Upset stomach from dehydrated food

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Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Sun 29 Oct, 2017 12:08 pm

For years we've dehydrated food for walks. Always our dinners, sometimes lunches, sometimes part of our brekkies (like dehy stewed fruit to go in porridge, chia pudding etc). It's been one of the best bits of hiking gear I've ever bought and I can't imagine hiking dinners without it (we even dehydrated about 10 dinners and lunches for walks in Peru earlier this year).

BUT... It's become increasingly clear over the years that my partner's stomach doesn't like home dehydrated meals. She gets stinky gas (and sometimes more) within a few hours of eating meals, making sleeping in a tent uncomfortable for us both. I've also had the stinky gas on a handful of occasions (it's a distinct smell).

Typically we do fully cooked meals at home that we then dehydrate. Things like curries, dahl, tomato-based pasta sauces, ratatouille, veggie chilli bean things, bolognese. Sometimes the carbs (pasta, rice, cous cous, quinoa) are cooked and dehydrated, sometimes cooked fresh at camp. It seems that it's these dinner meals that cause problems, rather than brekkies or lunches (sometimes we do lunches of dehydrated plain veggies with noodles or cous cous and spices).

My partner does have a sensitive stomach in general and sometimes suffers from discomfort in day to day life, but the correlation with the dehydrated meals seems clear. She's mentioned it to doctors but not got any answers.

Just wondering if anyone else out there suffers this problem? Or if anyone has any ideas about what in particular about the dehydrated meals it could be that causes the problem? Ways to solve it?

I don't fancy going back to camp cooking with heavy fresh ingredients, or eating expensive and disgusting freeze-dried meals, so I'd love to find a solution!
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby CasualNerd » Sun 29 Oct, 2017 1:10 pm

Is the content of the meals different to what you'd normally eat at home ? If I eat low carb mostly but grab cheap carbs for bushwalking it has that effect, mostly because of the change in gut flora - it can change a lot based on your eating habits.

I assume you serve the food hot and can rule out other contamination ?
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Sun 29 Oct, 2017 1:26 pm

Thanks for the reply CasualNerd.

Is the content of the meals different to what you'd normally eat at home ? If I eat low carb mostly but grab cheap carbs for bushwalking it has that effect, mostly because of the change in gut flora - it can change a lot based on your eating habits.


Yep, the meals are generally exactly the sort of things we eat at home with no ill effects (in fact, they're often leftovers that are dehydrated rather than cooked specifically for dehydrating).

I assume you serve the food hot and can rule out other contamination ?


Yep, always served hot. Depending on how much time we have they might be first soaked in cold water upon arriving at camp, then heated, or sometimes just rehydrated with hot water straight away. We try to give them as long as possible to rehydrate because we suspect that less thoroughly rehydrated food is harder to digest (and anyway, we don't really want crunchy/chewy bits!).

When food is prepared well in advance it lives in the freezer until the hike. Always possible that there could be some spoilage of food that's not well dried I guess, but we often share food with a group and nobody else has problems, so it seems unlikely that contamination is the issue.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Orion » Sun 29 Oct, 2017 4:14 pm

I've had this issue with certain meals. Sometimes it's been obvious that some parts didn't rehydrate well. Other times it's been harder to pin down. I've suspected it might be the salt content of some commercial meals but I think it's more complicated than that.

I really don't know, just that some meals don't suit me very well. So I avoid them.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Neo » Sun 29 Oct, 2017 8:00 pm

Back Country makes me fart.
So does red cabbage me thinks, unfortunately! Both are off my list.

My 'luxury' base weight is 10kg so I'm into fresh food options and minimising the rubbish (LNT) ;)
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Tue 31 Oct, 2017 9:15 am

I really don't know, just that some meals don't suit me very well. So I avoid them.


Unfortunately for my partner the reaction seems to be the same regardless of the meal.

Back Country makes me fart.


Well I didn't like the idea of Back Country as a potential solution. Another reason to stay away from it!

We might try some different methods of preparing things. I suspect that if we actually cook meals in camp using plain dehydrated veggies and other ingredients then it might not be a problem.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Gadgetgeek » Wed 01 Nov, 2017 10:14 am

Could it be that the fat/oil content in your food is going rancid (oxidizing) while you are dehydrating it/storing? I've heard that can cause some people some trouble.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Orion » Wed 01 Nov, 2017 1:09 pm

So you can make a curry or dahl at home with fresh ingredients and the exact same recipe, when dehydrated/rehydrated will cause problems during a walk?

What if you made that recipe from fresh ingredients in the bush?
What if you served it dehydrated/rehydrated at home?
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Nuts » Wed 01 Nov, 2017 1:15 pm

Do you add a bought sauce Drew? Sounds more like a built intolerance (ie. to preservatives/colourings etc) if others don't experience the same? I have noticed these are becoming increasingly common (or diagnosed).
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby wildwanderer » Wed 01 Nov, 2017 1:26 pm

Assuming you rule out food causes.

Id say its likely that what ever causes her to have a sensitive stomach/discomfort in her everyday life is the issue. Its just accelerating/more prominent when walking because the body is under greater stress/working harder/have a hipbelt pushing against stomach etc.

Another aspect to consider.. Does your partner go to the toilet during a trip? Many people have problems passing poo while on a hiking trip. Sometimes its the tightness of the hipbelt causing compression, other times its physiological (harder to go to the toilet without a seat so your mind and body avoids it). If she is not going to the toilet regularly that could also be a contributor.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Thu 02 Nov, 2017 11:13 am

Thanks for all your replies - it's good to have some different ideas to consider! I wonder if this could possibly be a reasonably common intolerance (to something that happens to food when dehydrated/rehydrated) but one that is unknown because the number of people eating home dehydrated meals is so tiny.

Could it be that the fat/oil content in your food is going rancid (oxidizing) while you are dehydrating it/storing? I've heard that can cause some people some trouble.


Sounds feasible I guess. And possible that it only affects my partner and not others because her stomach is sensitive. But seems unlikely that the fat/oil is going rancid every time I dehydrate.

So you can make a curry or dahl at home with fresh ingredients and the exact same recipe, when dehydrated/rehydrated will cause problems during a walk?


Correct.

What if you made that recipe from fresh ingredients in the bush?
What if you served it dehydrated/rehydrated at home?


Good questions! I suspect that if it was made fresh in the bush it would be fine. My suspicion is that it's something to do with the dehydrating/rehydrating.
We could try a dehydrated meal at home. Not all that appealing when there's fresh food of course but maybe we should try it as an experiment.

Do you add a bought sauce Drew? Sounds more like a built intolerance (ie. to preservatives/colourings etc) if others don't experience the same? I have noticed these are becoming increasingly common (or diagnosed).


Nope, no bought sauces added (unless you count tomato paste, tinned tomatoes), all home made.

Id say its likely that what ever causes her to have a sensitive stomach/discomfort in her everyday life is the issue. Its just accelerating/more prominent when walking because the body is under greater stress/working harder/have a hipbelt pushing against stomach etc.


Yep, definitely possible. Although it does happen on easy hikes as well as challenging ones. And I reckon it's probably different in some way to her everyday stomach issues. I say this because the smell it's really quite distinct and not one we experience anywhere other than when hiking!

Another aspect to consider.. Does your partner go to the toilet during a trip? Many people have problems passing poo while on a hiking trip. Sometimes its the tightness of the hipbelt causing compression, other times its physiological (harder to go to the toilet without a seat so your mind and body avoids it). If she is not going to the toilet regularly that could also be a contributor.


Oy yeah, she definitely goes! Much more than she would like.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby gayet » Thu 02 Nov, 2017 12:01 pm

I don't think its been mentioned but could it be as simple as the difference in water? Town water vs 'wild' ? I'm not talking about contaminated water taken from streams but rather an intolerance/inability to handle water that has not been through the town water treatment processes and so has a different set of chemicals, minerals, and other elements in it than her gut is equipped to handle?

Trying rehy using water at home could answer that question.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Gadgetgeek » Thu 02 Nov, 2017 9:22 pm

Thinking about it longer... Gas is often more about the bacteria, and I know that when I have a day off and sit in a chair all day, or do a full day driving, my guts can get out of sorts as the peristalsis gets all out of whack (as well as diet schedule changes)
walking can also accelerate peristalsis and that might mean food moving through the system faster than normal. I'd try eating a dehy meal at home just to see what happens. That might remove a variable.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Fri 03 Nov, 2017 8:55 am

I don't think its been mentioned but could it be as simple as the difference in water? Town water vs 'wild'


walking can also accelerate peristalsis and that might mean food moving through the system faster than normal. I'd try eating a dehy meal at home just to see what happens. That might remove a variable.


Yep, we definitely need to try a dehy meal at home. We don't have any in storage at the moment so I'll have to prepare something.

It's also been suggested to me in a PM that high FODMAP foods could be problematic. My partner did actually try a low FODMAP diet a few years ago when her stomach was giving her a lot of grief. It certainly helped her but didn't conclusively reveal any intolerance/allergy. We can't remember though if the dehydrated low fodmap meals that we ate back then caused any issues! I think the dehydrated thing wasn't such a clear issue then so we didn't think about it. But maybe I'll make a dehydrated low fodmap meal as well as a normal one and we can try both at home.

I'll let you know how we go.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Orion » Fri 03 Nov, 2017 9:44 am

FODMAP -- I had to look that one up.


Do you make a dehydrated meal that is indistinguishable from, or at least pretty close to, the fresh version?

If so, and it isn't too much trouble, serve both the fresh and dehydrated versions. Maybe not at the same time since then it would be easier to tell them apart. Perhaps on different nights. It would be best if you didn't know which was which either but that might be difficult to arrange. Hopefully you have an exceptional "poker face".

The reason I suggest this is that placebo/nocebo effects can be very pronounced. If she knows it's a rehydrated meal she might be more likely to experience problems.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Son of a Beach » Fri 03 Nov, 2017 3:15 pm

gayet wrote:I don't think its been mentioned but could it be as simple as the difference in water? Town water vs 'wild' ? I'm not talking about contaminated water taken from streams but rather an intolerance/inability to handle water that has not been through the town water treatment processes and so has a different set of chemicals, minerals, and other elements in it than her gut is equipped to handle?

Trying rehy using water at home could answer that question.


This is worth checking out. I know of somebody who got violently ill every time she drunk water from a good clean creek out bush, and nobody else ever had any problems with drinking from the same source at the same time. I guess it could also have other different effects of different people.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Fri 03 Nov, 2017 3:48 pm

If so, and it isn't too much trouble, serve both the fresh and dehydrated versions. Maybe not at the same time since then it would be easier to tell them apart. Perhaps on different nights. It would be best if you didn't know which was which either but that might be difficult to arrange. Hopefully you have an exceptional "poker face".


Yeah, the placebo effect can be pretty powerful! Not sure if my poker face is good enough. And our house is a bit small for me to hide what's happening in the kitchen from her!

gayet wrote:
I don't think its been mentioned but could it be as simple as the difference in water? Town water vs 'wild' ? I'm not talking about contaminated water taken from streams but rather an intolerance/inability to handle water that has not been through the town water treatment processes and so has a different set of chemicals, minerals, and other elements in it than her gut is equipped to handle?

Trying rehy using water at home could answer that question.



This is worth checking out. I know of somebody who got violently ill every time she drunk water from a good clean creek out bush, and nobody else ever had any problems with drinking from the same source at the same time. I guess it could also have other different effects of different people.


Interesting. Did she still get sick if the water was purified? We're normally pretty relaxed about water purification and my partner would understandably like to be more careful about it. I was about to write that on our recent hikes in Peru we treated all water with a Steripen, but then I realised that we generally didn't treat water used for cooking as it would be boiled. Hmm... I don't think it's the water though, because it seems to be only dinners that cause the problem (which are full dehydrated meals), not the brekky things, cups of tea or lunch noodles.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Wed 15 Nov, 2017 2:19 pm

We'd planned to go on a hike last weekend and test out some food but after a 4 hour drive to the start of the walk I discovered that I didn't have my boots! Rugged terrain, good snake weather and flimsy sandals were not a good combo, so the hike didn't happen.
We did have a nice arvo and night camping though, and ate pasta with a dehydrated puttanesca sauce (not low fodmap) for dinner. No ill effects whatsoever. Not conclusive by any means, but perhaps adds some weight to the theory that it's strenuous walking, hip-belt on the stomach, walking related anxiety or similar that causes the issue, not the food itself.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Neo » Wed 15 Nov, 2017 5:43 pm

Backcountry meals or ration packs make me fart & fart & fart, takes up to a week for my bowels to return to normal so I choose fresh whenever possible, bugger the weight!
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Zzoe » Wed 13 Dec, 2017 11:00 pm

Hi

I'm late in posting this but I wonder if you are eating commercially dried fruit on your hikes, and in particular apricot? Sulphur dioxide (preservative 220) can commonly have this effect for some people- a very particular odour. The preservative is used to keep the orange colour. I believe it's also used in other dried fruits. A simple test would be to try organic apricots instead. It worked instantly for my son and I (curiously only one of our kids has this problem).

Good luck!
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Thu 14 Dec, 2017 8:50 am

Hi

I'm late in posting this but I wonder if you are eating commercially dried fruit on your hikes, and in particular apricot? Sulphur dioxide (preservative 220) can commonly have this effect for some people- a very particular odour. The preservative is used to keep the orange colour. I believe it's also used in other dried fruits. A simple test would be to try organic apricots instead. It worked instantly for my son and I (curiously only one of our kids has this problem).

Good luck!


Interesting. We do sometimes use dried apricots and other dried fruit (sultanas, peaches). I don't think we use them regularly enough for them to be the culprit but it's another thing worth considering. Thanks Zzoe.

Unfortunately no hiking lately so haven't been able to do any testing.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby crollsurf » Thu 14 Dec, 2017 10:08 am

Purification tablets wreak havoc on my gut flora which causes gastric reflux, not farting (only ever filter). I do get the runs after about day 3, so always carry Imodium which controls the problem. I think, for me at least, its a reaction to the change in diet, not the dehydrated meals.

Maybe try an occasional dehydrated meal at home and see if they get the same reaction... and make up the spare bed just in case :)
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Gadgetgeek » Thu 14 Dec, 2017 5:13 pm

Zzoe wrote:Hi

I'm late in posting this but I wonder if you are eating commercially dried fruit on your hikes, and in particular apricot? Sulphur dioxide (preservative 220) can commonly have this effect for some people- a very particular odour. The preservative is used to keep the orange colour. I believe it's also used in other dried fruits. A simple test would be to try organic apricots instead. It worked instantly for my son and I (curiously only one of our kids has this problem).

Good luck!

Sulfuring is a common dried fruit treatment, and I think that even organic fruit can be sulfured without it loosing its "organic" label (sorry not wanting to open that can-o-worms) but I'm certain that not all brands treat their fruit since "organic" products tend towards the duller colors, and thus it would be an unneeded expense. Zzoe, have you done any FODMAPS research? There is a pile of horse pucky on the internet about it, but there has been some good research into it of late and it looks like some folks don't handle certain carbs well, and its a gut fluora thing unlike other intolerances. So far from the people I've met, they all have a threshold, and there are bad combos that can set them off, but gas is part of the result, and sulfur always adds to gas, so there could certainly be something there.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby rcaffin » Wed 20 Dec, 2017 6:21 pm

The problem with dried food is actually a very old one. Well, we knew 'all' about it in the 60s.

It helps to understand the difference between freeze-dried and ordinary 'dried'. Freeze-dried bits are porous and the water goes in very easily. But many 'dried' foods develop a thin shell around each particle, mainly of protein. The shell forms as the water migrates to the outside of each particle, carrying dissolve stuff with it. This shell tends to be very resistant to the passage of water later on. So when you cook up your dried meal, the 'fines' cook OK, but the insides of the larger particles are still dry. They go down your throat into your stomach, and the shell is still there. They keep going, into your intestines, before they are fully hydrated. The trouble then is that you now have undigested food in your intestines, and it ferments and makes lots of gas. Bloated feelings and farts during the night are the result.

The solution is to cook your ordinary dried food for a lot longer than you would cook freeze-dried meals. Pre-soaking for hours also helps. At one stage some walkers (especially Kiwis) even carried miniature pressure cookers for faster rehydration - but they were HEAVY!

Ah, those Vesta dried meals. The ultimate of horrors.

Cheers
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby melinda » Wed 20 Dec, 2017 6:59 pm

Thanks for that very thorough explanation, Roger.
Makes sense!
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Gadgetgeek » Thu 21 Dec, 2017 7:02 am

Roger, I've heard its not uncommon for folks to still use pressure cookers in the rockies as well. I mean it does stand to reason since your boiling point, and therefor your cooking temp is lowered at altitude. I recall that even when we were in PNG my mom cooked a lot of things in the pressure cooker, because stuff like rice would take forever, or still be quite grainy.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Thu 21 Dec, 2017 9:38 am

Thanks Roger, makes sense. And I suppose my partner just suffers from it a lot more than I do because her gut is less resilient in general than mine.

As well as longer rehydration and cooking times, maybe we should also try to stick to meals with fewer chunky bits, as they always rehydrate better.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Heremeahappy1 » Thu 21 Dec, 2017 10:36 pm

I feel your pain with homemade dehydes, on day hikes- no problem. Fresh not an issue. Several days and the odour/aroma is toxi! I accept it and put it down to gut flora struggling with a significant change in diet, albeit a temporary change. Given that dehydrating is a process to remove all forms of bacteria and microbes that could cause spoilage, I guess my gut is processing food without the usual external flora and microbial input, so I must be getting gut only action. If I ate cardboard for a week, also lacking natural flora a nd typical food surface bacteria, I reckon things would change for the smellier too. One way to find out... interesting experiment though.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Drew » Tue 09 Jan, 2018 1:23 pm

We finally went on a hike for the first time since I started this thread. Just a few days at the Prom, but we approached things a little differently to normal.

Firstly, all drinking water for Bec was purified with the Steripen (never bothered at the Prom before and never had any obvious issues).

Second, some changes to dinners:
Dinner for the first night was undehydrated (heavy!) leftover veggie Moroccan-ish stew thing with freshly made cous cous. Easy walking though so I didn't mind carrying it.
Dinner for the second night was dehydrated homemade veggie coconut milk curry. We kept the pieces much smaller than normal (even putting cauliflower through the blender) and we used coconut milk powder, added at camp, so oily content was kept to a minimum. We had dehydrated cooked brown rice with it.
Dinner for night 3 was a dehydrated pasta sauce, basically a napoli but with cooked and pureed capsicum too. No chunks, not too much olive oil. Eaten with freshly cooked pasta and parmesan.

Only other thing done differently was that Bec didn't have any dried fruit either in her brekkies or as snacks.

Bec had a probiotic each day (she's done this in the past sometimes).

We had wraps for each lunch with fresh veggies, cheese etc.

We had a bit of booze as we usually do.

And the outcome? Very good! I think there was just one single incident of the "dehydrated food farts", and no emergency runs to the loo.

I guess this doesn't really solve anything, as it could be all sorts of factors that cause the problem. But perhaps it shows that if we take precautions then the problem can be minimised.
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Re: Upset stomach from dehydrated food

Postby Gadgetgeek » Tue 09 Jan, 2018 8:13 pm

At least now you have some data points to work from. I honestly would not have thought about the size of the food particles. At least you can easily make a hearty "sauce" from the main part of the meal and use a pasta or add other stuff for texture.
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