How To Treat Food Poisoning

Everyday Illnesses Common Remedies
What Is Food Poisoning?

Millions of Americans suffer from some kind of food poisoning every year. Most instances are caused by various bacteria found in food such as salmonella, E.coli, listeria, campylobacter, shigella and botulism. These bacteria are found mainly in meat, shellfish, reheated foods, home made ice cream and fruit spreads. Other cases can be caused by viruses, toxins and parasites found in foods. The most serious types of food poisonings are caused by bacteria. Bacteria poison you in two ways: 1. by infecting the intestines triggering diarrhea or 2. by producing toxins which trigger nausea and vomiting, and in extreme cases kidney problems and even death.

How Is It Treated?

In most cases, diarrhea and other symptoms go away after 2 to 3 days and don't need treatment. It may still take an additional few days before you feel normal again. If you have a fever, or very watery diarrhea or if there is blood or mucus mixed in the stools, talk to your doctor. You may need antibiotics.

8 Home Remedies

1. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is the most frequent complication of food poisoning, particularly in the elderly and children. Drink 15-20 glasses of boiled or bottled water a day during an attack. You know you are drinking enough when your urine is clear and not dark. Additionally sip on a rehydration drink like Pedialyte which is designed to replace fluids and minerals lost by diarrhea and vomiting. Signs of dehydration include intense thirst, dry lips and tongue, weakness and a fast heart rate.

2. Probiotics
Take a course of probiotics (available in all health stores). Probiotics will introduce healthy bacteria into your digestive system protecting you against further growth of nasty bugs (in the right condition the bad bugs can multiply to more than 4 million in just 8 hours). If you are prone to diarrhea when you travel abroad, take probiotics for 2 weeks before your trip to reduce the risk of picking up a tummy bug.

3. Charcoal Capsules
Charcoal tablets can help treat diarrhea. The charcoal binds to the toxins produced by the bad bacteria which are then excreted with a bowel movement. You can buy charcoal tablets in most health stores. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women or children should avoid it. If you are taking medications, always talk to your doctor about possible interactions before taking a natural remedy.

4. Avoid Antidiarrheal Medicines
Medicines such as Imodium, Lomotil and Lonox are often taken by people suffering from irritable bowel disease to slow down the movement of food through the gut. The problem with these medications is that they will slow the elimination of the bacteria and toxins from your system that caused your bout of food poisoning, so they are best avoided. If there is blood in your stool or you have a fever, never take these medicines because they can make you feel worse.

5. Eat Less
When an attack of food poisoning occurs it is best to avoid solid foods for 24 hours as this will also starve the bacteria. Rest and drink plenty of fluids. If you are not able to hold down fluids, you should seek medical help. Dehydration is dangerous, especially for young children and babies.

6. Foods To Eat
After the first 24 hours, when you can hold down fluids, start by eating small amounts of soups, dry toast, brown rice, gelatin and bananas. Stop eating if the nausea returns.

7. Foods To Avoid
Avoid coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and fatty foods until you are completely better.

8. Goldenseal Herb
Once the nausea and vomiting has settled a bit, take a goldenseal root supplement. This herb was originally used by Native Americans for digestive and skin problems as well as a wash for sore eyes. It has strong anti-bacterial properties and has a soothing effect on the gut. Take one a day for a few days and increase to 3 a day for 2 weeks after an attack. As with any herbal remedy, check with your doctor before taking it if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on other medications.

Tips To Prevent Food Poisoning

1. Bacteria love to attach to anything they can get their hands on. Always wash your hands after touching raw meat and chicken (poultry), touching a bin and going to the toilet. Don’t forget to dry your hands because if they are wet they will pick up bacteria more easily.
2. Wash kitchen cloths, towels and sponges regularly on a high heat.
3. Don’t store left-overs for more than 2 days.
4. Keep ready to eat foods such as salad and fruit on a separate shelf in the refrigerator from raw meat. In fact, store raw meats on the lower shelf so they can’t touch or drip onto other foods.
5. Never put raw chicken next to cooked food on a grill or barbecue.

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• Other health issues? See: How to treat common illnesses.

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