The significant other didn’t want me to write this post. He protested loudly and prolongedly last night as I thoughtfully made notes. The female parental unit (who taught me the diarrhea song!) would also advise against hitting “publish.” But, I’M DOING THIS FOR YOU, GUYS, so here it goes.
If you make the trek to Peru from the United States, your weak, little gringo stomach is probably going to hate you for a bit. And your intestines? Well, those suckers are about 30 feet long collectively, so when they’re ticked off, you’re definitely going to know. They don’t call it “Montezuma’s revenge” for nothing, y’all.
Nobody wants to talk about diarrhea (except these guys) because, well, who wants THAT kind of imagery floating around in their noggins? Any way you slice it, diarrhea is the worst, and—in some cases—pretty dangerous. Unfortunately, odds are you’re going to get it at least once while traveling. If you live in Peru (or any third-world country, really), you’ll have it multiple times.
Here’s how to handle this crappy situation:
BEFORE You Go, Things You Really Ought to Know
Eat foods that will please your intestines. Repeat after me: “When my intestines are happy, I’m happy.” We all need to start paying more attention to our innards—especially ones that cover so much real estate!
You don’t want to start a trip on the wrong foot so avoid foods that you know upset your digestive system. Start taking prebiotics/eating foods that have prebiotics several weeks before you leave. The science on this changes all the time so ask your doctor for recommendations!
Stock up on Pepto and Tums before you leave. It’s difficult to find U.S. quality in Peru. And get chewables whenever possible—they work faster.
Also make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. You can get a lot of gnarly bugs via contaminated food and water.
(Ladies, if you’re prone to infections down there I’ve got you covered. Insertable pills—oral pills don’t work well!—containing one or more of the following are helpful for warding off illness: Lactobacillus brevis and Lactobacillus salivarius and Lactobacillus plantarum. Avoid anything with Lactobacillus acidophilus because apparently it’s not effective. I wrote an article about this one a few weeks ago so it’s relatively up-to-date, but check with your doc!)
You’re Gonna Have to Poo so Don’t Neglect the Loo
Yes, your foray into the wonders of diarrhea is just beginning! Assume that you’re going to get it at least once. How awful would it be if you had to go through the process while in a gross bathroom?
When you’re apartment hunting (or hotel shopping!), the loo is top priority. The majority of toilets I’ve seen in Peru don’t even HAVE seats so consider yourself ahead of the game if you’ve got one and it’s latched on correctly.
If you just love the apartment, but the bathrooms are dingy, ask your landlord to fix it up before you move in. This is a simple and reasonable request!
When it comes to hotels, ask to see the room before you check in. This is a standard practice here, and no one is offended.
Hey, Gringo, Let’s Be smart! Don’t Eat at That Food Cart!
Adventurous eating is awesome. You cannot truly experience a country without sampling its cuisine.
But please be smart about your food choices. American tourists are already the butt of SO MANY jokes. If y’all keep making me look bad, I’m gonna go “Soy de Canada.”
Go to a nice restaurant and order that guinea pig—don’t eat it off the street.
Avoid anything that’s not cooked or peeled (unless you’re at a really nice place). Salad that’s not washed in a cleaning solution is especially dangerous. #LifeExperience
You’re Feelin’ Kind of Slow, and There’s Grumbling Down Below
When Your Stomach’s Feeling Sick, And You Need Help Real Quick
Peruvian pharmacies sell LOTS of medications, including antibiotics, without prescriptions. This is great for travelers because who has time to find/visit a physician while on the move?
But, be warned, the pharmacists at these counters are not highly trained like in the U.S. If you’re buying medication do not expect them to know what you need. Always look up the generic drug name and dosage beforehand. Write it down on a piece of paper, and give it to the pharmacist to avoid any confusion.
Before you leave the pharmacy check to make sure the pills are correct, and keep your receipt. You do not want to accidentally take bad medication.
Don’t Suffer Another Bout, Just Get Up and Throw it Out
Your intestines are on fire. Was it the chicken? That burger? The salad?
If you have any leftovers THROW THEM OUT. For someone like me who absolutely hates waste, this was a problem. But it’s always better to just chuck possible offenders than make yourself (or someone else) sick once again.
When You’re Sitting on the Pot and You Really Think You’ve Got…
Check out this Jezebel article “You’ve Been Pooping All Wrong.” Yup, there’s a right way and a wrong way. And when you have diarrhea, you better poo correctly. Seriously.
If Your Intestines Are on Fire, and the Sitch is Rather Dire
If you’re in pain and losing lots of bodily fluids, go to the hospital. For about $100 they can hook you up to an IV and pump you full of great medications that will take care of your food poisoning problem. It’s much better than waiting it out and potentially hurting yourself.
Got any other Pro Tips? Share ’em with me! Always happy to talk health, prevention and, more specifically, poo.