One sick Gringa [moved from Mexico board]
How do you do it? How do you stay well while eating in Mexico? All I gotta say is that Cipro just ain't cutting it. It doesn't matter if I'm eating at the latest in Polanco, on the street, or cena prepared by abuela and an army of tias, I just can't do it. Does anyone have a trick or two to share?
Colleen, sorry to hear you have such problems. I just returned from 10 days in Mexico and I was really and truly off the beaten track for several days of the trip. For what ever reason I don't seem to ever have too much difficulty with the food, and I eat street food, market food and home cooked food. Since I do make rather frequent trips to Mexico it may be that my body is, or has, developed some immunity/compatibility with the native and local flora, fauna and bacteria. I'll share some of the things I do, but I can't guarantee they'll work for you
1) I eat yogurt, a lot of yogurt, on both sides of the border. Plus I make it a point to continue eating yogurt while in Mexico. In the States I find yogurts with live cultures. The yogurt with the live cultures adds good bacteria to the gut. The theory is that the increased numbers of good bacteria in the gut aids in digestion and prevention of food related issues.
2) In lieu of yogurt, I drink Yakult. I love this stuff. It's basically a small bottle (about 1/4 cup) of mixed live lactobacillius cultures. It is dairy based and tastes a little like lemon yogurt. It's a big concentrated hit of good bacteria. Yakult originated in Japan many years ago. An enterprising Mexican of Japanese descent introduced it to Mexico where it has had documented (and documentable) success in reducing gastrointestinal problems. Yakult is readily available Mexico and in the U.S., you can find it in larger U.S. grocery stores in the dairy case by the yogurt. I've even seen it in some Mexican farmacias that have coolers or beverage cases in them.
3) I wash my hands frequently and before all meals.
4) In the absence of hand washing capabilities - like in very rural places - I'll use Purell or a Wet Wipe.
5) If the food is supposed to be hot, it needs to be served hot, hot enough to almost burn my mouth or tongue.
6) I drink a lot of fluids to push things through the system.
7) I use fresh lime juice pretty liberally as well as chiles. Neither of these will inhibit or prevent problems, but they can reduce the potential discomfort
8) Eating too much fruit (because it's fully ripe and tastes like it should) has been known to cause some intestinal distress.
I do know several people for whom Cipro was not effective. It may be that the chemical properties of Cipro are not compatible/effective against some food borne bacteria. Good luck, I hope you can find some things to help. The food in Mexico is so good, it's a shame you can't enjoy it more.
"I use fresh lime juice pretty liberally as well as chiles. Neither of these will inhibit or prevent problems, but they can reduce the potential discomfort".
Lime juice, OK. Slightly acidic..
Chiles: How's that?? Do I read this correctly? If I've got diarrhea I'm sure not gonna want hot stuff irritating my lower GI, not to mention my anus. I need this explained.....
I'm of the opposite school of Dining Diva, but each person has a different set of pipes! I try to expose myself to as much local bacteria, flora, and fauna as possible.I brush my teeth with the tap water, eat the tap water ice, eat street oysters, and dine at any and all establishments.If it's good, I don't hesitate.
I take no measures to avoid sickness, and never use anti-bacterial anything, here in the US, Mexico, or in any country. I do believe these things weaken the immune system, but maybe I just have a strong system.After so many years of travel in Mexico and other places eating at the most suspect of street stands I've had no problems. I'm very selective about quality which does mean fresh ingredients due to turnover and cleanliness attributable to the chefs care in the serving of his/her food.Avoid the unkept, stale, and low traffic stands.Of course, you should be aware of when that stand has traffic.Certain foods have specific times for eating, so a great stand be slow because it's not their time of day to be busy.This knowledge comes with a little experience.
I don't know if this helps, but it works for me, and is a real method I give some thought to.Oh, and lots of tequila.
I'm with streetgourmetla. I've had a problem only twice in the 43 years I've been traveling in Mexico. In San Blas in the mid '60s I got a nasty case of food poisoning but that was because there was a terrible storm and the electricity was out for a couple of days. Restaurants continued to serve "fresh" fish that was not refrigerated (no electricity) and I was foolish enough to eat the fish. BAD idea. I also got a very minor case of the turistas once in Pátzcuaro (in the early '70s). But that's it.
I don't think of myself as having a very efficient/effective immune system, but I eat anything and everything in Mexico and I take no particular hygiene precautions. I could be lucky or have acquired some immunity to Mexican bacteria, but I don't think so. In my experience, I believe most tourists who get gastrointestinal problems in Mexico are suffering from mild or severe food poisoning as the result of eating spoiled food or food that has not been properly cooked or food that has not been refrigerated or food that should be served hot and has been unheated for many hours before being warmed up and served, etc.--essentially what streetgourmetla is talking about.
With regard to food preparers: If they don't practice good hygiene when handling food I would worry more about getting Hep A than the turistas. Seems to me everyone should be immunized against Hep A. Take a 2-shot series of the vaccine and you're immune for the rest of your life.
I'm sure this post doesn't really help you, but it's all I have to offer. I'd encourage you to keep trying Mexican food, but if you continue to get sick you may have to travel elsewhere. And speaking of that, do you have the same problems when you eat the food in other foreign countries (Central/South America, Mediterranean countries, Asia or Africa, etc.)?
I tend to get sick as well- I just expect it. Like you, it doesn't matter where in the country I am or what I have eaten; even with all precautions I get ill. I expect it- I do have a weak immune system. You might want to change antibiotics. I do know I get really good relief from Pepto Bismol. My last trip at the onset of illness I started taking it three times a day and it really
helped (not the bacteria, of course, just the symptoms). I felt pretty much normal.
Cipro is a broad spectrum anibiotic, and may actually be causing your problems, not Mexico! According to drugstore.com: "SIDE EFFECTS that may occur while taking this medicine include stomach upset, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, headache, vision changes or dizziness during the first few days as your body adjusts to this medicine."
You're probably much much better off not trying anything that exotic as a prophylactic. Just washing your hands and making sure you are drinking plenty of clean water, then carrying a good supply of across-the-counter Immodium-D is a better plan.
I'm with you Caroline1; I've been in and out of 2nd, 3rd and 4th world countries a LOT and seldom have any problems. But I do pack Imodium every time. I do practice my own good hygiene, and I try to observe the food prep of any place I want to eat to see whether the 30 Second Rule or the 30 Minute Rule is being applied!
Pepto Bismol as a preventative measure.
Take it with every meal (tablets are more convenient to carry than the liquid). There's something in Pepto Bismol that kills some of the bad bacteria that causes travelers illness.
My mother travels a lot told me she does it and heard it from her pharmacist and I asked my pharmacist and he said the same thing.