Food Poisoning: Causes and Home Remedies
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning, also referred to as foodborne illness, is the result of eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food as well as chemical or natural toxins such as poisonous mushrooms. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 6 Americans will contract food poisoning every year.
Symptoms of food poisoning
Symptoms of food poisoning vary depending on the type of infection and the duration and severity of symptoms depend on the source of the infection. Common symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, which may occasionally be bloody, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramps, malaise, weakness, headaches, and fever.
Symptoms suggestive of a potentially life-threatening food poisoning include:
- Diarrhea occurring for more than three days
- A fever higher than 5°F
- Signs of severe dehydration, such as dry mouth, reduced urine volume, and severe thirst.
- Passage of bloody urine.
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Causes of Food Poisoning
There are three major causes of food poisoning – bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
Bacteria are the most prevalent causes of food poisoning and the common culprits are E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. According to the CDC, about 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning yearly can be attributed to salmonella infection.
Parasites are also common causes of food poisoning, but not as common as bacterial contamination. Common parasites implicated in food poisoning include Toxoplasma, Giardia lamblia, and amoeba.
Common viruses implicated in food poisoning include norovirus, rotavirus, astrovirus, and hepatitis virus type A. Rotavirus is one of the commonest causes of food poisoning in children.
These pathogens harbor almost all the foods consumed by humans, however, proper cooking and heating kill these germs, ridding the food of these contaminants. Therefore, eating raw or improperly cooked food places you at risk of food poisoning.
What to do after food poisoning?
Most cases of food poisoning are mild and can resolve without treatment within two to three days. Treatment often involves maintaining adequate hydration with oral salt rehydration solutions. Antidiarrheal medications may be used to suppress diarrhea, however, you should consult your doctor before using them. If you experience any of the symptoms of potentially life-threatening food poisoning, contact your doctor immediately.
However, mild food poisoning can be treated at home with certain home remedies. First, you have to avoid food and drinks in the initial hours of developing food poisoning. Additionally, small sips of water or oral rehydration solution is essential to counter the dehydration. Other fluids which can help treat and prevent dehydration include sodas, decaffeinated tea, and vegetable broth.
When you feel hungry, there are certain foods that can help improve your symptoms. These include:
- Egg Whites
- Peanut Butter
There are, however, certain foods and drinks which could worsen your symptoms and that you should avoid. These include:
- Dairy products that have high lactose
- Spicy or Fatty Foods
- Foods with High Fiber
- Alcohol and Caffeine
- Apple and Pear Juices
- Fried foods
- Seasoned foods
Food poisoning can resolve at home within two days without treatment. But in some cases, people need to go to the clinic. Also, remember to avoid any oral over-the-counter diarrhea medications. The best way to prevent food poisoning is to handle your food safely, always wash your hand before cooking, make sure that food is in good condition.