January 11, 2016

Food Poisoning, Parasites, Amoebas, Mold and other Environmental Conditions in South America

Food poisoning, parasites, mold and detrimental amoebas are some of the things you may have to deal with in South America. We’re normally very healthy people but since arriving in Ecuador we’ve been sick more than usual. When we first moved here we noticed how much Ecuadorians love yogurt and eat a lot of yogurt products and well, now we know why.   

We’re NOT complaining, only wanting to let folks know what it’s really like to live in a developing country so you can be prepared and ready. You do want to know all the nitty-gritty, right? Well, here's the nitty-gritty.

If you are an older person you really don’t want to let your guard down and become ill. It’s easy to do when you are traveling and visiting tropical countries with strange virus bugs and other environmental conditions that you are not used to. So when you get a chance you might want to take a look at our health and well being section of the blog about some of the ways to stay healthy while living abroad. 

This post is a nutshell rundown of the last four plus years of the unhealthy physical situations we have experienced. Of course, we are mostly well and healthy people, otherwise.  Some of these health issues can surely be avoided and then some can’t and then you just have to deal with them.  Just like anything else abroad you have to carry with you a different kind of behavior when it comes to health, so we hope this helps our readers for when they get here. 

2011-2012 - First we had the mold issues, long time followers know about that one, but if you are new to the blog, you can find out more about our mold experience here.  To make a long story short, mold was growing inside and under our kitchen cabinets where you can’t see it. Funny, it was growing on the cement wall behind the kitchen drawers, consequently we all felt ill with headaches and sinus issues for weeks until I accidentally stumbled upon the hidden mold growth.

2012 – Angie got food poisoning in Salinas.

2013 to the present - Then the smoggy (diesel fumes) conditions cause(d) respiratory illness in Frank because we walk a lot; and that’s when we usually go to the beach and dry out, so to speak. A week at the Salinas beach heals sinus, runny nose, colds, upper respiratory issues, you name it. We usually have runny noses in Cuenca for some reason and we don’t have a cold, but the minute we visit the southern beaches runny nose and coughing go away within a week.  This is when Frank figured out he needed a smog mask.

2014 - In between these illnesses, Angie got food poisoning, again. The second time it was not in Cuenca either, it was in Giron falls, a town about 45 minutes outside of Cuenca. We walked into the restaurant and the place was literally swarming with flies.  Why did we stay? Why did we not listen to our gut instincts? We were hungry and no other places to eat nearby up in the Andes Mountains. We were the only ones eating in the restaurant.

October 2015 - Frank and Angie both got food poisoning eating in a vegetarian restaurant in Cuenca Ecuador and we both ate the exact same thing, the almuerzo special of the day. This time I was not alone running to the bathroom. Not fun at all!

November 2015 - Our whole family caught some strange awful flu bug (sore throat, headache, achy joints, 103 fever for days, lethargy, and nausea) that lingered for a full week or more in each of us.  It was nothing we’ve ever experienced before. When something you're not used to is hitting  against your body hard like unhealthy air, the next thing you know weakness starts out in that area, and then can wear you down.  We have to work real hard at avoiding the bad air, but its not that easy to do when you like walking around like we do.  You can read about this weird virus bug here.

December 2015 - And now we’re dealing with the Entamoeba Histolytica parasites that we’re not really sure how we got; either from eating and drinking out in a restaurant or from using the tap water too soon after the water had been shut off, or....who knows. 

To some of you this may seem like a normal amount of sickness, but to us, it’s not. Two of the unhealthy things we’ve been sick with in South America, we’ve never been sick with before in the U.S, mold and parasites. Sure, perhaps we’ve had a parasite in the U.S before and we didn’t know it because we’ve never felt compelled to go to the doctor or take stool samples to the lab before. The lab tech told us that Ecuadorians treat themselves for parasites once a year, just to be on the safe side. And we never had a mold problem living in the U.S.

In many ways, living in Cuenca we are healthier, we lost weight, we eat fresher foods and eat way more fruits and vegetables than we did living in the U.S, which is a lot healthier. We walk a lot more in Ecuador, another aspect of Cuenca life that we like so well; some streets we try to avoid because of all the traffic and bus fumes but sometimes they are unavoidable. 

How We Strive to Stay Healthy in South America

We got rid of the mold and so we don’t have that unhealthy concern weighing on us anymore. The mold comes back and does need to be cleaned periodically.
  • Now we’re just dealing with staying free from food borne illness and parasites.  We stopped eating out as much. We only eat out in select few restaurants that we know are OK to eat in. There’s just so many times you get food poisoning that you just can’t take it anymore. 
  • To avoid flues and germs, we try not to ride the buses during the winter (July and August) months as there are too many people hacking and coughing and spitting on the buses.
  • We try to (if we can) avoid the busier streets with all the buses when out walking. Frank has a better face mask now but the mask is hard to breathe in so it is uncomfortable and suffocating at best...
  • We strive to eat right, keeping our gut flora healthy which does help when the cold and flu season comes around. Your immune systems depends on the health of your colon and if you don’t take care of it you’ll be sick a lot more when visiting and living in developing countries.

  • Parasites and amoebas (most of them) multiply in your body and that's when things start going awry inside of you. We had parasites and didn't even know it because we eat so much good for you fermented foods that it kept them from multiplying. Eating fermented foods on a consistent basis really does help.
NOTE: We suggest making your own homemade fermented food rather than use the pasteurized stuff because it does not work as well, plus it is sweetened with sugar. We make homemade yogurt and sauerkraut which does wonders for our overall health.  If you have any questions about making these yourself, please let us know, we'd be glad to help you out.

We have had to make some adjustments in our lives but isn’t that a part of life, even in paradise?

Until we write again.

If you like this article, you might like these too.

  • How to Make Soy Yogurt in 12 to 16 Hours – (See video at 3:35 in for the soy yogurt)
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

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