What is Empacho?
Empacho, when related to gastrointestinal problems is, in a sense, a form of indigestion and one of the most common folk ailments in a Hispanic culture10. By some people it could also be more of a belief and described as a blockage of the stomach and intestines, as a ball of sticky undigested food, or foods that are hard to digest. This can result in symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, etcetera.
This being said, there are several different forms of empacho. One of these forms is empacho seco, a “dry” sickness. Generally meaning there is a lack of diarrhea and appetite11. Another form is Empacho Aguado which is its “wet” form. Where there can be diarrhea, fever, and so on. There is another version of this illness known as Emapcho Feurte. Meaning it is the “strong” from of empacho or in many translations the “embarrassment.” This form could contain symptoms from both of the previous mentioned types. However, this particular strain, could be much more life threatening.
In addition to affecting the gastrointestinal tract empacho can also involve the pelvic region of the body. When it affects the pelvic area it can result in problems such as vaginitis8. This occurs when there, “Is an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain.”12 Symptoms of vaginitis consist of, but are not limited to, pain during urination, discolored vaginal discharge, and intense vaginal itching.
However, with this element of the conditioned mentioned, the focus of this paper will be on empacho as it affects the stomach and intestines while also looking at the various treatments for it.
How is empacho treated?
There are several ways that empacho of the gastrointestinal tract can be treated. The treatment can take more of a traditional approach or more of a modern approach. Typically the treatment for empacho starts at home with the mother (and maybe others helping her) using home remedies. Some examples of these home remedies may be as simple as drinking hot water, limewater, or carbonated water. Hot water is thought to help un-stick the food and aid in its movement through the gastrointestinal tract.1 The acid in limewater is thought to increase the pH of the stomach acid assisting with the breakdown and digestion of the food. 1 The carbon dioxide in carbonated water is thought to help cause pressure in the stomach supporting proper digestion. If these home remedies do not work than the mother might seek other treatment.1
The treatment that is sought out usually depends on the socioeconomic status of the family. If the family is from a lower socioeconomic status they might seek out treatment from a curanderos, Hueseros or other natural health care providers. Remedies might include massaging or rubbing the stomach or back, popping or pinching of,”the skin near the spine,”8 and purgative teas of wormwood (estafiate), Rue (ruda), or chamomile (manzanilla). Lead (azarcón) or mercury (greta) powders are still...