How to Fight Altitude Sickness, Stomach Bugs and Rude People : The 7 Things I Learned This Week

Sunday May 22 | BY |
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annmarie at greens in cuzco peru
Annmarie hanging out at Greens in Cuzco, Peru.

In terms of a natural approach, we’ve got the stomach bug and the altitude sickness covered…

The rude people? I don’t know if there’s a natural cure that works every time. Maybe you can help me figure out this one later.

This week’s 7 Things, is loaded with tips and experiences that we’ve had so far in Peru (as well as some great lessons for anyone who does or doesn’t travel.)

Take a look…

1. Oregano Oil works again.

Remember just a week and a half ago, I made a video about my secret stomach sickness weapon for traveling to countries with poor water supply? (here)

Well, it worked again.

I don’t know exactly what we ate, but it came on strong.

What I’ve found is you usually can’t put a finger on what causes your stomach ache and eventually diarrhea, unless you did something really out of the ordinary, like buy some raw, street stand food or drink tons of water from a public tap.

Anyway, at about 5 o’clock on Thursday Annmarie and I both started to feel incredible pressure in our guts – the first sign that you may be sitting on the toilet for hours (playing Sudoku) – or maybe even days.

Since we’ve both been there before, we opened up our reserve supply of oregano oil capsules (we took 3 bottles) and each took 5-10 of them every 3-4 hours for 12 hours.

The next day, no diarrhea, no stomach ache.

The stuff, at least in my opinion, is a little bit of magic.

Now with that said, I have to be very clear, stomach illness can be very dangerous.

I’m sure you remember my story of having a 104 fever in Mexico, being severely dehydrated and the only doctor in town was out sport fishing.

In this case, I don’t know if oregano oil would have worked, but I would have tried it as a first resort.

So be smart if you choose to do what we do in this situation. If you don’t feel it’s doing the trick, go to a doctor. Don’t be a martyr for natural health.

2. We beat the altitude this time around.

Last time we came to Cuzco, we got a little altitude sickness.

When you’re up over 10,000 feet, this is a very real possibility.

What’s worse is that you can be in great shape or awful shape and it can still happen to you.

We’re both in great shape, but the last time we came, we were the ones that got sick, while others in the group who weren’t as active as us were fine.

I don’t know the equation or physiology that determines who gets sick or not, but I do know after this time what to do to ensure that you don’t end up lying in bed with a massive headache the first two days of your trip.

First off, you need to make sure you drink plenty of water. More than you’re comfortable with. It’s very dry up here and the sun is very hot. I made it a point this time make sure Ann and I drank at least a gallon of water a day for the first two days or so.

Ann, obviously didn’t finish a gallon, but it was a good goal to strive for.

Second, we laid low for the first two days we were in Cuzco.

The last time, I think we went for a hike the first or second day we were here. Obviously, if you take dry climate, hot sun, little water and exertion and put them all together, you are going to get sick.

This time, we stayed at the apartment, went to the market which is a two blocks away and took naps when we wanted to. By the time day two was over, we felt pretty well adjusted to the climate and altitude.

Finally, we drank a lot of coca tea.

Coca tea is very popular here for altitude sickness. It’s a mild stimulant and helps bring blood to the brain and extremities. It also has plant alkaloids (read: medicines) that can help with headache.

I prefer the loose leaf coca tea, which is just leaves in boiled water. We had at least 4 cups a day the first three days.

These three things combined, as well as remembering our past experience, made for a smooth transition from 60 feet above sea level in Lima (due to the cliffs), to over 10,000 feet.

3. Sleeping in Cuzco can be tough.

While sleeping in Lima can be tough, because car horns are as frequent as dog barks in a kennel, sleeping in Cuzco is hard for another reason.

It’s high and dry.

So for the first 4 nights in Cuzco, we haven’t slept great.

The reason altitude is an issue with sleep is because there is less oxygen for you to breathe, so your normal unconscious breathing cadence won’t bring the same amount of oxygen into your system. What this means is that you wake up frequently for what appears to you to be for no reason, but it’s really for your body to take in more air. The good news is that it takes only a few days for your body to catch up to the oxygen levels.

The second reason altitude, at least here, is an issue is because of the dryness.

So not only is it hard to get enough oxygen when you’re sleeping, it’s even more difficult to get enough oxygen while you’re sleeping with a dry, stuffed nose.

To combat this, we brought some colloidal silver nose spray with us that we spray before we go to bed.

You can use regular water and spray it up your nose as well, but since it’s so dry and you will be prone to nose bleeds or at least bleeding nose tissue, it makes sense to use something that has antimicrobial properties as well to protect you from any possible airborne bacteria or virus.

I wouldn’t let anything like this (or the altitude sickness) deter you from coming to this amazing city, because clearly if you use some of the tips we’ve provided here, you won’t have to learn from our mistakes.

4. The Q’eros couldn’t reach her.

Last night, Ann and I went out to have some food and decided to sit at the bar at a popular restaurant with some healthy options.

We love sitting at the bar where ever we go, because it’s a great place to meet people. The bartender will usually let you in on some cool things to do or places to visit and it’s very likely you’ll strike up a conversation with another patron that will make your night even more exciting than it already was turning out to be.

Last night was no exception.

The bartender, Jose, was fantastic and had enough time to chat with us so we could practice our Spanish and give us some tips on were there is good live music in the city. We ordered some food – it was like a Peruvian vegetable sushi roll – and just chatted about our plans for this trip, our goals and what we’re going to do when we get back.

About halfway through our evening, a group of tourists (yes, we’re tourists too) came into the restaurant. Normally, this isn’t a big deal in Cuzco, but in this group were 4 Q’ero. They’re not difficult to spot. They wear the most amazing colored hats, called a ch’ullo, they have very dark, golden brown skin, and wear very specifically woven ponchos.

The group was large, so half of them sat down, and the other half – maybe 7 or so – came up to the bar to wait for their table.

Since Annmarie and I are definitely interested in the Q’ero lifestyle and teachings of reciprocity, friendship, stewardship and connection to the earth, I wanted to know why these people were hanging out with them.

Maybe we could learn something.

So I turned to the group and asked them if they had been doing some learning and ceremony with the Q’ero.

For a moment, none of the them spoke back to me.

I figured that they must have not understood me – or English – so I asked again slower.

This time I got a woman’s attention and she turned to me.

In a very curt and bragging manner, she responded, “yes, we’ve been in the mountains for 14 days with them.”

I said, “that’s great! Where did you guys go?”

She responded back (clearly making fun of my English), “WE’S guys were in the south of Peru.”

With that, she turned back to the group and ended our conversation.

I turned to Annmarie, and said, “that was interesting.”

Ann then said, “apparently, just being with the Q’ero doesn’t guarantee your ability to master their teachings.”

We laughed.

(To give this woman the benefit of the doubt, maybe she was even more rude before the trip. LOL!)

5. A good salad.

I love a good salad and we’re lucky enough to have found a place where we can trust the raw vegetables here in Cuzco.

There are a few places where you can get a salad here in this ancient Incan city – I’ll write about them later this week – but to know that you’ll get a fresh, delicious salad at any time in a place where salad is usually some iceberg lettuce and unripe tomatoes, is a lifesaver.

The place is called Greens and it’s right off the old city’s Plaza de Armas.

Here you can hang out, have a coca tea, get some vegan or organic options and listen to some cool music. (Minus David Byrne’s “Independence Day.”)

When you come down here – which I really hope you put it on your bucket list – you now can know that you’ll have a home base where you can get your greens if you ever feel like you’re getting a little disconnected.

It’s also a safe haven for guinea pigs as well. No cuy served here.

6. Los mercados magnificos.

I love the markets here.

They are tightly packed, they are loud, and they are crowded.

You can get anything from a bundle of herbs (called an asnapa) to quinoa or corn chicha (a fermented drink) to salted, disgusting looking lamb (called charki.) You can also get other things, but I’m not going to mention what they are (think everything gross, and that should be enough.)

While we steer clear of the butcher side – which usually is clearly delineated – we love stocking up on the veggies that are literally 3-7 times less than U.S. prices.

Yesterday, we had a friend come over to make a full 2 gallon pot of quinoa soup (sopa de quinoa) and the total cost of all the vegetables, grains and potatoes we bought at the market was about 9 soles or $3.00 U.S.

For $3.00, you can eat soup for at least two days, and if you don’t eat like me, maybe even 3 or 4.

(Keep in mind, not everything is fresh, so you have to shop around.)

Now, I’m not sure if the prices in the U.S. could ever be that low, but it makes me wonder, when I go to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market and pay almost as much as I would at Whole Foods, if we have the right system in place for getting good, affordable food to people in need.

Of course, the answer is no, but everyone keeps saying go to the CSA, or the Farmer’s Market as a solution. While, I understand it supports local farmers, it definitely doesn’t get the food into the hands of those who need it most – those who can only afford things in a box.

7. Lima, Peru.

The first time we went to Lima, we were scared of it.

We were told that Lima was one of the most dangerous cities in the world and getting in and out as quickly as possible was your best bet.

We were told that people would jump into your taxi on the way to or from the airport and rob you of all your possessions.

We were told that you should go to your hotel and stay there – never to leave – until your flight out to Cuzco.

We were told you would be pick-pocketed in the nicest areas at any time during the day.

So we followed all this advice.

We locked the taxi doors on the way to the hotel (actually good practice in any city.)

We didn’t leave the hotel at all.

And obviously we didn’t need to worry about pickpockets because we didn’t go anywhere – though I will tell you I stared down a few housekeepers to make sure they knew I meant business, in case they tried anything funny while we were walking from the lobby to our room.

The second time in Lima, we actually learned the truth.

Why? We went with someone who knew a little about it. Dr. Williams has been going to Lima and Cuzco for years and showed us around the town in a way that we wouldn’t have ever experienced if we’d just read the tour books.

Now, I will be honest with you, Lima – in some areas – is not the best place for a gringo like me to be exploring alone, but as we learned from Dr. Williams there are areas that are very safe, very exciting and fantastically unique.

Miraflores and San Isidro are two of the coolest neighborhoods I’ve been to. (And we’ve been to a lot, at least in the Americas.) They’re right up there with Palermo and Palermo Hollywood in Buenos Aires, the West Village in New York, San Francisco’s many districts, and more.

The food in Lima is also world class. If you’re into organic and fresh foods, you will never be able to eat at all the places that are available – generally you do have to eat out, unless you get a hotel with a kitchenette. Also, if you’re vegetarian or vegan you can find options as well. Raw is more of a challenge, unless you’re OK with bananas, mangoes, avocado and passion fruit for every meal.

Again, I’ll write more about specific places later this week, but the point of this 7th “thing” is to make sure that you’re not mistakenly so afraid of Lima or any other place like we were based on false, or semi-true information (well, maybe Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.)

Makes you wonder what else we may be holding back from because we think it’s dangerous.

Maybe the raw diet… are you afraid you might not get your protein?

Maybe it’s a plant based diet?

Maybe it’s incorporating a little animal products into our diet.

I don’t know, it’s just something to think about.

We may or may not be better off if we really know what we’re fearful of and if what we are believing is really true or not.

I want to know your thoughts: What have you thought in the past that you’ve learned not be true (or only half true)?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

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