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One interesting fact that most time traviling stories ignore

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Posted (edited)

From what I read, merely eating would be a considerable hazard for a hypothetical time traveler traveling beyond a few centuries in the past.

Apparently, strict regulations in the processing of food (dating to the early 20th century after the release of Upton Sinclair's the Jungle) has considerably weakened a modern person's immunity system. In other words, most diets beyond the past hundred years would very dangerous to someone living today. As they were often cooked/prepared in conditions that would be now considered "unsanitary." For example, if a time traveler traveled back to medieval Europe or pre-Colombian Americas, the food there would at best make them considerably ill.

Edited by Mysecondaccount

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34 minutes ago, Mysecondaccount said:

From what I read, merely eating would be a considerable hazard for a hypothetical time traveler traveling beyond a few centuries in the past.

Apparently, strict regulations in the processing of food (dating to the early 20th century after the release of Upton Sinclair's the Jungle) has considerably weakened a modern person's immunity system. In other words, most diets beyond the past hundred years would very dangerous to someone living today. As they were often cooked/prepared in conditions that would be now considered "unsanitary." For example, if a time traveler traveled back to medieval Europe or pre-Colombian Americas, the food there would at best make them considerably ill.

Thus a modern person cannot simply travel back to hang out with the likes of the Samurai, as the food they eat would probably incapacitate or even kill them.

I have already considered this and rectified the issue by eating at the worst kebab shop in town after the pub closes. I’m golden.

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Is this actually supported by research? I'm no doctor, but I would have thought healthier people who eat good food would have a stronger immune system than people who live in unsanitary conditions and eat unhealthy diets, and not the other way around.

Some fairly simple ways of cooking food (like boiling), should also be pretty good at making most food edible.

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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, Mentat said:

Is this actually supported by research? I'm no doctor, but I would have thought healthier people who eat good food would have a stronger immune system than people who live in unsanitary conditions and eat unhealthy diets, and not the other way around.

Some fairly simple ways of cooking food (like boiling), should also be pretty good at making most food edible.

From my limited understanding (I could easily be wrong on this, as I'm not an expert) goes, it's not a matter of "eating healthier makes healthier bodies" in this case. It is more that "past peoples'" bodies are more adapted for/and resilient to such foods, then we are now. As they had a lifetime of exposure from eating them. However, I might've worded it poorly in my orignal post.

Edited by Mysecondaccount

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Anecdotally, I am on board with MySecondAccount's ideas.  Prior to Covid, my staff traveled the world from project to project throughout the year, and just the changes in regional water / food was enough to regularly crop up as a limiting factor.  From a practical perspective, over the years my experience is that you don't want to schedule folks to spend more than about six months aggregate work time away from home in a calendar year, and the more continents that amount of travel includes, the higher the chance that they are going to get sick.

Now I know, virus, bacteria, modes of travel, etc. etc.  But just changing regions EMEA / SEA / LATAM / NA seems to be enough to trigger most folks' tummies into revolt after a couple of rotations.  Dietary norms are still different enough that alterations in diet can shock the system.

For example, my background is such that dairy products and "high" game meats are on the menu frequently.  However, I can't host most visitors from Asia to meals with either dairy or game meats unless I want to lose them for about 24 hours of suffering with the Gods of Angry Bowels.

So I can completely buy into the idea that a time traveler's diet would be a problem.  "Butch Deadlift had successfully infiltrated Napoleon's tent, but just then the bratwurst he had consumed that morning made its presence known.  Zut Alors!"

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Posted (edited)

So its not causality and the arrow of time with the second law of thermodynamics and increasing entropy, but rather diet? Good to know.

You can survive on food straight from the land though, and I posit that you may do better with fruits and veg that doesnt have those pesky pesticides on them. And what time traveler doesnt travel without any canned provisions?

Edited by IheartIheartTesla

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2 hours ago, Mysecondaccount said:

From what I read, merely eating would be a considerable hazard for a hypothetical time traveler traveling beyond a few centuries in the past.

Apparently, strict regulations in the processing of food (dating to the early 20th century after the release of Upton Sinclair's the Jungle) has considerably weakened a modern person's immunity system. In other words, most diets beyond the past hundred years would very dangerous to someone living today. As they were often cooked/prepared in conditions that would be now considered "unsanitary." For example, if a time traveler traveled back to medieval Europe or pre-Colombian Americas, the food there would at best make them considerably ill.

Thus a modern person cannot simply travel back to hang out with the likes of the Samurai, as the food they eat would probably incapacitate or even kill them.

Strict regulations in food processing wasn't because stuff was being cooked badly or improperly but was to keep out adulterants such as plaster of paris and sawdust in bread and copper sulphate in veggies to make them look greener. As a time traveler one could eat fruits and veggies as long as you took care to boil the water with which the food was washed or prepared. 

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I mean as long as you boil water and prepare your own food there shouldn't be much of an issue.  If you eat a variety of foods without issue now the only thing to worry about is bacteria, so boil your water and cook your food.  And like @IheartIheartTesla said raw foods should be fine as long as you wash them.

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At the same time, though, a modern vaccinated person would be safe from some of the diseases that troubled medieval people. And the time traveler could take various meds with them, especially antibiotics, to maintain a certain degree of safety.

 

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Slightly off topic, but I wonder how far back you could go before verbal communication would become extremely difficult.  Even with a language that you can read and write, I'd imagine that a couple hundred years back there would be a major learning curve in being able to speak and understand it due to changes in accents and pronunciation.  

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19 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

Even with a language that you can read and write, I'd imagine that a couple hundred years back there would be a major learning curve in being able to speak and understand it due to changes in accents and pronunciation.  

Sounds like it'd be like trying to understand "English English" ...

 

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Bah, the clue is in the name. You bunch of traitors and rebels need to get with the programme (yes, that’s how you spell it) and stop with your weird center, color, y’all and shit. Come home to Mama (Mummy).

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Fun topic. My feeling is you might be in for an unpleasant few weeks while your gut microbiome readjusts and your adaptive immune response builds to keep some of the bugs which aren't as prevelant anymore in check, but I doubt it'd be life threatening. More akin to travellers diarrhea, which can be nasty but rarely kills.

4 hours ago, Mysecondaccount said:

Apparently, strict regulations in the processing of food (dating to the early 20th century after the release of Upton Sinclair's the Jungle) has considerably weakened a modern person's immunity system. In other words, most diets beyond the past hundred years would very dangerous to someone living today.

This is educated speculation*, but if anything I think we'd generally have a stronger immune system from our relatively stable diet (very few people in the western world these days are malnourished) and ability to treat / manage many chronic medical conditions. Hell, if anything people these days are more prone to an overactive immune system - see the massively increasing prevelance of allergies and autoimmune conditions.

*I work in infectious diseases but am not an immunologist, and lectures on immune system development are now in the distant past.

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1 hour ago, Hereward said:

Bah, the clue is in the name. You bunch of traitors and rebels need to get with the programme (yes, that’s how you spell it) and stop with your weird center, color, y’all and shit. Come home to Mama (Mummy).

France is better at soccer* than England.

 

*Yes, that's how you spell it.

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56 minutes ago, Impmk2 said:

 

Fun topic. My feeling is you might be in for an unpleasant few weeks while your gut microbiome readjusts and your adaptive immune response builds to keep some of the bugs which aren't as prevelant anymore in check, but I doubt it'd be life threatening. More akin to travellers diarrhea, which can be nasty but rarely kills.

 

“The Time Travellers Fecal Transplant” wasn’t a very good book, but it’s realism was undeniable.

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9 minutes ago, Tywin et al. said:

*Yes, that's how you spell it.

Wrong word though. :P

9 minutes ago, Tywin et al. said:

France is better at soccer* than England.

Is it? I wouldn't have thought so*.

As to the op, I have a totally uninformed take on the question, but I think it could go both ways. Sure, some stuff might be hard to digest, but surely a reasonable time traveler would know how to avoid anything looking truly dangerous. I understand regulations in the food industry are rather lax, and not uniformly enforced - though maybe that's a French thing, we do like to eat rotten cheese after all ^_^.
Anyway, assuming a strong healthy body for our time traveler, a modicum of common sense should allow one to avoid death (I would think we all know that when in doubt, it's best to eat ell-cooked meat). Whether one's body would adapt before digestive troubles weakened them is probably not guaranteed though, so best to have a quick exit plan. No one wants to get explosive diarrhea in the 14th century.

But, come on... We all know that time trips must be short, that we shouldn't eat or drink anything fishy, and that one should absolutely avoid doing anything that can seriously damage the timeline.
Like fucking your mom. Or your grandmother. Or yourself.
In fact, best not to fuck anyone or anything.

*I genuinely dont know :ph34r:.
 

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I don't buy this, because we already do this repeatedly across the world on a regular basis and don't have people dying in droves. 

The one exception I would have to this is that if a time traveler traveled to, say, a supposedly industrialized place that was heavily capitalist and had no regulations on processed food, they'd be hosed because they'd be likely to be getting all sorts of actual chemical pollutants in their food. Eating in the US some of the meat comign out of late 19th century plants would be very, very bad. 

But lots and lots of places in the actual world right now have, shall we say, very interesting sets of standards on their food. And people don't end up dying left and right. 

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18 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

We all know that time trips must be short, that we shouldn't eat or drink anything fishy, and that one should absolutely avoid doing anything that can seriously damage the timeline.

When I first read the OP I thought the issue was going to be eating food fucking up the timeline.  We all know if you eat the wrong thing in the past Hitler could win WWII.

2 hours ago, Hereward said:

Bah, the clue is in the name. You bunch of traitors and rebels need to get with the programme (yes, that’s how you spell it) and stop with your weird center, color, y’all and shit. Come home to Mama (Mummy).

If you can tell me what "shat on a turtle" means I'll do whatever you want.

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9 hours ago, Rippounet said:

*I genuinely dont know :ph34r:.

That’s funny because every time I’ve been in France when they won a World Cup game I couldn’t sleep for all the noise in the street. :P 

It might surprise you to know then that Belgium are currently the best in the world at football.* Belgium! It’s a funny game.
 

* Yes, strangely enough the addition of multiple items of padding, significant head trauma and, you know, actually handling the ball doesn’t, for me, effectively transform it from “soccer” to football.

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I think the hypothetical time traveler would most likely die of smallpox, unless vaccinated, which isn’t too common among people under the age of 55 today.

I was born in 1975, but not vaccinated for smallpox, even though it had not yet been eradicated, it was at that point a very niche disease isolated in developing countries, with extremely rare laboratory errors in developed countries causing isolated cases. 

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