treated or bottled water.
Foods that can help
Epazote, or wormseed, is a medicinal herb with anti-parasitic properties that can aid in combating the effects of TD. Epazote can be found in most Mexican markets, and the pungent flavorful herb is often used to make an herbal tea, or added to many Mexican dishes. The seeds of the papaya fruit also contain beneficial enzymes that can help to rid the body of harmful parasites. Ground papaya seeds have a strong peppery flavor and are sometimes used as a substitute for black pepper. If you should fall victim to TD, it becomes crucially important that you stay hydrated, since the body can quickly lose too much fluid during the illness. You will also want to avoid eating any sugary or starchy foods and stick instead to a diet of bland foods, such as; bananas, oatmeal, applesauce, rice, steamed vegetables and toast, while you are recovering.