How to Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge

I know….this is NOT a sexy post title!!  But if you’re headed to Mexico, it may save your digestive system MAJOR grief, & help you learn how to avoid Montezuma’s Revenge.  I’m in Cozumel as I write this, just getting over Montezuma’s (aka “Traveler’s Diarrhea.”)  For four days, I was curled up in the fetal position, wanting to shoot myself!  Forget swimming.  Forget snorkeling at Cozumel’s iconic underwater haunts.  Forget eating.  The only time I left my room was to visit the nearest Oxxo for bottled water.

Believe me: you DON’T want this to be YOU!!!

How to Avoid Montezuma's Revenge, Girl Who Travels the World

What’s safer to drink in Mexico ~ water or Corona? I pick the Corona. Hands down.

So, What is Montezuma’s Revenge?

Montezuma’s Revenge = Diarrhea or sickness experienced by travelers, especially when visiting Mexico or developing countries.  It’s often caused by a contaminated water supply, poor sewage systems, and/or poor food handling techniques.  Because the tap water in Mexico is especially unsafe (particularly in towns like Sayulita), it’s important to travel prepared.

**Author’s Note: Article updated as of October 2023. Also, I am an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you purchase any of the recommended products below through my links (I will very much appreciate it) ~ & I may earn a commission on them, at NO extra charge to you.

What Does it Feel Like?

Montezuma’s Revenge feels like a near-constant need to evacuate ~ you never know when you’re gonna need to “go.”  It may involve diarrhea and/or vomiting.  I never left my room for long, lest I shit my shorts in public!  My appetite reduced, & I felt weak, nauseous, & worn out ~ with zero energy.  If you’re in a beautiful, tropical location such as Mexico ~ it goes without saying that you’ll want to avoid Montezuma’s Revenge at all costs. 

Unless you enjoy sleeping in a dark room on your vacation.

How to Avoid Montezuma's Revenge

Do you want to be relaxing on this beach…or married to your toilet in Mexico?! The choice is yours!

So, How to Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge?

Three supplements will help you AVOID Montezuma’s Revenge.  

They are: 1) Probiotics, 2) Hydrochloric Acid (HCL), & 3) Activated Charcoal.  Note: These supplements help to prevent Montezuma’s Revenge.  If you already have it, try Step #3 ~ activated charcoal, to help pull out toxins.  If you’re sick for more than a day or two, visit a local doctor.

Step #1Strengthen Gut Health with Probiotics

If probiotics aren’t part of your daily routine, add them in 1-2 weeks prior to your trip.  Why?  Two major reasons: 1) Between 70-80% of your immune system lives in your gut.  Thus, a healthy gut = a healthy immune system; & 2) With Montezuma’s Revenge, bad bacteria are attacking your intestines ~ probiotics insure that you have good bacteria in there to fight back.

Best Products: Green Vibrance.  This is my favorite probiotic & overall immune booster.  It’s a green powder filled with 25 BILLION probiotics.  It has virtually every vitamin & “green food” imaginable, & will strengthen your immune system. 

If you don’t like powders, & prefer taking a pill, try Jarrow Probiotics ~ they have pills meant for travelers, that don’t require refrigeration (most do).  Jarrow is a highly-effective brand, with much higher quality than drugstore probiotic brands.

Step #2 – Take Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)

I learned of this supplement from my naturopath, & on her advice, brought HCL pills to Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador for a three-month trip.  I ate food from roadside stands & raw fish (ceviche) throughout the trip, with ZERO problems.  My American friend, on the other hand, came home with a two-week stomach bug after eating something questionable in Peru.

What is HCL, & why do you need it?  HCL is something you actually already have: hydrochloric acid & pepsin are the stomach acids responsible for digesting & breaking down your food.  They also kill harmful bacteria & toxins ~ which is why they’re so crucial for the traveler.

If we already have HCL ~ why take more?  As we age, particularly when entering our 30’s & 40’s, the amount of natural acids in our stomach decreases.  Foods you used to eat with no trouble ~ may now give you indigestion.  Modern medicine’s response is antacids (anti-acid).  But, we actually need MORE acid in our stomach to digest our food ~ not less!  Having HCL in your travel arsenal gives your digestive system an extra advantage.  It creates a more acidic stomach environment, which is the perfect environment to kill toxins.  Some people are afraid of the word “acidic.”  But remember: your stomach is supposed to be an acidic environment.  Otherwise, you couldn’t break down food.  This is why many people take Apple Cider Vinegar before meals ~ vinegar is highly acidic, & helps your body digest more efficiently.

Best Product: NOW Betaine HCL with Pepsin.  NOW is a trusted brand, & this particular formulation contains pepsin too, making it even more potent.  Take HCL before your meal(s).

Step #3 – Bring Activated Charcoal to Rid Body of Toxins

Charcoal is having its moment right now ~ it’s “trendy!”  But why is it important for the traveler?  Activated charcoal is one of the most effective emergency decontaminants, & it works directly in the stomach & intestine, to remove toxins.  It binds with toxins to expedite them out of your system. 

Charcoal has a very personal reference for me, because, once upon a time….my little black lab, Dylan, accidentally ate 50+ Advils.  The doctor told me he was going to die ~ that he’d have too much brain, liver, & kidney damage to survive.  But ~ the one thing they could try, was to give him charcoal: because of its ability to bind with toxins ~ in this case, Advil. 

And it ended up working.  Because it saved his life, to me, charcoal is a miracle-worker.

How to Avoid Montezuma's Revenge

My dog, Dylan, with his teddy bear at Dove Lewis Animal Hospital in Portland, Oregon ~ after 48 hours in intensive care. Charcoal saved his life.

After my fourth day of feeling terrible in Mexico, I found some charcoal pills.  Twenty-four hours later, I felt better.  Your poop may look a little funny (it will be darker & blacker), but you will feel SO much better.  

Best Product: Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal.  Nature’s Way is one of the only brands on the market that produces activated charcoal.  It’s about $6 for 100 capsules.  Only take after a “questionable” meal.  NEVER take charcoal with ANY other medication or supplement, because it will bind with that supplement too ~ entirely wasting your money.  Wait 2-3 hours before taking any other supplement.

How to Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge

I hope you’re feeling better equipped to avoid Montezuma’s Revenge on your next trip.  But remember: I’m NOT a doctor!  Conclusions I’ve reached in this article all come from personal experience.  I’ve used ALL supplements recommended in this article, & recommend them to my family & friends.  If you have any questions, by all means, discuss with your doctor. 

xoxo Noelia 

Read Next: Why NOT to Swim with Dolphins in Mexico

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Why Activated Charcoal is a Mexico MUST-Pack!! Girl Who Travels the World

How to Avoid Montezuma's Revenge in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World