Food Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What’s food poisoning?

Illnesses related to food also called food poisoning, is caused by eating, spoiled, toxic, or contaminated food. The most popular food poisoning symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.

While it is understandably discomforting, food poisoning is nothing unusual. According to CDC report, 1 in every 6 Americans do contract one type of food poisoning or the other yearly.


Food poisoning signs

If you’ve got food poisoning, it is highly unlikely that it will not be detected. The type of symptoms you will get depends on the infection source. How long it will take for the symptoms to become visible is equally determined by the infection source, ranging anywhere between 1hr and 28 days. Common food poisoning cases will normally include at the very least, 3 of the symptoms below:

  • Diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • mild fever
  • headaches
  • weakness
  • nausea

Signs of food poisoning that could be life-threatening are:

  • diarrhea lasting longer than 3 days
  • a fever with temperature of more than 101.5°F
  • difficulty speaking or seeing
  • Signs of serious dehydration, including dryness of mouth, passing out little or no urine, and difficulty in toning down body fluids.
  • Blood-mixed urine

Whenever you notice any of the above signs, you are advised to get in touch with your doctor instantly.

What’s responsible for food poisoning?

A lot of food poisoning cases can be linked to any of these three primary causes:


Bacteria happen to be the most common food poisoning cause. When considering dangerous bacteria, names such as Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella must surely come to your mind for obvious reason. Salmonella has been recorded as the most notable culprit in the causing of serious food poisoning in the U.S. according to CDC’ Impeccable source, virtually 1,000,000 food poisoning cases, which includes almost 20,000 hospitalizations, could be linked to salmonella on a yearly basis. C. Botulinum and Campylobacter are two severe food poisoning causative agents that are less known by people.


The food poisoning cases instigated by parasites are not as rampant as those instigated by bacteria, however, parasites that are spread via food still remain dangerous. The parasite most often noticed in food poisoning is Toxoplasma. It is mostly found inside cat litter containers. Parasites can stay inside your digestive system for years without been detected. Nevertheless, people who have weak immune system and women who are pregnant are more exposed to severe side effects whenever parasites reside inside their intestines.


Viruses can also cause food poisoning. The norovirus, also called Norwalk virus, is responsible for over 19 million food poisoning cases each year. In a few cases it could be dangerous. Astrovirus, rotavirus, and sapovirus exhibit similar signs, but they are not so common. The Hepatitis A-based virus is a severe condition which is transmissible through food.

How can a food be contaminated?

Pathogens exist on just about anything that is eaten by humans. But heat provided from cooking normally destroys those pathogens before they ever get to our plates. Foods that are taken raw will likely cause food poisoning because they did not undergo any heating due to cooking.

Food occasionally touches the organisms inside fecal matter. This is normally the case whenever someone who is preparing to make food fails to clean their hands prior to cooking.

Eggs, meats, as well as dairy products seem to be contaminated most of the time. Water could equally be infested with organisms that are responsible for illnesses.

Who can be affected food poisoning?

Anybody can have food poisoning. Statistically, virtually everyone will have to experience food poisoning in their lifetime, at least once.

There are populations that have a higher chance than others. Anybody with a weak immune system or auto-immune disease has a higher chance of the infection as well as more complications due to food poisoning.

Based on Mayo Clinic, women who are pregnant are at a higher risk since they are trying to cope with changes relating to their circulatory system and metabolism during pregnancy. Older individuals equally face more risk of going down with food poisoning since they no longer have an immune system that respond immediately to such infectious organisms. Children also fall into the population of those that can be affected since their immune system is not as strong as that of adults. And those that seem to be most affected due to dehydration resulting from diarrhea and vomiting are young children.

How to diagnose food poisoning?

Your health professional can diagnose the food poisoning type you are having by observing your symptoms. With serious cases, stool tests, blood tests and testing what you ate can be carried out to show the cause of that food poisoning. Your health adviser could equally do a urine test for evaluating if an individual has become dehydrated due to food poisoning.

How to treat food poisoning?

It can be treated in the house, and a lot of cases normally disappear within 3 to 5 days.

If you’ve got food poisoning, it is important that you maintain a healthy level of hydration. Sports drinks that contain sufficient electrolytes can be helpful here. Coconut water and fruit juice can help restore carbohydrates as well as correct fatigue issues.

Stay away from caffeine because it could unsettle your digestive tract. Teas that lack any caffeine such as peppermint, chamomile and dandelion could calm a troubled stomach. Read more about how you can remedy a troubled stomach here.

Over the counters (OTC) medications such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium are good for controlling diarrhea and suppressing nausea. Nevertheless, you can consult with your health adviser before making use of these medications, because the body results to diarrhea and vomiting as a means of ridding the system of toxins. Plus, when you use these medications, it could reduce the seriousness of the illness thereby causing you to delay your quest for expert treatment.

Anyone who has got food poisoning is equally expected to have adequate rest.

In severe food poisoning cases, individuals may need hydration through intravenous fluids at the hospital. In the deadliest of food poisoning case, the individual may be required to spend longer time in the hospital in the course of their recovery.


What should you eat when you’ve got food poisoning?

It is mostly advised that you stop taking any solid food until the diarrhea and vomiting have stopped, and you can go back to your normal diet afterwards by taking foods that are easy to digest and low in fats like:

  • gelatin
  • bananas
  • saltine crackers
  • rice
  • oatmeal
  • bland potatoes
  • boiled vegetables
  • chicken broth
  • toast
  • diluted fruit juices
  • sport drinks
  • soda without caffeine (ginger ale, root beer)

What shouldn’t you eat while experiencing food poisoning?

In order to save your stomach from undergoing more stomach upset, try avoiding the following hard to digest food, even when you feel you are okay:

  • dairy products, particularly cheeses and milk
  • highly seasoned foods
  • fatty foods
  • food with high sugar content
  • fried foods
  • spicy foods

Also stay away from:

  • caffeine (energy drinks, soda, coffee)
  • nicotine
  • alcohol


Although food poisoning can be very discomforting, you can take consolation from the fact that people become normal in a period of 48hrs. Learn more of what you should eating after experiencing food poisoning.

There are only very few cases of food poisoning cases that are life-threatening according to CDC.

How to prevent food poisoning?

The most reliable way to protect yourself from food poisoning is by handling your food with great care as well as avoiding unsafe food.

Some foods can cause food poisoning than others because of how they are prepared and produced. Shellfish, eggs, poultry and meat may host infectious organisms that are normally killed while cooking. Consuming these foods in their uncooked, not properly cooked form, or when surfaces and hands are not properly cleaned after any contact, creates a possible atmosphere for contracting food poisoning.

Other foods which can bring about food poisoning are:

  • sushi as well as other fish products which are served uncooked or undercooked
  • Hot dogs and deli meats those aren’t cooked or heated.
  • ground beef that may comprise meat from different animals
  • cheese, unpasteurized milk, and juice
  • unwashed, raw fruits as well as vegetables

Develop the habit of washing your hands always before eating or cooking. Ensure that your food is properly stored or sealed. Cook eggs and meat thoroughly. Whatever touches raw products ought to be sanitized prior to using it in preparing other foods. Always wash your vegetables and fruits before serving.



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