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The simplest way to prevent food poisoning is to wash all your food thoroughly if you are eating it raw and to cook food thoroughly. Keep raw meat and chicken apart from other foods and make sure everything is cleaned before and after usage.

Food poisoning - types and symptoms

Perhaps you have heard about the recent salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated eggs—eggs from two huge farms where poor practices, poor sanitation and crowded conditions are thought to be the cause of the contamination. Salmonella is the cause of one type of food poisoning.  Food poisoning can be caused by a number of microbial organisms such as salmonella or E.coli, viruses or parasites (or by the toxins they produce) and pesticides.  Food poisoning can happen to one person, a small group of people or a large group of people who ate contaminated food. Food poisoning is also known as gastroenteritis.
 
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, fever and chills. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that every year, food poisoning causes 76 million illnesses, over 325,000 hospital stays and about 5000 deaths every year.  Most of the time, food poisoning is relatively mild and self-limiting—meaning you will get better without having to see a doctor or go to the hospital. On the other hand, hearing that food poisoning is relatively mild as you are going through it is not a really comforting thought.  I know—I just went through it a few weeks ago and thought I would share some of the approaches I took to get me through!

When to consult a doctor, and when to go to the emergency room?

First – when should you consult a doctor?
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea lasting for more than two days.
  • Young children can get dangerously dehydrated quickly—if the symptoms last longer for 24 hours in a child under 3 years old, call your physician.
  • If you are running a fever for over 24 hours, especially over 102o F
  • If your symptoms began after foreign travel
  • If a large number of people around you are having similar symptoms
  • If you can’t keep ANY liquids down.
  • If you have a compromised immune system, have cancer or kidney disease.
  • Elder citizens should seek care if they are having difficulty taking care of themselves
  • If you are showing any signs of nervous systems problems such as muscle weakness, dizziness, blurry or double vision, slurred speech or difficulty talking or swallowing.
Go to the emergency room if:
  • You have a fever over 102o F along with abdominal cramping
  • If you are vomiting blood or passing bloody stools
  • If you stop urinating
  • If your abdomen starts swelling
  • If you have severe joint pain or swelling
  • If you break out in a rash
  • If you have ANY muscle weakness, dizziness, blurry or double vision, slurred speech or difficulty talking or swallowing.

Prevention

The simplest way to prevent food poisoning is to wash all your food thoroughly if you are eating it raw and to cook food thoroughly.  Keep raw meat and chicken apart from other foods and make sure everything is cleaned before and after usage—this includes your hands, knives, cutting boards and every other surface the food comes into contact with.  It doesn’t take too long for bacteria, for example to grow on non-refrigerated foods—for example, salmonella on watermelon, papaya and melon could form cultures sufficient to cause food poisoning in less than 1-2 hours when stored at warmer temperatures.  Dairy and egg products are a wonderful medium for growth, especially in warmer temperatures. Does this sound like it might happen at your neighborhood picnic?

Food Poisoning Home Remedies

  • Drink lots of water—room temperature water is usually the best.  It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold because that can upset your stomach.
  • Avoid solid foods for a day or so.  Your best bet is a vegetable broth.  Start with just the vegetable broth at first—you can add some brown rice and finely chopped vegetables if you are feeling well enough.
  • Avoid any processed foods for the next few days—actually, my advice is to avoid processed foods anyday, but especially when you want your stomach and intestines to calm down.  Most processed foods contain loads of sugar and chemicals that can make the diarrhea and nausea worse and can slow down your recovery. Absolutely avoid any fried or fatty foods.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Take about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (or pure lemon juice) in 6-8 ounces of room temperature water.  It will help settle your stomach.  The tablets or capsules work as well. By the way, taking apple cider vinegar before meals helps reduce acid indigestion/heartburn as well! White vinegar doesn’t work as well, but it will help a bit.
  • Activated charcoal : these come in capsules as well.  Take 1-2.  The activated charcoal absorbs toxins in the stomach and intestines—it is used in emergency rooms for just that reason—it absorbs most toxins and poisons.
  • Ginger:  you can take ginger as a tea or cut off small pieces to chew on.  Ginger is an anti-emetic and is used to help cancer patients with their nausea after chemotherapy.  If you take ginger tea, use only a small amount of honey or any sweetener.
  • Herbal teas:  this is a good way to make sure you are keeping hydrated.  These are best when they are not too hot.  You can have as much of these teas as you want—usually at least 3-4 cups will do the trick! Some of the best herbal teas to help settle your stomach are:
  1. Mint
  2. Raspberry
  3. Chamomile
  4. Papaya
  5. Goldenseal
  6. Anise
  7. Caraway

Pick your favorite flavor or mix and match!

  • Yogurt remedies: these are great unless you have a dairy sensitivity, in which case, they are better avoided.  The yogurt remedies are best once you are able to hold down some food—so generally, after the first 24 hours.

-    Yogurt plus basil leaves-about ½ a teaspoon.
-    Yogurt plus fenugreek and cumin-about ½ a teaspoon of each herb.

  • Rest as much as you can and remember to re-introduce solid foods as slowly as possible.  It may take a few days to feel totally yourself again, so be patient.