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Diarrhea issues

bubblyian (91 posts) • 0

Sorry for the unmentionable subject, but I thought it might be useful to post the outcome of my self-research and experiment over the last few years. This is my experience. It may not help you, if you also have D. problems, but maybe will help you think about the possible causes.
When I first arrived in Kunming, around five years ago, I decided to try eating whatever and wherever my local Chinese friends did. I enjoyed a wide variety of food, but spent an inordinate amount of time in toilets and used up huge amounts of toilet paper!
Around three years ago, I thought I would start experimenting to see if I could identify the causes and try and reduce my visits to the loo. This is the (incomplete) summary of my findings. I stress it has not been possible to fully eliminate D. from my life, but almost...
1) Tap water. This is the biggest single enemy. Washing salads or other vegetables is guaranteed D. I use mineral water (MW) for all cooking, including boiling veg and even rice/noodles/pasta. I carefully protect my plate, knife, fork, spoon, toothbrush and wash in boiling MW before AND after use. I do not share these items with my family. Ever. I am careful in the shower, not to get TW in my mouth, and all other locations

TW is the enemy. Avoid!
2) It is normal to eat with your bare hands. Don't! I have found it is impossible to satisfactorily clean my hands, so safer never to touch food with my hands. Most places supply free plastic gloves, or you can buy your own very cheaply. NEVER touch the food!
3) Spice. Yunnan food is almost always spicy. I had no significant D. problems in Shanghai, for example. Eating only at home is the safest route, because almost all Yunnan restaurants use chilli spice in all of their cooking. If you ask for 'bu la', no spice, they simply think you mean no additional spice, and the food will still be spicy. My tolerance for chilli spice is completely zero. Most restaurants use the same oil and the same cookign equipment for all their cooking, spicy or non-spicy, so the food will almost always be contaminated by spice, even if they don't do it deliberately. You can try using the phrase guo min (allergic), or ling la= no spice, but they have no understanding of anyone living in Yunnan wanting absolutely no spice. I often say yuan zhi yuan wei = original flavour/taste, but they look at me like I am stupid. Best to avoid all Yunnan restaurants and cook at home. Sweet foods are usually okay, but the new chocolate dessert in BK is spicy! Probably because the deep fat frying oil is spicy and it is cooked in that.

Summary - there are almost no safe restaurants in Yunnan. McD, KFC and BK have mostly added spice to their standard products so are inedible. BK's beefburgers seem okay - double cheeseburger is my favourite. Pizza Hut also seem to have some original non-spicy pizzas, . The other option is the buffet restaurants, where you are given the raw meat and can BBQ it yourself. Then you can avoid the spice altogether, but beware the spicy hotpots as the smell may also cause D.

Best of luck!

livinginchina (187 posts) • 0

I've been here 16 years +. When I first came here I had Diarrhea issues constantly. So much so that I had to know where the nearest bathroom was just in case. This went on for several years. It's a horrible feeling to not know when your bowel is about to explode. I had a few close calls where I wasn't near a bathroom. I often would go to where there's a western fast food restaurant like McDonalds or a supermarket like Walmart or Carrefour and the like because their bathrooms were much cleaner. I had to get used to bringing my own paper toilet all the time. After I got married a year later my wife (Kunming native) would cook 'no spicy' food just for me and my stomach was so happy. No Diarrhea. It was only when we went out with friends that I occasionally had it. I think my stomach is now accustom to

'some spicy' foods but I have to be careful. Your points are valid though I don't go to those extremes.
Yunnan food is to spicy for my taste but sometimes you have no choice because almost every dish is spicy.

tigertigerathome (166 posts) • 0

In hot weather, I avoid eating tofu dishes in the evening. Tofu, if not refrigerated, turns sour very quickly, and lots of dishes (including the some non-spicy) mask the taste. I have had 'tourista' from tofu more times than I care to mention.

The other thing that causes D for me is huajiao (Sichuan pepper aka numb nuts). I don't know if I am allergic to them, or they mask the taste of poor meat, or both. Probably an allergic reaction.

Twice I have had giardia (a water borne parasitic protozoa), once in a hotel (not in Kunming) where they refilled the bottles on the water cooler from a stream.

michael2015 (774 posts) • 0

I've heard that it's frequently the cooking oil that causes digestive issues. I look at D as a somewhat uncomfortable and inconvenient way to lose weight for free. With the abundance of mega shopping centers these days - a reasonably clean restroom is just a few steps away - and the larger shopping centers have very nicely apportioned and rarely used handicapped facilities (rarely used implies cleaner).

bubblyian (91 posts) • 0

Losing weight for free is easy - just don't eat anything! Yes, i have lost 12kg so far, but cannot afford to lose anymore - 10kg before I started experimenting, and another 2 kg since - (holding around 68kg for the last year or so 1.82m you can work out my BMI). Sure, being able to eat as many cakes, chocolates and ice cream without worrying about my weight is an advantage, but always having to be aware of where's the nearest toilet (one of my first Chinese phrases), is hugely inconvenient. I rarely visit shopping centres. The public toilets on the main roads are great (but watch out for early closing and repair shutdowns!), but for example I can no longer use Starbucks as they have switched policies after refitting and no longer have public toilets. I don't have very long to get to a toilet. It is not a nice experience, hence my determination to try and remove all possible causes. Yes, certain cooking oils (particular 'old' and over-reused oil) and other spices are also risk factors, plus the 'hidden spice substitute' in frozen foods 'xin xiang liao', plus even the 'bread' here is mostly sweet, and also causes my stomach problems (only safe bread is the French baguette, plus just discovered Metro offer an unsweetened slices loaf for 'toasting', which is great).

JanJal (1202 posts) • 0

I have never really got sick directly from food, water or related issues in Kunming. Child in kindergarten creates indirect channel though.

There is one particular city elsewhere in Yunnan where I have on number of occasions got sick from eating, to the degree of trying to avoid the city altogether.

I am not convinced that my stomach is less sensitive than most people's, but if that would be the case and there still is specific city where I frequently get problems, it probably indicates need of attention of health officials - or would somewhere else.

duke is me (62 posts) • 0

Pop an Immodium; you're looking good for 12 hours..
You get wok; you cook good.. Forget funny restaurant..

lemon lover (990 posts) • 0

Topics like this on a website like this usually don’t make much sense and so does this one.

The problem is that people try to spread a message that is based on their own personal experiences and often don’t have any relevance for others and a lot of their conclusions and recommendations are misconceptions.

The OP apparently has some problems with diarrhea and then he gives a lengthy explanation on what to do to overcome it.

However diarrhoea can be caused by more than one trigger:
• Stress
• Anxiety
• Medications such as laxatives, antibiotics
• Food allergy
• Food poisoning
• Bad water
• Bad hygiene

Therefor how to treat diarrhoea is as well not a simple thing. The good thing is that diarrhoea in most cases will disappear once the trigger is taken away and the better news is that “that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The OP starts with declaring tap water as the enemy, and goes at extreme length to eliminate it from his life. I totally disagree with that. Yes tap water can contain pathogens that can cause diarrhea but in near all cases you will get resistant to them. I don’t drink the local tap water in Kunming and surely not outside Kunming but I brush my teeth with it make tea and coffee with it (Boiled tab water) and cook my food with it. This low level exposure will keep up my resistance against water born diseases that cause diarrhrea. Avoiding tab water as the OP advises will on the long run have a negative effect on my immune system.

One of the things not mentioned in the OP article is what the problem with the local tap water actually is. There is a wide range of water born diseases (that cause diarrhea) but they vary very much in character and how they will affect your life. Virus and bacteria related diarrhea is something the body gets used to and one simply has to adapt to the local ones in the tap water and most of them fall in the category “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Most of these will give you lifelong immunity or on reinfection cause only mild symptoms.

Amoeba related diarrhea, like Giardia, takes harder to get used to. The amoeba simply encapsulates itself when the going get though for it and returns to active duty when you are weak. Weak might be stress, anxiety, alcohol/drunkenness, drug use, having your period, fatigue, or any other co-infection. None the less if these stress factors don’t occur you will most likely be free of it in a couple of month. Because of this encapsulation a Giardia infection can have effect on your health even when you are no longer in contact with the source and over a long period. Blaming the local Kunming tap water for it most likely is wrong. You might have gotten the infection half a year ago in Xishuangbanna when you had that nice coconut jus that was watered down with dirty local water.

Failing to pinpoint what his real problem/cause of water related diarrhea is makes the whole story of the OP completely useless. If you have repeated and continuous water related diarrhea issues then do get a lab test to see what the problem really is so you know how to properly address it.

What his real problem might be, judging on the rest of his story, are probably three other causes causing diarrhea as listed above namely: stress, anxiety and food allergy.
The OP goes at lengths to describe all these three causes so I don’t have to repeat them. A problem of course is that stress and anxiety might be caused by having diarrhea so one ends up in a vicious circle.

And that brings me to the conclusion of this reaction: break the circle, get used to the local bugs and start living. Get out of this self-erected prison you created.
Yes food allergy exists but for most people spices simply take a bit of getting used to. Yes water born diarrhea exists but most people will get used to the local bugs. Yes food and general hygiene might not be up to a standard that you are used to but billions of people live happily in hygiene conditions that are way below what we have here.

PS:
It is a complete misconception that American fast food chains are better in food hygiene.

PS:
In recent years the tap water quality in Kunming improved enormously. This because raw tap water now is pumped from the Jingsha River (Meld water from Tibet thus nicely cold which stops pathogens from multiplying) and no longer comes from dubious local water reservoirs that were mainly filled by surface runoff.

PS: In reaction to “duke is me:
Immodium is not an anti-diarrheal medication in that that it does not address the infection as such. The working principle of Immodium is to stop the peristaltic movements of your guts so there is no excretion any longer. This should not be confused with having no longer a diarrheal infection. It is only treating the result of the infection that is the excretion. Immodium should be used with care. Anyway never in children and never as a prophylactic as some people do. In some forms of diarrheal diseases, like Cholera, it is even extremely dangerous.

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