Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) and their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.
Food poisoning symptoms, which can start within hours of eating contaminated food, often include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Most often, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. But some people need to go to the hospital. The most common serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration — a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. If you’re a healthy adult and drink enough to replace fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldn’t be a problem. Infants, older adults and people with suppressed immune systems or chronic illnesses may become severely dehydrated when they lose more fluids than they can replace. In that case, they may need to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids.
With symptoms ranging from mild to severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness and dehydration, food poisoning is a condition not to be ignored.
When to see a doctor
If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms, seek medical attention.
- Frequent episodes of vomiting and inability to keep liquids down
- Bloody vomit or stools
- Diarrhea for more than three days
- Extreme pain or severe abdominal cramping
- An oral temperature higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
- Signs or symptoms of dehydration — excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness
- Neurological symptoms such as blurry vision, muscle weakness and tingling in the arms
How to treat mild food poisoning at home
It adds flavor to your dishes, but it is also an excellent home remedy for curing almost all types of digestive problems. Take a tablespoon of honey with a few drops of ginger juice to reduce inflammation and pain.
Cumin or jeera seeds are a good way to soothe the inflammation in your stomach, reduce the tenderness and aid healing. Crush a tablespoon of cumin seeds and add it to your clear soup.
Basil is another excellent home remedy, curing infections of both the stomach and the throat. Strain the juice of a few basil leaves and add it to a tablespoon of honey. It’s bound to show positive results within a couple of hours.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium. They aid recovery and reduce the effects of food poisoning to an impressive level. Mash a couple of bananas and an apple, or whip up a quick banana shake.
Apples are one of nature’s best natural remedies, and they are very effective against food poisoning as they reduce heartburn and acid reflux. Apples are known to have enzymes that inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause diarrhea and stomachache.
The acidity of lemon juice kills most of the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Squeeze the juice of a lemon and add a pinch of sugar to it. Drink it as you would any medicine, or add lemon to your tea.
7. Activated charcoal
Activated charcoal absorbs all the unwanted gasses and substances that may be harmful to the delicate lining of the stomach, thereby aiding a speedy recovery.
It is very important to keep yourself fully hydrated during the period of food poisoning, as your body tends to lose more water through diarrhea. Also, keeping your water content high, rapidly flushes out the toxins and bacteria, which enhances your recovery.
9. Apple cider vinegar
Being acidic in nature, vinegar, specifically apple cider vinegar, soothes the gastrointestinal lining. It also makes the environment in the stomach inhospitable for the bacteria to breed in, which helps speed up the recovery.
10. Peppermint tea
It’s not just aromatherapy. Peppermint oil is known to have a soothing effect, which is extremely beneficial for people suffering from stomach spasms due to food poisoning. Add a few drops to your tea; your cramps will vanish in a couple of hours.
How to prevent food poisoning
- Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often. Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Use hot, soapy water to wash utensils, cutting boards and other surfaces you use.
- Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods. When shopping, preparing food or storing food, keep raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish away from other foods. This prevents cross-contamination.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature. The best way to tell if foods are cooked to a safe temperature is to use a food thermometer. You can kill harmful organisms in most foods by cooking them to the right temperature. Cook ground beef to 160 F (71.1 C); steaks, roasts and chops, such as lamb, pork and veal, to at least 145 F (62.8 C). Cook chicken and turkey to 165 F (73.9 C). Make sure fish and shellfish are cooked thoroughly.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly — within two hours of purchasing or preparing them. If the room temperature is above 90 F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.
- Defrost food safely. Don’t thaw food at room temperature. The safest way to thaw food is to defrost it in the refrigerator. If you microwave frozen food using the "defrost" or "50 percent power" setting, be sure to cook it immediately.
- Throw it out when in doubt. If you aren’t sure if a food has been prepared, served or stored safely, discard it. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can’t be destroyed by cooking. Don’t taste food that you’re unsure about — just throw it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.