Prevent Travelers' Diarrhea

How Smart Nutrition Prevents Illness

Still among the poor souls who haven't realized travelers' diarrhea, food poisoning, and most other illnesses like the common cold and flu are choices, not necessities brought on by the vagaries of fate?

Healthy people should very rarely or never become ill with travelers' diarrhea and other maladies because a good diet and a few sensible precautions prevent these problems from ever cropping up.

I've been traveling through Asia for more than a year now, visiting some poor and undeveloped countries with little medical infrastructure and less-than-adequate knowledge of hygiene like Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia, as well as some of the poorer areas of Thailand, yet so far I haven't been stricken by a single illness.

I've drank from streams likely contaminated with agricultural runoff while hiking and sipped from several sketchy urban faucets, flirting dangerously with the drink-only-bottled-water-lest-you-get-ill commandment. Still, I've remained untouched.

All the while, I've watched fellow travelers drop like flies. The two slow carb diet eaters? One of them got sick, along with another guy on a more general paleo/primal diet. The numerous vegetarians and vegans? Their avoidance of flesh didn't keep them illness free. The SAD eaters? Too many became better acquainted with squat potties than they would have liked.

The difference between me and them is as much about what what I'm not eating as it is about what I am.

Travelers' Diarrhea:

The Savvy Get Sick, But Not Smart Eaters

Travelers' DiarrheaI was inspired to write this article when reading a rant by popular entrepreneurial, freedom, and personal-development blogger Tim Ferriss, whose work I highly respect. He's a smart guy who gets results while living his life how he wants, things worth big points in my book.

I was interested when his ranting turned against the atrocious care he and his girlfriend received after they ate bad fish and got a nasty case of travelers' diarrhea or food poisoning.

Their fevers left them delirious and in need of hospitalization, and Ferriss's beef is the care he and his girlfriend received at a supposedly-reputable medical facility was shoddy. I'm sure it was a horrible experience, and his criticism points out something that should be corrected.

I don't generally make it a point to critique individuals, preferring to just address issues broadly on Raw-Food-Health.net, but with much love, I have to wonder why smart guys like Tim, so obsessed with optimal living, are still eating diets that allow them to get ill frequently.

Healthy people should almost never require a trip to a doctor or a hospital unless there's been some sort of physical trauma. Ferriss has made a career out of maximizing results and experiencing the crème de la crème life has to offer, so why is he still accepting shoddy health?

Travelers' Diarrhea: 

What Are You Feeding Yourself?

Ferriss is a proponent of what he calls the slow carb diet, a combination of the philosophies of low carb eating and what passes for primal/paleo diets.

The basic outline is to avoid carbohydrates and embrace proteins. He warns you away from the food we evolved eating, fruit, raising concerns over its high fructose content because he feels it will interfere with fat loss, despite no studies supporting this idea and many contraindications seeming to rule it out.

It's a fair characterization to say the slow carb diet and the low fat raw food diet promoted at Raw-Food-Health.net are at odds. I'd say the food he eats on the slow carb diet, as well as whatever he's consuming on the standard American diet he embraces when going on one of his much-touted food binges, are the main causes for his multiple bouts of food poisoning and travelers' diarrhea.

According to Ferriss's blog post, he's no newbie when it comes to travel-related illnesses...

"Puking on the floor of Chinese hospitals? Check. Getting probes and pokes (not that kind) in Argentina? Done. I’ve roughed it plenty of times and know the world isn’t covered with linoleum...I’ve been in dozens of hospitals and ERs around the world, had multiple surgeries, had food poisoning 4 or 5 times..."

I may not be quite as widely traveled as Ferriss, but why is he ill so frequently? I haven't had so much as a head cold since I started eating a raw food diet in 2005, but I used to be ill regularly. Where exactly does the difference come in?

Travelers' Diarrhea: Watch That Meat

Tim Ferriss is a big fan of meat, which along with eggs and dairy, are foods I warn people away from on Raw-Food-Helath.net.

Healthy raw foods are much better choices for preventing aging and the many diseases animal-protein eaters develop.

Traveling around Asia, it's become obvious to me that even if meat eating wasn't a bad idea, it wouldn't be smart to eat it in low-income regions of the world.

Take a stroll around the awesome Muang Mai wholesale market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which I've touted as the best fruit market I've ever been to. Walk down what I like to call the "street of flesh," and you'll see what condition the meat you get from street stalls and restaurants in Chiang Mai is in before it appears on your plate (Muang Mai stocks most of the the restaurants and stalls in Chiang Mai).

Travelers' Diarrhea Tropical Relax

Slabs of flesh sit out in the sun without refrigeration or ice. Flys and other bugs hover about the scaly fish and skinned chickens, landing for a bite or to lay some eggs. When they get a chance, the stall sellers swat at the bugs a bit, and some of the proactive ones have rigged fans overhead with little streamers to automate the process, but don't fool yourself, this meat is neither preserved from decay or free from contamination.

All the meat-selling markets I've been to in the rest of southeast Asia have been the same way, and it boggles my mind that people are surprised when they fall ill after eating this stuff. Of course, I've seen plenty of vegetarians and vegans fall ill too, but eating meat seems like the biggest and most easily-avoided red flag.

Travelers' Diarrhea: The Fever Advantage

When Tim was fighting to stay cogent in the face of a 101 °F fever and incompetent care, he was missing an important advantage those following low fat raw food diets possess: a significantly lower body temperature.

It's mid afternoon, and I just took a thermometer out of my mouth. Although I came in from a 2-hour run a few hours ago and I'm presumably warmed up, it reads 96.4 °F, well under the 97.2 to 99.5 °F considered healthy by the medical community.

A very unscientific survey I conducted a few years ago of 32 low fat raw foodists who had been eating the diet for at least 6 months brought back an average temperature of 95.8 °F, indicating that I'm not alone in the change.

This has some very practical implications. For one, the discomfort many describe while living in tropical locations, or even temperate climates during the heat of summer, becomes less of an issue. Given that we evolved in the tropics, it make sense that we shouldn't be ridiculously uncomfortable in heat.

Travelers' Diarrhea SunAnother is the nice heat buffer you get to experience while exercising.

Not only do I sweat much less than most people I work out with, but I have an advantage in the sense that I have to really work hard to overheat (Heat stroke is a real concern for many athletes, and almost every year a few kids playing football or lacrosse in the heat of summer die of it).

Since I don't really get sick, I can't say if this would cause me to have less of a fever, but it seems probable. More importantly though, most healthy raw foodists don't get fevers.

My personal theory is that due to their damaged cooked diets, most people are walking around with a permanent low-grade fever, and that much of the increased mental clarity experienced by healthy raw foodists is caused by the lack of this fever. The impaired thinking and agitation that goes with illness is well known, and brings us sayings like, "fever dream," a "fevered pitch," or "spring fever". However, I think most peoples' normal is still pretty feverish.

Although I haven't tested the temperature of a slow carb diet eater yet, I have tested two paleo diet eaters and they had temperatures in the "normal" SAD range of the medical community, but given that a follower of Tim Ferriss's diet complained at CrossFit the other day that a 48-hour flu had made him miserable over the weekend, I see no reason why the slow carb diet would produce different results than general SAD or paleo/primal.

Travelers' Diarrhea:

Nature's Purified Water And Food

If ever there was a food fit for a wanderer dead set on avoiding travelers' diarrhea, it would be fruit.

Take a beautiful nam dok mai mango. It's outer skin protects it from contamination, and inside it's 83 percent water. That water has been purified by the roots of the the mango tree as well as the thousands of soil microorganisms and other plants inside the tree's interconnected root network exchange.

Rather than eating dry meat or grains, which make you thirsty, why not eat a food that contributes to your hydration? By eating water-rich fruit, and avoiding the many dry foods that suck water from your body during their rehydration and digestion, you'll need to drink less water eating raw foods, meaning you don't need to worry as much about having pure drinking water on hand at all times.

For the purposes of honesty, I should note I once feasted almost entirely on dragon fruit for several weeks when they came into season, which was my first large-scale exposure to them. I had a very minor bit of diarrhea after a few days of eating them by the bagful, and I actually wondered if my no-sickness streak had come to an end because I'd just drank some sketchy water. After awhile It became apparent I was just eating way too many dragon fruit. I cut back on them and the diarrhea disappeared. Because it was so minor a case and didn't cause me to curtail my activities, I don't consider it worthy of classification as a sickness.

The skin of a fruit offers good protection (although not complete. Animal waste carrying ecoli sometimes gets on fruit), and some have very thick rinds like watermelon. While I'm a bit more careful with fruits which have skin you traditionally eat, like apples, I have so far proven impossible to sicken via fruit.

I've eaten some very ripe nam wa bananas in Cambodia with their skins partially knocked off and fruit flies buzzing about them lustfully. They were also sitting on the dirt floor in a rather smelly and unsanitary market.

After cutting off a few of the more questionable areas, I dove right in, and suffered no ill effects. I'm pretty convinced that as long as I avoid the fermented and dirty stuff, I'll be fine, and I've had plenty of dodgy-looking fruits that turned out to be amazing.

Besides being free of contamination in most instances, fruit also doesn't need to be cooked, which damages food. Human processing is where people are most likely to pick up sicknesses, as even vegan food can be chopped on dirty surfaces or cooked (and undercooked, for that matter) in contaminated pots.

However, the important idea is that raw food is healthy food, and it's going to leave your system healthier and better able to deal with any issues that come up than if you're eating cooked junk from a stall.

Travelers' Diarrhea: Eat Smart

You want to avoid Travelers' Diarrhea, food poisoning, the flu, colds, and the diseases most people die of?

Adopt a low fat, fruit-based raw food diet because healthy eaters don't get sick. Can it happen? I'm sure it's within the realm of possibility, but my own experience and that of other  long-term low fat raw foodists I've known is that they don't really fall ill, and are immune to most travel bugs.

Eating raw fruits and vegetables has transformed my life, allowing me to lose a massive amount of weight, escape colitis, and improve my vitality and happiness in many ways.

I imagine that, presented with this article, Tim Ferriss would baulk at my diet, but it's done wonders for me and I don't find it restrictive at all. He may say the diet would impede his life. Personally, I look at his tales of medical woe and wonder how those aren't a serious impediment.

Personally, I'm going to choose health so I can live my life to the fullest, including travel that's free of feverish, shoddy hospital care necessitated by poor food choices.

Receive the free Raw Food Health Journal

Keep up to date with new articles from this site.

Search Raw-Food-Health.net

Copyright © raw-food-health.net | All rights reserved.
Click here for the mandatory privacy policy and terms of use, which you agree to by using this site.

Raw Food Health Site Build It