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Here I am again with some personal stuff that I’m sure will be helpful to many out there. This time it’s about travel and digestive issues. Most specifically: constipation and IBS.

You might find this interesting if you have some kind of stomach or digestive issues, food allergies and others. Keep reading.

A while back I wrote on how constipation isn’t fun.

Interestingly enough, I’ve been travelling for seven months now going through Europe, UK, Central America and Africa. These diverse settings have allowed me realise some patterns related to food of specific countries and they way they interact with my body. Or better said, the way my body has been digesting them.

I’m currently in Morocco.
Chefchaouen Morocco
Chefchaouen, Morocco as seem from above and outside the old city walls. | April, 2015 |

I’ve been here for a week after spending 1.5 months in Spain, 2.5 months in Costa Rica, 1 week in Italy, 2 weeks in Greece and 2 months in the UK. All since September 2015.

I’ve been struggling with digestive issues since forever, and trying to understand them and following my body since almost two years ago. Deep art of observation. Believe me, it pays off.

So I made my own observations on foods by country and how they reacted within my body:

1. Italy has been the place where I suffered the most, digestively speaking. Food is delicious, don’t get me wrong. But the endless amounts of carbs is certainly not cool for people suffering any level if IBS and constipation…trust me. Thankfully, it was just a week this time.

2. Greece was okay. Food was light and despite dairy products, there was something good about their diet. Not too difficult to digest. I would feel light overall while my journey through the country. I would love to research this area some more and write about my own observations on Mediterranean diet in a near future.

3. UK, well. What can I say. I love the place but all the fried, canned, processed and plastic food…oh boy. I really try to eat a bit of everything in life. I’m not a diet freak at all. I just keep track (and a food journal at times) so I can feel happy. As simple as that. Happy bowel, happy Dr. Mariana. UK was a challenge. But with fibre aids and plenty of water, I was almost okay.

4. Costa Rica was better. Less of a challenge but still full of carbs mixed with an American diet at times. Local food is great! But carby. I discovered Lactaid pills (lactase enzyme pills to help digest lactose on special occasions). Great discovery! I bought a full box to travel with me. All good so far.

5. Then I came to Spain again. Tough at first. Too much fried food again. Yes, tapas are lovely but fried. However, the more I went south, the cleaner food felt even if fried. Oil and seafood of anykind (as they usually eat it down south) is terribly fried, but there was something about it that wouldn’t kick my gut. Healthier cleaner oil? Not sure. I just know I could bare with it almost daily. Specially in Granada and onwards. Freshest tapas and fried seafood EVER.

Extra note: I started taking All Bran with lactose free milk every day since February. Magic!

6. Then it was time for Morocco. New place, new continent, new challenge. I had a talk with my gut. I’d be careful but I needed her to cooperate with me. Well, it has been the best place for my gut so far despite having coffee with whole milk, plus freshly squeezed orange juice on daily basis for breakfast. Full meals of whatever is local twice a day, lots of moroccan bread, cheese and butter. Yes, Morocco is high on dairy, both from cow and goat milk. Also on carbs and sugar as served with their delicious fresh mint tea (sadly, they are also high on diabetes). And yet, there’s something really natural and healthy about the Moroccan diet.

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But for some reason (and I promise this), it doesn’t matter what I eat here in Morocco, my gut is the happiest ever, almost like in Southeast Asia if not better. I haven’t had constipation in three weeks now, neither have I had abdominal pain or bloated sensation as usual when having certain foods everywhere else in the world. Call me «Doctor Carmen San Diego» if you like! (actually I’d love to be something like that even if I have to make it up), but trust me on this topic here. I’ve suffered it and I surely know.

Tajine Morocco
Veel and Prune Moroccan Tajine- Traditional dish from Chefchaouen, Northern Morocco. | April, 2015 |

I know I’m not celiac. I’ve discovered I’m a bit lactose-intolerant which has helped a lot to be aware of that. (More thoughts on this next time.) However I seem to be lactose-tolerant in Africa. Go figure!

Makes me wonder:

What’s in our western food? There’s something for sure. My gut tells me. Two years of deep observations (and medical scares twice) have taught me a lot about my own body, and I can be sure of it now. I still keep learning and observing, even more as I’m constantly on the move. It makes it more interesting precisely.

These days I know how to deal with my digestive issues without suffering like before. I know what might have been the reason for a gut flare when I get one and how to fix it. Two years have been worth it all.

As I began this long-term season of travel, I was a bit afraid it would make my gut a mess.

Instead, I’m coming to interesting findings as my body reacts to things and foods in every place I visit. Observation is an art. An applied to health is gold.

But most of all, makes me wonder what’s in our food here and there. Why is there such a difference? What are we having? What are we choosing? What are they selling? I’m curious. It’s real. And no, this is no paid scientific research or pro/anti diets of specific terms. It’s just about observing your own body. How does it react to your surroundings?

I’m quite curious. Seriously. And yes, the geeky doctor in me is having fun indeed.

Long post I know! Thanks for reading. You rock. Feel free to share, comment or tag anyone that might find this interesting. Maybe you have done your own observations too. In which case I’d love to hear from you.

Have a good week!

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Chefchaouen – The Blue Pearl, Morocco | April, 2015 |
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Dr. Mariana Calleja

Mariana Calleja is a doctor, writer and entrepreneur. Teaching people healthy habits that stick, and how to manage stress to live a better, healthier, calmer life. Pain management specialist, with a deep story of her own on learning how to heal a personal sexual pain, that would allow her embrace and live a true, meaningful life. (More on the blog.)

Mariana is an absolute advocate of communication, relationships, tackling taboos and digging inner fears for better living. Health is a whole. Mindset, awareness and communication are the key to a good, calm, healthy life.

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