Feliz Año Nuevo. To Your Health. Intestinal Bugs in Mexico.

Happy New Year. May the year ahead bring you contentment, satisfaction, and, most importantly, good health. Good health seems to be what I’m thinking about most these days. I will end 2018 and begin 2019 by first saying that my intestines seem to be in better balance now, thanks to Oaxaca gastroenterologist Dr. Miguel Gomez Arciniega.

Today, I gathered with a few women friends and my Teotitlan del Valle family to mark my birth day, share our intentions for 2019, and eat gluten-free chocolate cake topped with Oaxaca chocolate frosting. It’s good to be back in the kitchen. (I’m experimenting with a gluten-free diet.)

Now, back to the bugs.

For the past four months, my system has not functioned well. After two blood tests and an equal number of lab samples, I was declared bug-free in the USA. But the problem persisted. So, I sought out Dr. Miguel, who diagnosed me almost immediately and confirmed within days that I had a parasite after lab work was done here in Oaxaca in early December.

Chicken with mole negro — a no-no

I do not eat street food. I sanitize my fruit and vegetables with an anti-bacteria disinfectant. I hesitate to eat lettuce except in the very best restaurants. I’m cautious. But sanitation is illusive. We can even get sick (and I have) in upscale Mexican restaurants owned by the most famous chefs. In the USA, we can get poisoned from something as simple as bad romaine lettuce. Food and water-borne disease have no boundaries.

I was diagnosed with Blastocystis. This is a common microscopic organism, but as Dr. Miguel explained, when the microbiota is out of balance we have problems. I had too many bugs in my intestines!

What to do?

Dietary No-No’s. No dairy, he said. Not even yogurt or kefir or milk. No mole. Now Oaxaca is famed for her seven moles and its a challenge to eat Oaxaca food and not consume mole. Next, no beans. No legumes. No garbanzos. No quesillo or queso fresco (likely because they aren’t pasteurized). What can I eat? I asked him, disheartened. Anything else that you want, he said. Well, it really didn’t matter since I had no appetite. A travesty when one lives in Foodie Heaven.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the symptoms and possible cures. Here is what the Mayo Clinic says, too.

Here in Oaxaca, there are many over-the-counter remedies. That lead me to believe that a lot of people here suffer from long-term intestinal upset. Bugs are a way of life. People just don’t talk about it.

A few people have shared with me cures that employ natural homeopathic treatments, like consuming pounds of raw garlic. Intestinal bugs come in many different forms and varieties, but it seems that the symptoms are similar.

When friends asked, How are you? I told them. Some whispered they have problems, too, and asked for a referral. Intestinal health is a topic most of us prefer to keep private.

Oh, and did I mention, the lab work here was 300 pesos (equivalent to $15 USD) and my first hour-and-a-half consultation with Dr. Miguel was a hefty 500 pesos (equivalent of $25 USD).

Meanwhile, my Zapotec friends and neighbors celebrate the New Year by wearing something new and cleaning house. Making a fresh start, so to speak. It might be more effective to clean house than to make a resolution!

10 responses to “Feliz Año Nuevo. To Your Health. Intestinal Bugs in Mexico.

  1. Norma
    I have had gut problems for the last two decades. I too have had to give up most of the good food in life. Very disappointing and frustrating.
    I believe the reason was excessive antibiotic use to kill sinus infections resulting in an out-of-balance gut microbiota. After about 15 years or so of suffering, a friend,whose son suffers from Crohn’s disease, suggested a probiotic named Primal Defense. To make a long story short, it worked. I had previously tried several other probiotics that had no effect so I don’t think it was simply the placebo effect. My gut has been quite stable for 5-6 years now, tho I still have those damn dietary restrictions. I buy them through Amazon. Might be worth a try.
    Wife Lynda and I will be in Teotitlan March 11th -13th. I know it’s cutting it tight with your departure date but maybe we can meet and say hello. If not we still look forward to your blogs.
    Cheers,
    Ted

    • Ted, thanks so much for sharing this and recommending what has worked for you. Most people don’t like to talk about their intestinal health, but it’s an important part of our biogenome and each of us processes nutrients differently, I have learned. So, telling your story removes the stigma. Great recommendation about Primal Defense. The probiotic my Oaxaca prescribed seems to be working, but I like the idea of being able to procure good health online. Mas facile! I’d love to meet you and say hello on March 11 or 12. I fly away on the 13th to North Carolina, and on the 20th head over to Japan for three weeks. I love that diet of fish and rice! With appreciation, Norma

  2. Oh my gosh!!!! What ARE you eating????
    Roasted veggie tacos, shredded chix, things like that?

    As I see it, you may only have desserts!!!
    Cake, lots of CAKE!!!
    Love and all good things for your birthday
    And the the new year.

    • Hah, I’m making up for what I couldn’t eat the last several months in the last two days! I’m waiting for my pants to shrink (oh, that means my body is expanding). Thank you for the birthday wishes and greetings. All good things for us both in the New Year.

  3. Years ago, I had similar, persistent (3 months) intestinal problems while in Ecuador. I’d been treated w/an antibiotic in the US which wasn’t strong enough & the problem persisted. A friend who’d served in the Peace Corps gave me the best advice ever — he wrote the name of the antibiotic (Fasigyn) on a slip of paper, told me how to pronounce it in Spanish, & said it’s a regimen of 4 tablets (500mg each), & to take one twice a day for 2 days. He said that they were regularly distributed by the PC both as a cure & a preventative. I went to the pharmacy & for $3 was given the 4 pills. I took them as prescribed & 2 days later, the problem was solved, health & energy restored. Later, talking w/Ecuadorean friends, they knew all about Fasigyn (tinidazole) & took it every few months just “to be sure.” I never did that but have had to take it a few times since then & ALWAYS w/great results. What Jenny writes (above) is correct — Fasigyn kills ALL bacteria, not just the bad. I always ate a lot of yogurt after taking the pills. I was working at the time & couldn’t afford the no-energy, half-sick state I would find myself in. These antibiotics are a miracle-worker (I don’t know if they’re available in the US, (or OTC in Mexico) but I still have some that I bought in Ecuador.)
    Just in case.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience. You are a seasoned traveler and even though we often think otherwise, stuff happens to the system that sets us in our side. It used to be that US doctors prescribed ciprofloxicine. Now they are prescribing azythromyacin. Strong antibiotics. My doc here gave me an Rx for Flonorm, a broad spectrum bactericidal antibiotic. After 10 days, I followed it up with Alflorex a probiotic. I think he gave me the probiotic pill because he wanted me off dairy, which he says causes gut inflammation and fermentation. We are very delicate systems. Thanks for your advice. It’s important for all of us to follow up if our bodies aren’t working correctly!

  4. Good/bad news. Those dietary restrictions are REALLY unfortunate, especially in Oaxaca. I hope they’re just until your system sorts itself and returns more or less to balance, and not forever and ever. But I’m glad you got a diagnosis.

  5. Yikes . Are there any effective antibiotics? Unfortunately they kill everything, even the good bugs but maybe they would help set the reset button. Life without mole would be tough . Salad too, oy
    I hope you are feeling better soon.

    • Yes, took the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Miguel for a 10-day series. Then, the probiotics now are restoring my health. Very soon, mole negro! I can feel it. Salad here is always a question for me. I tend to go for the cooked veggies!

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