What A Doctor Says About This Gross TikTok Making People Avoid A Popular Country's Tap Water

Staying hydrated is crucial, especially on vacation, when you might be spending long hours in the sun, sweating all day while sightseeing, and throwing back some not-so-hydrating beverages (such as, you guessed it, alcohol). However, not all H2O is created equal, and some water could make you sicker than if you'd skipped your eight-ounce serving altogether.

A TikTok user under the handle @jessiebekks reminded us all of this fact when she posted a now-viral vacation video. "POV: you went to Mexico with your boyfriend for a nice romantic getaway but he drank the water," reads the caption. In the clip, the creator is casually sipping a coffee while — spoiler alert before you turn your volume up — her boyfriend audibly vomits in the background.

Many tourists who travel south of the border have heard before that the tap water in Mexico can be unfriendly to the digestive system. To find out what makes the country's water so harmful, we reached out to Dr. Jason Singh, Chief Medical Officer and Physician at One Oak Medical. As he exclusively shares with Explore, "I often tell my patients to be careful about the water they drink, as it often may contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites their body may not be accustomed to." Before you take that to mean you just have to adapt, know that, according to a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 93% of locals in the city Guadalajara also avoid drinking from the tap.

What's wrong with the tap water in Mexico?

The viral TikTok video seems to suggest that guzzling tap water when visiting Mexico will send you running straight for the toilet, and according to Dr. Jason Singh, this is the unfortunate outcome for many oblivious tourists. "Consuming contaminated water can result in traveler's diarrhea, which causes stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and loose stools," he explains. That one small misstep can keep you stuck in your hotel room and consume multiple days of your trip.

But what exactly is in the tap water that makes people so sick, and how did it get there? Dr. Singh says that E. coli, a bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and animals, is one of the biggest microscopic threats found in contaminated water. The bacteria generally makes its way into drinking water when fecal waste and sewage mix with the tap water supply. As Dr. Singh warns, E. coli "can disrupt the balance of gut flora which then leads to inflammation and diarrhea."

How to avoid getting traveler's diarrhea on vacation

Avoiding drinking the tap water in Mexico is one of the most effective ways to sidestep a nasty case of traveler's diarrhea, but Dr. Jason Singh says there are other important steps tourists should take. First, the medical expert suggests taking probiotics before and during your trip to boost your gut microbiome and strengthen your digestive system. "Probiotics are helpful because they contain healthy bacteria which will crowd out the bad bacteria," Dr. Singh explains. For the best results, he recommends taking a probiotic supplement daily starting at least one or two weeks before your trip.

Dr. Singh also notes that drinking water isn't the only concern when in Mexico. Foods that have been rinsed in tap water and served raw, such as fruits and vegetables, can also expose your digestive tract to E.coli and other contaminants. Ice cubes and fresh juices made using tap water, as well as undercooked meat and seafood, can also trigger gastrointestinal issues, he explains.

"Try to eat fruits/veggies that have been peeled or cooked [and] of course opt for hot, thoroughly cooked foods," Dr. Singh advises. "Try to use bottled or boiled water when brushing teeth so you don't accidentally ingest any." Sure, it may take some extra thought when choosing food from the hotel breakfast buffet or ordering drinks at the bar, but the added effort could be all it takes to stay healthy during your Mexican getaway.