Food poisoning, gastro, tummy bug or even stomach flu. Call it what you will. Me? I like, and mostly use, the Thai name “Tong Sia ท้องเสีย” – it literally means ‘broken stomach’ and covers most of the rapid onset, devastating stomach-gastrointestinal “bugs” involving griping abdominal pain, out of control watery diarrhoea, vomiting and (sometimes) fever. It can evolve very rapidly and dramatically, and still causes death amongst children and old people here in Thailand. We seem to do ‘broken stomach’ at Olympic levels here in Asia, so my personal natural treatment protocol has evolved, been refined and tested rather often during my 16 years here in Thailand.
In fact, I had cause to apply it just in the last few days. Unfortunately.
Wednesday I felt simply tired and a bit grouchy, with no appetite. So I didn’t eat during the day, at all, being somewhat of an intermittent fasting devotee. When I picked up my daughter from school in the evening, I was definitely not feeling great. I headed to the sofa with a pot of green tea when we got home and Miss Ploi @nabithecat, my delightful 14 year old sidekick, volunteered to cook something. We both attributed my deep fatigue and grouchy state to not enough food. I dutifully ate and shortly after we both decided to sleep early. Well, not much sleep was had by me. In fact, I spent 7 hours, doubled over in pain, locked in the bathroom. By morning I had lost 2 whole Kgs, had fever and felt like I had been hit by a train.
I’m pretty sure I had Rotavirus, but whether it was bacterial food poisoning, a virus from dirty doorknobs or “something going round”, it really doesn’t matter. This natural Thai home remedy-protocol is the same whether it is viral or bacterial. Cheap, fast and incredibly effective. It involves only 4 simple ingredients, but the primary ones are these: activated charcoal and fresh limes (or lemons).
The other two things you will need are some raw unprocessed honey, and a little pure mineral salt. Oh, and pure room temperature water. A drinking glass, a cutting board and a knife.
Now many people I know have used charcoal and lime-lemon with little success, and ended up needing hospitalization, IV drips for rehydration and (sweet goddess forbid) antibiotics.
To appreciate the treatment (and to make it work), you REALLY need to understand the exponential reproduction rate of bacteria and viruses.
These creatures multiply incredibly rapidly. And your system becomes overwhelmed literally with an hour or two.
Activated charcoal is amazing stuff and used for drug overdoses, chemical poisoning etc. It has remarkable absorption powers and literally absorbs and neutralizes bacteria and viruses and enables them to be expelled from the body. Good and bad. So it’s not something to use occasionally “just in case” as it will also remove your good bacteria from the microbiome. It should also NEVER be used near food, as it will happily neutralize all the vitamins, minerals etc too. Also important to note that regular charcoal is NOT THE SAME as activated charcoal and doesn’t have the same incredible absorption powers. Here in Thailand you can buy it literally everywhere. The sachets pictured (10 capsules) cost 25 baht at every 7-11, pharmacy, mini-mart and mom&pop store. I ALWAYS have them in the house. Except last Wednesday, as I had used the last of our stash to make tooth cleaning-whitening-brushing powder the day before and not yet bought the replacements. Mia Culpa Which means ‘my bad’ for those of you who didn’t go to a convent school 😉
Limes and Lemons are superb alkalyzers. And what we know about both viruses and bacteria is that they can’t reproduce in an alkaline environment. So we use the limes primarily to alkalyse, but also for immediate Vitamin C for immune response.
So my treatment protocal goes like this.
NO FOOD. NIX. NADA. For 24 hours. You need to starve those critters out.
NO paracetamol or anything to reduce the fever – you WANT your body to naturally kill off as many as possible of these guys! Check your fever hourly and make sure it stays under 41C (104F). Use cool wet cloths if the fever feels like it is spiraling too high.
I started the following morning.
- 8am. 2 charcoal tablets washed down with a large glass of water. Set the alarm for 9am.
- 9am. Juice of x2 large fresh limes. A SMALL spoon of honey for electrolyte balance only – not for sweetening. A large pinch of pure mineral salt. All stirred into a large glass of room temperature water. Drink.
- 10am. 2 charcoal tablets with a large glass of water.
- 11am Another lime-honey-salt drink.
- Midday. 2 charcoal tablets with a large glass of water.
- 1pm Another lime-honey-salt drink
By this point even the most violent diarrhea will have completely stopped. If you had fever, it’s probably still running as your body fights the bacteria-virus, but at a lower level. The stomach cramps should be largely gone by now, and the charcoal stops the formation of gas.
You can stop the charcoal tablets and simply take another 2 in the evening before bed. But continue with the lime-honey-salt drinks and sip pure room temperature water for the rest of the day-evening. Monitor your urine – if it is completely colourless, up the lime drinks. You should be urinating hourly.
PLEASE EAT NOTHING.
The outward signs of the stomach “bug” will be gone by morning. You will feel empty and hungry and it’s tempting to simply get up and start eating normally. But I have SEEN and EXPERIENCED ongoing symptoms when people do this, sometimes for weeks, when the “bug” is not fully vanquished and lingers.
My suggested day 2 is take it slow, at home if you can. I eat only raw, organic, fresh, crunchy apples, with pure water on the side. You NEED fiber to move all that charcoal out, and the natural pectin contained in the apples helps promote healthy gut bacteria. Your microbiome is needing some support to regroup! This week I crunched through 4 large apples on Friday morning, and drank about 2 litres of water, without needing to use the bathroom even once.
Mid afternoon I ate a small bowl of home-made probiotic raw beetroot.
I prefer natural fermented foods to store-bought single strain probiotics. If you really don’t have access to live foods and don’t make your own, then yes, get a sachet of store bought probiotics into you. But that’s very much the B grade choice. A grade would be lacto-fermented veggies, kimchi, GOOD yoghurt or kefir. Kombucha is OK, but doesn’t remain colonized in your gut, so relying on it alone as a source of probiotics is not a great strategy. You can read the “how to” of fermented veggies and my probiotic beetroot here: https://steemit.com/ecotrain/@artemislives/feel-goods-serotonin-and-the-lacto-ferment-connection and here: https://steemit.com/medicinal-cooking/@artemislives/pro-biotic-beets-brain-power-and-building-blood
For dinner I had only somtum. Spicy Thai green papaya salad. Vegetarian version (no crabs or fermented fish). Spicy! Why? The green papaya contains an enzyme which survives the stomach acid and acts like a broom through your colon. It literally moves through and sweeps out the dregs of all that charcoal nasty. It’s rich in nutrients, filling and the spicy will help to kick-start both your metabolism and your immune system.
I chomped through a BIG bowl and sipped a homemade ginger-lime-honey drink. And I SLEPT really well and woke up on Saturday morning feeling not only energized, “normal” and creative, but like I had had a complete system clean out-reboot.
It’s remarkable how thirsty I still am on Saturday evening as I write this, having drunk about 3 liters of water today and sustained good hydration throughout the last days. Stomach “bugs” and violent diarrhea use huge amounts of water as the body tries to dispel the invader. And the charcoal can hold huge amounts of water too.
If you are vigilant with the charcoal and lime protocol, you CAN nix the symptom part of a bad stomach ‘thing’ in 6-8 hours. No need to vomit or spend days on end in the bathroom depleting yourself. You can be back on your feet working (gently!) the next day, provided you take it slow and be really careful about what you eat and about replacing those good bacteria.
The tools are simple, cheap and readily available here in Thailand. In fact, in most places where virulent stomach bugs lurk. It’s all in the rigor of the timing and being relentless at alkalizing, keeping the charcoal isolated and pouring the right fluids in. Only pure water will deplete you so fast you will find yourself in a hospital with serious electrolyte imbalance, so please be sure to get the lime-honey-salt in often.
Can you use this on children? Oh yes. Road-tested for many years already on my daughter. Just use less charcoal (1 capsule rather than 2) and maybe you have to compromise a little with a tiny bit more honey than is optimal to make a young child drink it. More sugar feeds the bacteria-virus and only prolongs the agony.
I started developing my treatment plan for “tong sia” in earnest 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with Typhoid after eating a salad washed with tap water in the town of Pai in North Western Thailand. It was Mother’s Day. Stupid me, who didn’t stop to think that many of the riverside restaurants use tap water, which was contaminated with sewerage when the river was under flood. Should have known better. Live and Learn. After 7 days of both private Traditional Chinese Medicine Care and a firm typhoid diagnosis from the regular pathologist, I had lost 8kg and was in the bathroom about 3 times every hour, around the clock. And was facing a visa run to Laos PDR on an overnight bus in the coming days. Even the TCM practitioner asked me if I wanted immodium or the hospital. It made me start googling and reading about natural typhoid cures, and then I came upon the lemon-lime treatment. Hourly, fresh, raw lime juice. Rigorous timing. And so I added the charcoal, it worked, and here we are. 🙂
I hope my insights help someone, somewhere.
Tips to avoiding Tong Sia?
- Never eat the fried rice.
- Be especially mindful if you are vegan-vegetarian.
- Wash your hands. A lot. With good soap and water for 20 seconds plus. No, I don’t recommend hand sanitizers ever.
Why no fried rice? Many restaurants rinse and cook their rice in tap water. Some days good, some days not so good. The temperature in a rice cooker is not quite hot enough for long enough to kill many common pathogens. Then it stays on the “keep warm” setting ALL DAY. Incubating, breeding. And then the left over rice is used for tomorrow fried rice. Urgh. It’s one dish I almost never eat or order.
Aren’t vegetarians and vegans safer than meat eaters? Au contraire, in my experience. The risks of unrefrigerated meat are common and well policed. People KNOW to sniff it first. Often you can smell or taste it when it’s ‘off’. But in Asia a LOT of fruits and vegetables are raised using pig manure. Yup. Pig shit. Crawling with pathogens. Especially the organic produce. It’s often not washed or cleaned well, as per my salad experience in Pai. And how a restaurant cleans its vegetables has no real measurable standard and is much harder to police and monitor.
What if you REALLY REALLY have to travel and will be away from a toilet and are worried about an unexpected diarrhea event? THAILAND PRO TIP: eat half a green banana. A really green, unripe one. Not a great taste sensation but has the equivalent effect to eating concrete dust. Everything sets inside. Useful for times when even immodium is not an option and you HAVE to travel. Safe, natural and super effective.
So, there it is. My definitive Asian Stomach Bug emergency cure. It works. I used it here in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, in the last few days. Using only local items, inexpensively sourced from the 7-1 1 and the local fresh market. I’m completely fine and normal on Saturday, having been seriously SICK on Thursday. It could have easily slain me for a week or more. And yet I was up and around and working fine on Friday, albeit quietly at home with a restricted diet. And bouncing around 2 days later.