Food poisoning occurs when you consume food that has natural poisonous properties, or that is contaminated with bacteria or another toxin. The symptoms of food poisoning usually disappear on their own after few days, but in the meantime there are actions you can take to speed up your recovery and make yourself more comfortable.
What Causes Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is caused by bacteria or other toxins in food. Before treating the symptoms of food poisoning, it is important to figure out what caused it. Think back to the food you ate in the last 4 to 36 hours:
- Did you share food with somebody who is also experiencing symptoms?
- Did anything taste bad?
- Did you try something new?
Here are the most likely causes of food poisoning:
- Food that has been contaminated by salmonella, e. coli, and other types of bacteria. This type of food poisoning usually results from undercooked meat or food that was left sitting out without refrigeration. Because bacteria are usually killed when food is cooked and handled properly.
- Poisonous mushrooms can also cause food poisoning (they can look like edible mushrooms).
- Poisonous fish, such as puffer fish, are a common source of food poisoning. Avoid consuming puffer fish unless it has been prepared by staff at a restaurant that is certified to do so.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination. Symptoms of chemical or toxin food poisoning may include:
- Tearing in the eyes
- Excessive salivation
- Mental confusion
- Stomach pain
Symptoms of botulism, a severe but very rare type of bacterial food poisoning may include:
- Partial loss of speech or vision
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Muscle paralysis from the head down through the body
How to Get Rid of Food Poisoning
Drink plenty of water. It is very important to drink plenty of water and other fluids to avoid dehydration, because diarrhea and vomiting lead to fluid loss.
- Avoid alcohol, coffee, and other fluids that cause dehydration.
- Drink a few cups of peppermint tea to stay hydrated and calm your nausea.
- Ginger ale and lime (or lemon) soda can also help with rehydration, and the carbonation helps settle your stomach.
- Drink at least 16 cups of water a day (for adults).
Replace electrolytes. If you are losing nutrients through dehydration, you can try an electrolyte solution to replace them. Gatorade or Pedialyte will work fine.
Try honey. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of honey help in treating indigestion and other symptoms of food poisoning. Honey can be added to tea. Three teaspoons of honey can do wonders to your body and relax you from the troubles, caused by foodborne diseases.
Use herbs. Some herbs may have antimicrobial properties and several can relieve the symptoms of food poisoning. Try drinking basil juice or adding a few drops of basil oil in water. Cumin seeds can also be eaten straight or brewed into a hot beverage.
- Thyme, rosemary, coriander, sage, spearmint, and fennel are also herbs that may have antimicrobial properties, though more research is needed.
Drink ginger tea. Ginger helps you get rid of food poisoning, as well. Ginger tea stops heartburn and nausea. Even a few drops of ginger juice in honey reduce the inflammation. Eating raw ginger is another alternative, which increases the acid level in your stomach that, in turn, helps in digesting the food more quickly.
Try a probiotic. These contain good bacteria that help your body digest food, and can treat the symptoms caused by harmful bacteria by restoring the balance in your gut.
Limit solid foods. Food poisoning causes diarrhea and vomiting, because natural bodily functions work to dispel the poison from the body. Eating more solid foods will cause more diarrhea and more vomiting, so it is best to avoid eating big meals until you are feeling better.
- If you get tired of subsisting on broth and soup, eat plain foods that won’t upset your stomach, like plain boiled white rice, bananas, or dry toast.
- You should avoid eating the food that caused the poisoning. If you are not sure what caused it, then avoid eating anything that hasn’t been freshly prepared right before you consume it.
Avoid using medications. Medications that prevent vomiting and diarrhea can slow your recover by impeding the natural bodily functions that eliminate the source of the food poisoning.
Avoid strenuous activities. Exerting yourself physically when you are suffering from food poisoning symptoms can delay your recovery.
- Try sitting or lying down however you are comfortable, and be active only when necessary so that you avoid over-taxing your body.
Get rest. You will probably feel tired and weak after going through the symptoms of food poisoning. Sleep as much as you need to help your body recover faster.
When to See the Doctor
Food poisoning that was caused by bacteria is usually treatable with home remedies. However, depending on source of the food poisoning and the age of the person who has it, it may be necessary to seek medical help immediately, before treating the symptoms. Call the doctor if:
- The person is experiencing severe food poisoning symptoms, such as trouble breathing, dizziness or fainting, or vomiting blood.
- The person is pregnant.
- The person is a young child or infant.
- The person is over 65 years of age.
- The person ate poisonous mushrooms or fish.
How to Prevent Food Poisoning
Store your food properly. In order to prevent cross-contamination; keep raw food, such as packages of uncooked chicken, separate from food that doesn’t need to be cooked.
- All dairy and meat should be refrigerated as soon as you bring it home from the supermarket.
Be hygienic. Food poisoning is often caused by bacteria that get transferred to food by way of unwashed dishes, cutting boards, hands, utensils or work surfaces. Take the following measures:
- Wash your hands with warm and soapy water before preparing food.
- Wash your utensils and dishes in warm and soapy water after they have been used.
- Use a cleanser to wipe down your cutting boards, tables, counters, and other kitchen surfaces after preparing a meal.
Do not eat wild mushrooms. Unless you are looking for mushrooms under the guidance of an expert, avoid eating freshly picked mushrooms.
- Even scientists have trouble distinguishing some edible and poisonous mushroom species without the aid of biological tests.
Cook meat thoroughly. Cooking meat until it reaches an internal temperature that kills bacteria can prevent bacterial food poisoning.
- Make sure you know the temperature to which your meat should be cooked.
Eat foods soon after they have been cooked. This will help to ensure that harmful germs haven’t had the time to grow.
- Follow the “2-2-4” rule when it comes to leftovers — don’t leave food out for more than 2 hours after cooking, refrigerate food in containers no deeper than 2 inches and throw away leftovers that are more than 4 days old.
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- If you have no appetite for food, do not force yourself to eat; hydration is more important during the first couple days of recovery from food poisoning.
- Suck on juice cubes or ice to help manage nausea and keep yourself hydrated.