What Is Food Poisoning? | Gastroenterology

Food Poisoning

Overview of food poisoning

Foodborne illnesses commonly known as food poisoning are caused by eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food. Common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Although very uncomfortable, it is not uncommon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans contracts some form of food poisoning each year.


It may not be detected. Symptoms can vary depending on the source of the infection. The time it takes for symptoms to appear also depends on the source of the infection, but can range from 1 hour to 28 days.

Common causes usually include at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Slight fever
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Malignant food poisoning symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea lasts for more than three days.
  • Fever greater than 101.5 F

Symptoms of severe dehydration include dry mouth, shortness of breath, and difficulty urinating. If you experience these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.


Most food poisoning can be identified as one of the following three main causes:


Bacteria have a high content of food poisoning. When you think of dangerous bacteria, names like Listeria and Salmonella come to mind for good reason. Salmonella is the biggest culprit in serious cases of food poisoning in the United States. According to the CDC 1,000,000 cases are diagnosed with Salmonella infection each year, including nearly 20,000 hospitalized. Campylobacter and Botulinum (botulinum) are two lesser-known and deadly bacteria that lurk in our diet.


Food poisoning caused by parasites is not as common as food poisoning caused by bacteria, but parasites that are transmitted through food are still very dangerous. Toxoplasma is the most common parasite. It is usually found in cat litter boxes. However, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women can experience serious side effects if the parasites settle in their intestines.


The virus also causes food poisoning. Norovirus, also known as the Norwalk virus, causes more than 19 million cases each year. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Sapoviruses, rotaviruses, and astroviruses cause similar symptoms, but they are less common. The hepatitis A virus is a serious foodborne illness.

Who is at risk for food poisoning?

Anyone can come down with food poisoning. Statistically speaking, nearly everyone will come down with food poisoning at least once in their lives.

Some populations are more at risk than others. Anyone with a weakened immune system or an autoimmune disease is at increased risk of infection and increased risk for complications caused by food poisoning.

Pregnant women are at higher risk for their babies as they experience changes in their metabolism and circulatory system during pregnancy. Older people are also at risk their immune systems may not respond quickly to infections. Children are also considered a vulnerable population because their immune systems do not develop as well as adults. Young children are easily affected by dehydration from vomiting and diarrhoea.


Your doctor may be able to diagnose the type of food poisoning based on your symptoms. In severe cases, blood tests, stool tests, and tests on food that you have eaten may be conducted to determine what is responsible for the food poisoning. Your doctor may also use a urine test to evaluate whether an individual is dehydrated as a result of food poisoning.

How is food poisoning treated?

This can usually be treated at home, and most cases will resolve within three to five days.

It’s crucial to remain properly hydrated. Sports drinks that are high in electrolytes can help. Fruit juices and coconut water can restore carbohydrates and help with fatigue.

Avoid caffeine, which can irritate the digestive system. Decaphin tea with calming herbs like chamomile, peppermint, and dandelion soothes the stomach.

Over-the-counter medications such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol can help control diarrhoea and suppress nausea. However, you should check with your doctor before using these medications, as vomiting and diarrhoea are used by the body to rid itself of the toxin system. Also, the use of these drugs masks the severity of the disease and delays specialized treatment.

Rest is also important for people with food poisoning.

In severe cases, people may need hydration with intravenous (IV) fluids in the hospital. In the worst cases, the person may need to be hospitalized for a longer period of time while they recover.


What’s good to eat when you have food poisoning?

It’s best to gradually hold off on solid foods until vomiting and diarrhoea have passed and instead ease back to your regular diet by eating simple-to-digest foods that are bland and low in fat, such as:

  • Jelly
  • Banana
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Chicken soup
  • Blond potatoes
  • Steamed vegetables
  • A caffeine-free soft drink (ginger ale, root beer)
  • Dilute fruit juices
  • Sport drinks

What’s bad to eat when you have food poisoning?

To prevent your stomach from feeling more upset, try to avoid the following digestible foods, even if you feel better:

  • Dairy products, especially milk and cheese.
  • Fatty foods
  • Well-seasoned foods
  • Foods rich in sugar
  • Spicy food
  • Fried food

You should also avoid:

  • Caffeine (sodas, energy drinks, coffee)
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine

How can food poisoning be prevented?

The best way to prevent this to keep your food safe and avoid dangerous foods.

Some foods cause poisoning because of the way they are produced and prepared. Meat, poultry, eggs, and shellfish contain infectious agents that die during cooking. If these foods are eaten raw, not cooked properly, or hands and surfaces are not cleaned after contact, food poisoning can result.

Other foods that can cause food poisoning:

  • Sushi and other fish products that are served raw or undercooked.
  • Deli meats and hot dogs that are not heated or cooked.
  • Ground beef, which may contain meat from several animals.
  • Unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice.
  • Raw, unwashed fruits and vegetables.

Always wash your hands before cooking or eating. Make sure your food is properly sealed and stored. Cook meat and eggs thoroughly. Any other food associated with raw products must be cleaned before use. Be sure to always wash fruits and vegetables before serving.

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