Food poisoning is a condition which results from eating foods that are toxic, spoiled, or contaminated. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition are vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.
You might develop some discomfort when you suffer from food poisoning but this condition is not really unusual. As stated by the CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 6 Americans suffers from food poisoning every year.
Food Poisoning Symptoms
If you end up with food poisoning, there’s a good chance that it won’t go undetected. The symptoms will mainly depend upon the cause of food poisoning. The amount of time that it will take for the symptoms to show up will also depend upon the cause behind it, although it usually ranges from as little as one hour to as long as 28 days.
Some of the most common causes of food poisoning include at least three of the following symptoms below:
- Abdominal cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Mild fever
Below are some symptoms of food poisoning that are potentially life-threatening:
- Blood showing in urine
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days.
- Difficulty speaking or seeing.
- Fever higher than 101.5°F.
- Symptoms of severe dehydration that includes dry mouth
If you find yourself suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s important that you see your doctor immediately.
A lot of times, food poisoning happens several hours or days after you have eaten some food that caused you to get sick. However, different organisms work at different speeds. For instance, the Staphylococcus Aureus is the kind of bacteria that could make you suffer from nausea, cramps, and diarrhea in as little as 30 minutes from the time you have ingested it. The bacterium can be found in cream, eggs, and meat that haven’t been refrigerated well. Another less common cause of food poisoning is the virus from Hepatitis A. This virus can wait up to 50 days before it manifests itself. You could get this virus from drinks and foods that have gotten in contact with sewage water. A lot of times, traveling to developing countries could expose you to this virus.
What Causes Food Poisoning?
Most of the food poisoning cases can be linked to one of the following major causes:
Bacteria. So far, bacteria are the most common causes of food poisoning. When it comes to dangerous bacteria, Salmonella, Listeria, and E. Coli often tops the list and this is for a good reason. Salmonella is usually the biggest culprit behind serious food poisoning in the United States. As stated by the CDC, there are an estimated 1 million cases of food poisoning each year that can be linked to Salmonella infection. The C. botulism and Campylobacter are two lesser-known bacteria that could lurk on food, yet they are potentially lethal.
Parasites. Food poisoning that’s caused by parasites is not usually as common as food poisoning that is caused by bacteria. However, parasites that are spread through food are very hazardous. Toxoplasma, a parasite that’s often the most common cause of foodborne illness, is usually common in cat litter boxes. These parasites tend to linger on your digestive tract and can go undetected for several years. However, if you’ve got a weak immune system or if you’re pregnant, this could make you suffer from serious side effects.
Viruses. Certain viruses may also trigger food poisoning. Norovirus, which is also known as the Norwalk virus, has triggered more than 19 million food poisoning cases every year. In rare cases, this virus could be fatal. Astrovirus, rotavirus, and sapovirus, also bring similar symptoms, yet these viruses are less common. The virus from Hepatitis A can also lead to a serious condition, which is often transmitted through food.
How Does Food Get Contaminated?
Pathogens are common on almost all kinds of foods that humans tend to eat. However, the heat from cooking could kill the pathogens on food before it gets to our plate. This is why foods that are eaten raw are often the number one causes of food poisoning since they do not usually go through the process of cooking.
In some cases, food gets into contact with organisms found in fecal matter. This usually happens if the person who prepared the food did not wash his or her hands before touching the food. Eggs, dairy products, and meat are some of those foods that are contaminated frequently. It’s also possible for water to be spoiled with organisms that could cause food poisoning.
Who’s at Higher Risk?
Infants and Children. Food poisoning is common in both adults and kids, although it could cause more concern among kids. Kids below 1-year-old are highly susceptible to Botulism. This bacteria is rare, however, it could potentially lead to paralysis and even death if not treated early. Kids are also at high risk of having serious reactions to the E. Coli. Any child that’s showing some symptoms of food poisoning should be taken to a medical professional immediately in order to rule out possible botulism that could lead to dehydration. Kids often get dehydrated more easily than adults and therefore, they need to be closely monitored.
Pregnant Women. Pregnant women must be treated for any case of food poisoning with extreme caution. Listeria food poisoning could possibly affect the growth of unborn babies. Thus, pregnant women must observe proper nutrition to help their unborn babies to develop in their tummy. Any signs of food poisoning must be immediately brought to the attention of the physician.
Older Adults. Elders are also highly susceptible to complications resulting from food poisoning. Specifically, certain strains of E. Coli could lead to kidney failure and hemorrhage cases. If an adult that’s more than 60 years old is showing some symptoms of food poisoning, they must immediately get in contact with a caring physician to be checked.
People with Chronic Conditions. People suffering from chronic diseases like HIV, AIDS, diabetes, and liver are at high risk of developing more serious complications that are a result of food poisoning. You will also be at high risk if you’re receiving treatments that could suppress your immune response, such as chemotherapy.
How is Food Poisoning Diagnosed?
Your physician could diagnose food poisoning depending on the symptoms that you have. For severe cases, stool tests, blood tests, and tests on the food you have eaten may be necessary in order to determine what really causes food poisoning in you. Your physician may also ask you to undergo a urine test to evaluate if you are dehydrated because of food poisoning.
Tests for Food Poisoning
If your foodborne illness has become very complicated or severe, your physician may ask you to undergo the following tests:
Stool Cultures. This is usually the most common test for food poisoning cases. Your physician may ask you to go through this if you’re suffering from severe stomach pain and fever, along with other symptoms. This test is also necessary if your symptoms linger longer. Your stool sample can tell if your symptoms are due to bacteria. The sample can also reveal what particular antibiotics can help to kill the bacteria that have gotten into you. It should be noted that stool tests are not always accurate.
Blood Tests. If your doctor believes that your infection has already spread into your blood, then you may be asked to undergo a blood test. This test can detect the presence of bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes and the virus from Hepatitis A. Certain blood tests can also detect how sick you really are by looking for signs and symptoms that you’re extremely hydrated.
Stool or Blood Tests. These particular tests may be necessary to check for toxins, including Botulism, which is potentially fatal.
MRIs and CT Scans. Imaging tests like CT scans and MRIs are not often used for foodborne illnesses, however, they could help to rule out some other symptoms.
How is Food Poisoning Treated?
Food poisoning can be possibly treated at home and most of the time, the condition could get resolved after 3-5 days.
If you’re suffering from food poisoning, it’s important that you keep yourself hydrated properly. Sports drinks that are rich in electrolytes are highly recommended. Coconut water and fruit juices are also recommended since they could help to restore lost carbohydrates and help prevent fatigue.
It’s important that you avoid caffeine as much as possible because this could irritate your digestive tract. Decaffeinated teas made from soothing herbs, such as peppermint, chamomile, and dandelion may help to calm your upset stomach.
OTC medications such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium can also help to control diarrhea and prevent nausea. However, it may be best to check with your doctor before you decide to take these medications since the body uses diarrhea and vomiting to get rid of the toxins in the system. Furthermore, using these medications may mask out the severity of the illnesses and could make some patients delay in seeking medical treatment.
Getting plenty of rest is also necessary for those who are suffering from foodborne illness.
In the more severe cases of food poisoning, patients may need intravenous (IV) fluids for hydration. For the worst cases of food poisoning, longer hospitalization may be necessary as the patient tries to recover from the illness.
If you’re suffering from food poisoning, it’s best to hold off eating solid foods until such time that diarrhea and vomiting have passed. Instead, eat foods that are easy to digest and are low in fat. Examples are:
- Bland potatoes
- Boiled vegetables
- Chicken broth
- Diluted fruit juices
- Saltine crackers
- Soda that doesn’t have caffeine, such as ginger ale and root beer
- Sport drinks
What Shouldn’t You Eat When You Have Food Poisoning?
In order to prevent your tummy from becoming more upset, avoid eating the following foods that are often difficult to digest even if you believe you are feeling better:
- Dairy products, especially milk and cheeses
- Fatty foods
- Food with high sugar content
- Fried foods
- Highly seasoned foods
- Spicy foods
You must also avoid the following:
- Caffeine, including coffee, soda, and energy drinks.
Suffering from the symptoms of food poisoning is not a comfortable experience, but the good news is that most patients were able to recover from these symptoms within 48 hours. Food poisoning may be life-threatening, but the CDC pointed out that these cases are extremely rare.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning?
One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning cases is to safely handle your food and avoid eating foods that you believe are unsafe.
Certain foods are more likely to cause food poisoning because of the way they are prepared and produced. Eggs, poultry, meats, and shellfish may contain infectious agents that are killed when exposed to heat during cooking. If these foods are not properly cooked, or if the surfaces and hands that the foods have gotten in contact, were not cleaned well, then food poisoning could occur.
Below are some other foods that are most likely to trigger food poisoning:
- Fish products like sushi that is served undercooked or raw.
- Hot dogs and deli meats that are not cooked or heated.
- Unpasteurized milk, juices, and cheese.
- Vegetables and fruits that are unwashed and eaten raw.
Always make it a habit to wash your hands before you prepare, cook, and eat food. Your food must be sealed and stored properly at all times and make sure that eggs and meats are thoroughly cooked. Anything that gets into contact with raw products must be sanitized well before using them in preparing or cooking foods. Always wash vegetables and fruits before they are cooked or served.
What to Do After Food Poisoning?
Leave your stomach to settle for a few hours. When you suffer from the most volatile symptoms, such as diarrhea, upset stomach, and vomiting, health experts recommend that you let your stomach rest. This means you should avoid ingesting any type of drinks and foods for a few hours.
Drinking as much liquid as you can be necessary to help your body in fighting off the effects of food poisoning. Diarrhea and vomiting could lead to dehydration, thus, sucking on ice chips and taking sips of water is a good idea.
Sports drinks that have plenty of electrolytes are also a great way to prevent dehydration. Here are some other suggested drinks:
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Clear sodas, such as 7UP, Sprite, and ginger ale
- Decaffeinated tea
Eat Bland Food
If you need to hold down eating food, try to eat foods that are gentle to your gastrointestinal tract and stomach. Stick with foods that are low fat, bland, and low-fiber. Your tummy will find it difficult to digest fats, especially if you’re having an upset stomach so it’s best to avoid fatty foods.
Below are foods that are gentle on your stomach:
- Egg whites
- Peanut butter
- Plain potatoes, which includes mashed potatoes
The BRAT diet is an ideal diet to follow if you’re suffering from foodborne illness or food poisoning.
Try Natural Remedies
During the episode of food poisoning, it may be necessary for your body to adhere to its natural reactions by cleansing and purging the digestive tract so as to remove any harmful bacteria. This is why OTC diarrhea medications are not usually the best way to treat food poisoning cases.
When the symptoms of your diarrhea are at their peak, drink ginger tea. Ginger is known for its soothing effects on the stomach.
When you’re feeling a bit well again, replace your diet with natural yogurts and probiotic capsules and have them in your diet for at least two weeks. These could help to regenerate the healthy bacteria that were lost during food poisoning and will get your immune system and digestive system to be back on track.
If possible, delay brushing your teeth for an hour. This is because the stomach acid that has gotten expelled when you vomited could damage your teeth’s enamel. Furthermore, brushing your teeth right after you have vomited could further erode your teeth’s enamel. You can simply rinse your mouth in the meantime using water and baking soda.
Showering is also recommended as it helps to cleanse your body off from unhealthy bacteria. Make sure you also get a lot of rest. Getting enough rest can also help in your fast recovery.
Is It Food Poisoning or a Stomach Bug?
What Causes the Stomach Bug?
Different viruses could trigger stomach bug. However, some viruses that could frequently cause stomach bug include rotavirus, adenovirus, and norovirus. Norovirus alone is known to cause 21 million cases of stomach virus in the United States every year. Some other viruses, like the astrovirus, may also cause stomach bug.
The stomach bug is a contagious disease and commonly takes place during the winter months, between the months of November and April. One of the most common ways to catch this virus is by getting in contact with someone who is sick with the bug. You could also suffer from the condition if you have gotten in contact with an infected vomit or stool.
What Causes Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning could happen if infectious organisms like viruses, bacteria, and parasites contaminate the foods you have eaten. Most of the time, either the Staphylococcus aureus or Escherichia coli are the main causes.
You could also get food poisoning if you ended up eating undercooked and contaminated meat. However, meat is not really the only food that could trigger food poisoning.
Below is a list of foods that could potentially cause foodborne illness:
- Contaminated water
- Raw eggs
- Raw fish or oysters
- Raw sprouts
- Soft and unpasteurized cheeses, including Feta and Brie
- Undercooked rice
- Unpasteurized beverages, such as milk, cider, and juice
- Fruits and vegetables that were not washed properly
After several days of suffering from either food poisoning or stomach bug, you could suffer from dehydration. Make sure you watch out for the following symptoms:
- Dark urine
- A decrease in urine output
- Dizziness, especially when standing
- Dry diapers
- Dryness of throat or mouth
- Excessive thirst
- Lack of tears in toddlers and babies
- Low blood pressure
Babies suffering from food poisoning may also have fontanels and sunken eyes and must be given immediate medical attention.
Tips for Prevention
Preventing the Stomach Bug
Although the stomach bug is also known as stomach flu, the annual flu vaccine will not entirely prevent it. This is because a different virus often causes stomach bug. Antibiotics may not be enough to help treat stomach bug since it is a virus and antibiotics are intended for treating bacteria.
There are certain measures to take to prevent spreading stomach flu. You are most contagious during those times when you are feeling worst and in the coming days after that. The bug could linger in your stool for a few weeks. Make it a habit to wash your hands at all times and stay away from the public for at least three days, until such time that you feel better.
You should also get your baby vaccinated against rotavirus when they reach 2 months old.
Preventing Food Poisoning
Here are some of the steps you can take in order to prevent food poisoning:
- Always keep things clean especially those things you use in preparing food, such as utensils, food preparation surfaces, and most especially your hands.
- Cook beef at 160°F.
- Cook pork at 145°F.
- Cook turkey and chicken at 165°F.
- Ensure that canned foods are bought from trusted distributors
- If a particular food looks questionable, better throw it away.
- Make sure the seafood is cooked fully before eating.
- Refrigerate any perishable foods within 1 – 2 hours.
Home Remedies for Food Poisoning
If you’re suffering from food poisoning, your body will most likely be losing more water than normal. Therefore, try to drink as much water as you can so you will be hydrated. It also helps to flush out all the toxins that have caused your symptoms.
As a matter of fact, when suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, it may be best to increase your intake of fluid by drinking water and clear liquids. Avoid taking solid food, if possible.
Begin the treatment as soon as possible using simple and readily ingredients in your kitchen. Here are some of the most effective home remedies:
Ginger is a great home remedy for treating almost all kinds of digestive problems and this includes food poisoning.
Drink one glass of ginger tea after you eat your dinner or lunch to prevent nausea, heartburn, and some other symptoms related to food poisoning. To prepare the ginger tea, simply boil one tsp. of grated ginger along with one cup of water for a few minutes. Add a bit of honey or sugar and your tea is ready.
Another option is to add some drops of ginger juice to a teaspoon of honey and drink it several times a day in order to ease the pain and inflammation. You can also choose to eat slices of raw ginger.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Although the apple cider vinegar is acidic, it has an alkaline effect because of the manner it is metabolized in the body. Thus, it can help alleviate numerous symptoms resulting from food poisoning. It also helps to soothe the gastrointestinal lining. Furthermore, the vinegar can kill the bacteria that are causing the foodborne illness, giving you instant relief. Simply mix 2 tbsp. of the vinegar in a cup of hot water. Drink the mixture before your meal. Another option is to drink 2 to 3 tsp. of the undiluted vinegar.
Fenugreek Seeds and Yogurt
Yogurt contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can help to fight off the bacteria that are causing the food poisoning. Furthermore, the fenugreek seeds can help to ease abdominal discomfort.
Simply take 1 tsp. of fenugreek seeds along with one tbsp. of yogurt. You just have to swallow the seeds and not chew them. The combining effect of yogurt and the fenugreek seeds will give you immediate relief from vomiting and stomach pains, which are two of the most common symptoms of food poisoning.
Lemon’s antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties can help to give you much relief from the symptoms of food poisoning. Furthermore, the acid from lemon helps to kill the bacteria that have caused your foodborne illness.
Simply add a pinch of sugar to one tsp. of the lemon juice and drink it up to three times a day. You can also squeeze the lemon in warm water and ship it to help clean your system.
Basil is a great herb that can help to soothe abdominal discomfort that’s often a result of food poisoning. It also contains antimicrobial properties that could fight off the harmful microorganisms. You could benefit from basil in many ways.
First, you can drink the extracted juice from basil and mix it with one tbsp. of honey. Drink it several times a day and add fresh coriander juice to it if you want to. Simply add a few drops of basil oil to four cups of drinking water. Slowly drink the water to kill the bacteria that are causing your stomach pain and some other symptoms of food poisoning.
Another option is to mix salt, pepper, and some basil leaves to 3 tbsp. of yogurt. Eat up to four times a day or until all your symptoms are gone.
Garlic is another home remedy that’s very effective in treating food poisoning, thanks to its strong antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Garlic is also effective in relieving some symptoms caused by food poisonings such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.
You can eat fresh garlic clove directly and drink water afterward. If you’re able to tolerate the strong smell of garlic, you can also prepare garlic juice out of it.
Bananas are among those foods that are easy on the stomach since they are easy to digest. Furthermore, bananas are rich in potassium and can help to replenish the depleted potassium as a result of constant vomiting and diarrhea. Eating one piece of banana can help to bring back your energy level. Aside from eating a ripe banana, you can also make banana shake and drink it up to 3 times each day.
The cumin seeds, also known as jeera, can help to treat abdominal discomfort and stomach inflammation resulting from food poisoning. You can boil one tsp. of cumin seeds along with one cup of water. Add a tsp. of coriander juice that’s extracted from fresh leaves of coriander and mix a small amount of salt. Drink the concoction twice each day for several days.
Sipping different kinds of herbal tea can also help to soothe the symptoms brought about by food poisoning and can help to keep you hydrated. Peppermint tea, for instance, has a soothing effect on the stomach and can help to treat stomach cramps. Comfrey roots are also effective in treating food poisoning, and if you’re suffering from nausea, you can have a cup of chamomile tea or licorice tea.
Honey comes with antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help treat indigestion and some other symptoms of food poisoning. Honey is also a natural remedy that can be consumed in its pure form or added to your cup of tea.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Here are more tips to help in minimizing your risk of suffering from food poisoning.
Wash Your Hands. Make it a habit to wash your hands thoroughly using water and soap. Dry them out before you touch your food, including raw vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, etc. This is especially important after touching the bin, blowing your nose, using the toilet, and touching animals, including your pets at home.
Use Separate Chopping Boards. When chopping foods for cooking, use separate chopping boards for meat, vegetables, and fish. This is to prevent contaminating the ready-to-eat foods.
Keep Raw Meat Separate. It’s necessary to keep raw meat from foods that are ready to eat, such as fruits, salad, and bread. Raw foods don’t require cooking before you eat them so any bacteria that have gotten into the foods coming from raw meat will not be killed.
Cook Food Thoroughly. Kebabs, sausages, and pork burgers must be cooked well until they are steaming hot before eating. There should be no pink meat left before you eat them. Avoid washing raw meat such as turkey and chicken before cooking since this could spread the bacteria around your kitchen. Freezing raw chicken can help to reduce the level of bacteria but will not totally eliminate them. The best way to kill all traces of bacteria is by cooking the meat thoroughly.
Keep Your Fridge Below 5C. Try to keep the temperature of your fridge below 5C. If possible, use a fridge thermometer to monitor it. Doing so can help to prevent harmful bacteria and germs from multiplying. Also, try to avoid overloading your fridge. If it becomes too full, the air won’t be able to circulate well and this could affect your fridge’s overall temperature.
Follow Expiration Dates. Avoid eating foods that are past its “use by” date even if it still smells okay. Expiration dates are often based on scientific tests that show how harmful bugs could quickly develop in the packaged foods.