Archive for July, 2012

Everyone knows not to drink the water in Central America. This is axiomatic. But it is always hard to avoid contaminated water no matter how careful you are. Even if you live here and are accustomed to most of the bacteria, you still get sick from time to time. Someone might wash a tomato with bad water, or make ice cubes, you never really know.

My most recent bout of sickness came from eating a day old club sandwich when I was in El Salvador. Whether it was the condiments, the tomato, or some other part of the sandwich, the source is irrelevant. Don’t save food for later when you travel down here.

4 hours post-sandwich, 18 hours post dicey looking Quiznos sub. And yes, I did end up sleeping on that road for a bit while we waited for the bus

I struggled with what could have been E. Coli for the whole week I was in El Salvador before finally giving in and taking some Ciprofloxacin the last night I was there. Cipro is the the antibiotic of choice for the military, and it is common for troops to take a prophylactic course of Cipro before entering certain areas.


Now I don’t like taking Cipro because it is a freaking nuclear bomb. You clean out your whole entire system. In theory this sounds great, but our digestive tract evolved for a symbiotic relationship with a multitude of bacteria (called commensals) that are not only helpful but required for proper digestive function. In the past when I have gotten sick, I took Cipro, killed everything, felt better. But less than 2 weeks later I would inevitably get sick again. Because I was cleaning house everytime, I was left defenseless and only exited the cycle by suffering through an episode.

Enter my El Salvador bacteria. After taking a somewhat interrupted course of Cipro, I felt better. But today I could feel the same bacteria coming back. The stomach churning, frequent burping, and other less mentionable symptoms, they all were coming back. Knowing I shouldn’t take Cipro again, i remembered back to one of my coworkers talking about solving his recent bout of sickness by eating whole cloves of raw garlic. After some brief internet research to make sure he wasn’t crazy (well, actually he is out of his mind, but in this case he was right) I went for it.

From some of the sources I found online:

A bulb of garlic, Allium Sativum L., has from four to 16 or more cloves, depending on variety. In each of these cloves are cells containing the main compound of garlic, an amino acid called Alliin. In separate cells an enzyme called alliinase resides. Whenever the cellular walls separating them are damaged, some of the enzyme comes into contact with the amino acid and this sets off a chemical reaction that causes sulfenic acid to form instantly. But sulfenic acid is unstable and reacts with itself and breaks down at a steady rate into another unstable compound called allicin, which has a strong antibiotic property.

The following pictorial guide will help anyone needing to remedy a bacterial stomach problem with nothing more than garlic and water.

1: Obtain some cloves of raw garlic. Make sure they are not irradiated (read: from China) and undamaged and then peel them.

Whole clove of garlic. Check

2: Put your peeled pieces into a blender with a small amount of water.

Remember, you want to drink it all at once like a shot, so don’t use too much water.

3: Blend until you get rid of most of the chunks.


4: Chunky, frothy, garlic shake…..


5: Spoon out the big chunks and filter the froth if you want. (You want to do this….trust me)

The Aftermath

6: Filtered garlic shake. I call it The Buffy

The Buffy

7: Drink it like it’s your 21st birthday.

It starts burning… right away. Even if you straight shoot it, your tongue will burn for a second. The sensation as it goes down feels slightly similar to a straight shot of Everclear, but it weighs heavier in your stomach. Honestly, I would suggest taking it and then sitting down immediately. Drink a small swig of water after, and just ride it out. It burns in your stomach so your body wants to throw it up, but if you can just meditate on it for about a minute it subsides.

All the painful cramping and twisting in my stomach that the bacterial infection was creating dissipated instantly, and from what I have been reading all it takes is a small plop of raw garlic in the morning and night for a couple days to finish the job.

Apparently it is customary for people in China to eat small bits of raw garlic with their food as a constant protection against bacteria.

………………….maybe I should just stop eating old sandwiches….