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How to Not Get Sick, and What to do if You do Get Sick, in Mexico

The dreaded Montezuma’s revenge: vomiting, diarrhea, body chills, horror. Most of us have been there, and a lucky few haven’t. Although I’ve spent much time traveling through Mexico, I also lived in Mexico the year after I graduated from college. So while none of these tips are foolproof, they are the best of what I’ve gathered from many years of touring and eating my way through this magnificent country. Provecho!

6 Ways to Avoid Stomach Issues

Follow your gut

My body always knows when something is going to make me sick, so I’ve learned to listen to her warnings. If your gut is telling you, do not eat here or do not buy anything from this person, then you should GTFO. 

Some other things to look out for in case your gut isn’t up to speed:

  1. Flies. Lots of flies/bugs and no attempt to get rid of them? Red Flag!
  2. Dirty dishes piled up? Red Flag!
  3. Uncovered meat that is also unattended? Red Flag!

Ask the right questions

Here are a few things to ask your waiter or the person cooking your street food. Do this BEFORE ordering.

1. Ask: “usan agua purificada para cocinando?” Translation: do you use purified water when cooking?   If the answer is no, you may want to find somewhere else to eat. 

2. If offered ice, ask: “usan agua purificada por el hielo?” Translation: do you use purified water for the ice? If the answer is no, say “no gracias.” 

Ease your way into street food...or avoid it

I love, love, love street food. I’m not going to say street food is what always makes me sick, but I’m fairly certain this is the case. Nonetheless, I still eat it. However, I’ve learned to do so with caution. 

I usually let myself acclimate to the country for a few days before I dive in, and I always ask about “agua purificada” or purified water. Also, I usually only head for the stands that are busy. Remember, Mexicans are not immune to the bacteria in their water either. Busy stand= less risk.  

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Rinse your fruits and Veggies with purified water

If I buy fruits and veggies, I always rinse them with purified water. You can also buy a parasite preventative (Microdyn) at most grocery stores. You simply add the mixture into a bowl of tapwater and voila–you can wash as much as your heart desires. 

Also, it’s sometimes wise to avoid fruit with edible skin. Go for things like bananas, mangoes, pineapple, anything that has a peel you can remove.

Use soap

Don’t just rinse your dishes with tap water. If you use tap water, make sure you use soap as well. 

According to Mexicans, you can also use a little soap with your tap water in order to clean fruits/veggies. 

DO NOT CONSUME THE WATER

Seriously, the water in Mexico will ruin your trip, if not your life. Be very careful not to take a swig of water while in the shower or accidentally fill your glass up with tap water. Unfortunately, it can be easy to forget that this is a no no. 

 

What to do if you have stomach issues

Consume liquids

Consuming liquids is the key to staying hydrated and flushing the bacteria out of your system:

1. Drink as much water as you can stomach  

2. Drink Electrolit (Gatorade but better). It will give you back some of the nutrients you are losing. 

3. Mix sparking water (agua con gas) with a bit of Sprite. 

 

Consume this

As soon as you can eat something, try these foods:

  1. Eat what your body is craving. Even if it’s Flaming Hot Cheetos :/
  2. Bananas and/or pineapple
  3. Starches (bread, tortillas, potatoes)
  4. Cooked veggies
  5. Foods that are “clean”

Do not consume this

Until your body feels “over it,” avoid these foods:

  1. Street food 
  2. Anything really spicy
  3. Anything greasy or made with lots of fat
  4. Cheese/dairy
  5. Meat 
  6. Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee (at least for a day or two)
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Go to the doctor

Most pharmacies in Mexico have a doctor’s office attached to them. The wait time is generally low, and the doctors are pretty good about diagnosing you correctly. If you can, get your hands on some ciprofloxacin (it will kill parasites and bacteria). 

I recommend going to the doctor if your symptoms persist for more than one day. 

Trust your body

I know I keep saying this but it’s the truth. My body usually steers me in the right direction. If you are in tune with yourself, you’ll know what to do. If not, try asking–“hey body, what do you need right now?” Trust me, it works. 

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