Sunday, February 10, 2019

Keeping the Tummy Happy While Traveling

This is my tummy. And these are my hands makin' a heart 'round my belly. I love my tummy, and I love when my tummy is happy -- especially when I'm traveling.

I love when my tummy is happy -- especially when I'm traveling.

A couple of folks have asked how my stomach is holding up here in Guatemala; my last trip to a developing country didn't fare so well for my tummy.

The last time I traveled overseas, I acquired a nasty little stomach bug. For twenty-six straight hours, I lost liquids from both ends. Over and over again. Knowing my situation was getting more'n'more dire, I mustered the energy to get myself to the hospital. After some tests, a bag of IV, some drugs, and some recovery time, I was back-to-normal. Well, more-or-less back-to-normal. For the remainder of my time in India, I experienced occasional bouts of unhappy-tummy. During my trip to Guatemala, I vowed to be more careful about the liquids and solids entering my mouth.


The rule of thumb for water consumption while traveling is this: If you're careful to make sure you're drinking (properly) filtered water, you should be okay.

Many tourists purchase bottled water to ensure they are consuming potable water. I don't follow this practice. Plastic bottles are a HUGE problem, especially in countries that don't have the capacity to recycle. I feel it is my responsibility to be environmentally conscious when I travel, and so I bring a reusable water container with me as well as a Sawyer Mini water filter.

I learned on my trip to India that the quality of water filters varies significantly. The fancy-dancy filter at my yoga program had all sorts of lights and lazers and bells and whistles. My tummy was happy with the water from this filter. The filter at my AirBnB, on the other hand, was less fancy-dancy. My tummy was not happy with the water from this filter. Fortunately, once I started double-filtering the supposedly already filtered water with my Sawyer Mini, my digestion system was once again butterflies'n'unicorns. My trip to India taught me that I need to better follow my gut -- no pun intended -- as to when I need to filter my own water.

This is the kitchen where I'm staying in Guatemala:

This is the shared kitchen where I'm staying in Guatemala.

I use water from the faucet for washing my hands and for washing dishes. As long as the water has been wiped dry, there should, in theory, be little concern of contamination.

There is a water purifier (purificador) next to the kitchen sink. It is connected directly to the faucet. A little knob on the faucet head diverts water from the faucet to the filter, and back again.

The purificador gives my gut a wee bit of concern. There is mildew growing on the filter's exterior, and black tape attaches the spigot to the filter's core. Furthermore, I have no way of knowing the state of the filter within the purificador's core. As such, I use this water for cooking and for filling the teapot.

This purificador serves as a preliminary filter.
It's a bit sketchy, and I don't fully trust it.

Fortunately, the kitchen is equipped with a second water filter. This second filter is an EcoFiltro. It uses a highly sophisticated technology called "ceramic pot filtration." Well, ok, it may not be so sophisticated, but it is reliable. The EcoFiltro uses a combination of clay, sawdust, and colloidal silver to decontaminate and purify water. The filter also removes unpleasant smells and tastes.

Water from the purificador is poured into the EcoFiltro. As such, the water from the EcoFiltro is doubly filtered. I'm entirely comfortable using this water for drinking.

This EcoFiltro serves as a secondary filter.
I fully trust drinking from this container.

With more time in Guatemala, my stomach would likely become comfortable drinking water from the single-purificador system. Call my bluff on being an adventurous spirit, but I'm not feeling a need to test any speculations at this point in time.

So far, my tummy is happy drinking the doubly-filtered water here in Guatemala.


I took the below photo on one of my visits to a Chilean market a few years back.

My photo from a market in Chile.
There is a dead rat and dog shit amidst the pile of good-looking carrots.

Before I left for Guatemala, I figured that if the produce markets in Central America were anything like the markets in South America (see Valpara√≠so: The Markets), then it would be prudent for me to utilize a system for cleaning my market-acquired goods.

I did quite a bit of research on various methods for cleaning fruits and veggies. There are products, such as Microdyn or Bacdyn, designed for washing vegetables. While there is nothing wrong with these products, I prefer to use a more natural (and less expensive) solution. I read up on various natural cleaning methods, such as creating bleach or saline solutions. I decided that a vinegar-based solution best suited my style. (If you're a traveler, I highly recommend reading this article: How to Clean and Disinfect Fruits and Vegetables in Mexico.)

I visit the market on the weekends to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for the week. Fresh, of course, is the operative -- I'm not sure what types of pesticides or dead animals or poop have come in contact with the food I will ingest.

Who knows what else might have been transported in the bed of this truck
as the veggies and fruits make their way to the stores and markets.

Many good fruits and vegetables are sold from not-so-sanitary streets.

Upon returning home from the markets, I rinse the fruits and vegetables under the water from the purificador. I then soak the fruits and vegetables in a vinegar solution for ten minutes.

Upon arriving in Guatemala, I bought a large container (with a lid) to hold my vinegar solution. I filled the container two-thirds full with a solution of one-part vinegar to two-parts water.

This gallon-sized plastic container holds my magical vinegar solution.

Peppers, tomatoes, and avocado bathing in the magical vinegar potion.

Afterwards, I rinse the fruits and vegetables again with filtered water and store them in my basket, ready to be incorporated into the week's homemade meals.

My basket of cleaned fruit and veggies
sits below my basket of other ready-to-eat food.

Between washings, I put the lid on the container and store the solution. The vinegar solution can be reused until the water starts to get cloudy. For me, the solution is good for cleaning about two week's worth of fruits and vegetables.

So far, my tummy is happy eating the Guatemalan fruits and veggies that have been cleaned with my vinegar solution.

So now you know -- my stomach is doing well. Though it's a slight inconvenience to ensure that I am drinking (properly) filtered water and to wash my fruits and vegetables, the hassle is well-worth it. It sure is nice to have a happy tummy while traveling.

(Por favor, querido dios, don't let this post jinx me!)


  1. Just goes to show, a bit a preparation can make all the difference. Curiosity question, I’ve always wondered if boiling water south of the boulder would help?

    Sound like you are having a great time!

    1. Indeed having a great time!

      Boiling would work, too, but there are some arguable downsides: 1) you would have to boil the water long enough, 2) boiling is time consuming, 3) boiling doesn't remove particulates, and 4) the water would need to cool before you could drink it. Every option has its pros and cons.

  2. All these are excellent points! And who wants to boil water in the tropics!


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