6 Travel Tips For Your Stomach

An excerpt from A Deat Bat In Paraguay:

[In Tupiza, Bolivia] I did some research on the internet while waiting a day for my tour to the Southwest to begin. (How I could make it four days without constant access to toilet I wasn’t sure.) I learned that Bolivia is the poorest country in the continent by GDP per capita. If you include Central America, it’s second behind only Haiti, a place so sad and impoverished that the worst off subsist on cookies made from mud.

I thought about all the countries I was now “qualified” to visit, places I would most likely survive with only somewhat serious intestinal problems. But it’s doubtful I’d enjoy myself. Even Bolivia’s rough, pink-colored toilet paper was getting to me. After a few days it began to feel like someone was trying to jam jagged rocks up my butt with every wipe, and after extended walks I began to notice an odd, unpleasant itch in sensitive areas too embarrassing to discuss with other gringos. How I sorely missed the luxurious softness of American toilet paper! It didn’t help matters that the pink color made it hard to tell when I was done cleaning or not. I theorize that Bolivians have dirty asses because of this.

If you’re going to South America for an extended period you need a survival strategy for your ass. Here are six tips:

1. Don’t use the hostel toilet paper. They are one grade above newspaper and will give you the abraded anus if you have to go often due to diarrhea. Go to the supermarket and buy the most expensive toilet paper they have, which won’t be expensive at all. Your ass is important so don’t skimp on this, even though I know you will.

2. Take probiotics. If you’re going to a poor country with an already sensitive stomach, I recommend you take probiotics, which are “good” bacteria for your stomach that is supported by scientific research. Two you can try that don’t require refrigeration are Jarrow Bourlardii and Jarrow Dophilus. If you need something heavy duty to repair damage then go with Kirkman Pro-Bio Defense. If your stomach is beyond fucked yet a doctor insists nothing is wrong with you, go with the most concentrated probiotic you can legally buy: VSL3. For much lighter concentrations buy yogurt like Activa, which you can find everywhere. Honestly I don’t think one serving a day of Activa will make a significant difference, but it doesn’t hurt.

3. Lay off caffeine. I know you like coffee and soda but caffeine is a gut stimulant that is like cocaine on digestive muscle. When you’re taking long bus rides or hikes you don’t want to have to go unexpectedly, and holding your shit in for hours at a time is really uncomfortable. Trust me when I say it’s better to be constipated while traveling than going too often, but if you’re too constipated then slowly ramp up fiber intake starting with one apple a day. Or have a double espresso in the vicinity of a toilet.

4. Fight the sludge. After a while in a poor country the consistency of your shit may turn into gooey sludge. This is probably because you eat a lot of outside food that isn’t handled in the most sanitary way. Here’s my anti-sludge diet:

Breakfast: Sandwich of cheese and deli meat, apple, yogurt.

Lunch: Nutella or peanut butter sandwich, banana, pear, exotic fruit (papaya in Brazil, avocado in Colombia)

Snack: Crackers

Dinner: Rice-based meal with chicken and veggies (carrots, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes)

Use white bread and rice first because the anti-sludge diet has a lot of fiber which you don’t want to overload on and get mushy craps (though I argue that mushy is far better than sludgy). It takes about 3-4 days to eliminate the sludge.

5. Take something for the gas. Gas decreases your overall quality of life (along with your confidence when it comes time to mack), and seems to increase dramatically during travel. Simply travel with GasX (simethicone). Pop two, wait 20 minutes for a big explosion, and then you’re gas free for several hours. Foreign pharmacies sell simethicone as well. (I find that Argentine dulce de leche gives me awesome gas, probably due to the potent mix of sugar and dairy. In fact anything with dairy causes problems for me, so I only eat things like rich chocolate cake when I’m going to stay in for the next half day.) One thing I like about simethicone is that it doesn’t get absorbed into your bloodstream so you don’t need to worry about long-term effects.

6. Peppermint. If your stomach in an angry bear like mine then you need something to settle it down. I recommend peppermint pills, a natural gut relaxant (try either Pepogest or Heather’s Tummy Tamers). I pop one before eating meals that I know will cause me trouble. Only side effect is having minty burps afterwards. I pushed these on my sister recently who told me the other day that they’re “like crack.”

A chunk of A Dead Bat In Paraguay was about my intestinal adventures, which I enjoyed sharing in detail. Click here to read up to 20% of the book on Google Books.

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  • http://therookiedc.wordpress.com The Rookie

    In central america I was doing fine until I ate some non-refridgerated eggs. Shat like a week before I got some medicine, not sure what it was but it worked great.

    The Rookie’s last blog post: Whoops.

  • http://districtramblings.com Laura

    I’m impressed by your probiotics recommendation. I didn’t know men had caught onto that yet.

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  • retired backpacker

    There was def a period of time when I lived in Latin America where I started to think that I would never have solid shit again. The worst day was when I went to an “Indian” restaurant in Sao Paulo and my shit turned lime green. :(

  • speakeasy

    I carried a messenger bag which included about a quarter roll of toilet paper folded down(for space), as well as some baby wipes. I can’t overemphasize enough how important it is to have some baby wipes in your day bag. I don’t know how people clean their ass with dry paper. It’s pretty fucking nasty.

    Pepto Bismol or generic Pink Bismuth dry tablets were a god send. One of the most important things in my bag. While on my salar de uyuni trip I woke up nauseous and it got worse. Maybe it was from the Bolivian llama dinner they served us at the salt hotel the night before. When we started driving I felt like puking was almost imminent. I hated the thought that my first memory of the salar would be getting sick on it, so I popped a few pepto tablets and in 15-20 minutes felt as good as new.

    Ginger tablets or ginger tea are good too for mild stomach discomfort. But not as fast acting as the Pepto. Use the Pepto in an emergency, the ginger for more mild symptoms.

  • nathan

    does anyone know of any good deals to Haiti this time of year?

  • http://themodernsavage.com/ Matt Savage

    Coffee in particular, even decaffeinated, is something to avoid as well, considering that it is a natural laxative.

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  • DJ

    I think you missed a few key items:

    1) Rehydration tablets – If you’re throwing up or shitting the runs continuously, your body loses a lot of key electrolytes, and if left untreated you can actually become seriously ill. Taking rehydration tablets replenishes these electrolytes, not to mention they make you feel a hell of a lot better.

    2) Imodium – It stops the diarrhea. Technically, you don’t want to stop diarrhea because it’s your body’s way of cleaning out your system. However, if you have a bus/train to catch, you’re going to have to put the runs on hold. Immodium helps.

    3) Soup – This is easy to digest so your stomach will clean itself out very fast (i.e. you’ll be shitting more frequently and faster). This is good to do if you’re planning on staying put for a few days.

    Don’t eat any meat or greasy food. That will just prolong the agony.

  • http://fairmaidenintrouble.blogspot.com Arnold D’Souza

    Regarding Point #1, I’d actually recommend doing away with toilet paper altogether and using your left hand and water!

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  • Anonymous

    You should be wary of towels that the hostels give you. I caught a case of pin worms from an unclean towel while in Ecuador. Either they did not use enough soap or washed the towel in cold water which did not kill the germs/bugs.

    If dairy products is giving you problems you might be lactose intolerant.
    I have traveled for over 10 yrs and have gotten sick only three times.

    Tips.

    Eat at places that are busy. If a place has repeat customers the food should be safe to eat.

    You should give your digestive system time to adjust to the local food. Don’t jump in feet first and start eating the local food.

    A daily dose of yogurt is a great prophylactic.

    Wash your hands. wash your hands and wash your hands!!! I carry a bottle of hand cleanser and baby wipes. Baby wipes are also good for a good arse cleaning,Or a quick hillbilly bath.

    When they bring your food and your spider-sense is tingling leave. Do not eat it just because you paid for it. Two of the times I became sick was when i ignored them.

  • http://www.marriedmansexlife.com Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life

    Hang on… how can you even fuck good with the damn runs?

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  • http://sectorlv.wordpress.com/ Culdcept

    All these tips are very useful for traveling in Asia too, especially in China. As DJ said, never take anything that will stop diarrhea unless you absolutely must travel and wont have regular access to a bathroom. Your body is trying to get rid of something and not letting it is very, very bad.

    Always carry waterless hand sanitizer and use it constantly, especially before you eat. It will be hard to find in many of the countries where you need it the most.

    One good thing about all of this is that it will build your immune system up and it will be almost impossible to get sick in the US or other ‘cleaner’ countries.

    Culdcept’s last blog post: Brides but not Wives.

  • http://vincentignatius.wordpress.com Vincent Ignatius

    I spent extended periods in Central America when I was a kid, so I can usually handle the filthiest street food all over the world without problems. Dairy is still something that gives me problems abroad, probably because I barely eat it in the states.

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  • Willy

    Papaya Enzyme tablets will help ward off many of the gut wrenching micro-organisms found in third world food and water.

    I took two daily for the first 2 months I was in Venezuela. I got complacent and stopped. I proceeded to lose 15 lbs in 10 days after a bout of amoebas. Killed them with a less than lethal (to me) poison that felt like death in a pill. Took up the papaya habit again with no problems thereafter.

    Most (if not all) tropical medicine handbooks will recommend it as a digestive prophylactic.

  • speakeasy

    @Willy

    I never heard of papaya enzyme. I just read though that it can have some pretty nasty side-effects though: http://www.ehow.com/about_5155438_papaya-enzyme.html

  • InterestedParty

    Yikes. When your insides aren’t right, you don’t feel like doing shit. Except maybe shitting. Forget about trying to pick up women. You’d rather looks for the next toilet than the next notch.

  • Anonymous

    I am vegan. When I first got to Arequipa, things were fine. Then all of a sudden it happened. It was like shitting water for a few days. I knew it was going to happen. It all came to pass. Three months and four countries later, no problems at all. Perfect shit every time. I find the over all vege and fruit quality to be very good down here. A vegan diet is completely possible down here despite what the guide books say. I even drink tap water every where. No problems.

    I have found that if one is worried about what they just ate, it is good to take a shot of booze right after. Vodka is best.

    I think Roosh´s ass problems is some of the funniest shit I have ever read. Thanks Roosh for sharing your ass problems with the world.

  • Willy

    @speakeasy,

    That’s the first I’ve heard of any side effects, although I’m sure they must be legit. It’s essentially an all natural extract.

    All I can say is that a majority of a North American construction crew of ~100 took them on a regular basis for the year I was there. No side effects were reported but who knows. Papaian is essentially a component of the papaya seed so if your body has a reaction to Papaya you’re probably out of luck.

    I can tell you it beats the hell out of amoeba’s.

  • Rob

    I always get constipated when traveling, not the other way around. The best thing I’ve found so far? Cigarettes. (This only works if you’re not a regular smoker). I always make sure to get a pack of Marlboro Reds before a long trip; smoking one on the john will make me shit my guts out instantly.

  • Blah

    All this trouble just for pussy.. that’s just sad…

  • Sif

    How about going to the grocery store and buying a bunch of canned food and pasta? Drink/cook with only bottled water, and you should be fine.