Signs you may have food poisoning, and what you should do next
Street food is amazing, but the after-effects often aren’t: stomach pains, gas, nausea, and maybe even diarrhoea.
These are all symptoms of food poisoning and can leave both ill and uncomfortable. Let’s take a closer look at this foodborne illness, and what you can do to feel better if you have it.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food that contains infectious organisms like bacteria, viruses or parasites. These organisms can grow in food that is handled in unhygienic conditions, or food that is either spoilt or undercooked. Contamination can occur at any stage of the food delivery cycle – from growing, to packaging, transportation or even cooking.
You usually experience symptoms of food poisoning within hours of eating contaminated food. If you have a mild case of food poisoning, you can often treat it with home remedies. But if find that your symptoms are getting worse, or won’t go away for days, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Food poisoning is a little insidious because symptoms don’t always show up immediately. Sometimes it can take days, or even weeks, for symptoms to manifest. Common signs you’re suffering from food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, dehydration and weakness.
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the harmful organism that caused your stomach upset. However, there are a few common culprits known to cause foodborne illnesses.
- Salmonella: This group of bacteria is found in raw or contaminated egg yolk, milk, poultry and meat. If these foods aren’t cooked well, the bacteria can survive and enter your digestive system.
- E. coli: Foods or liquids that have come in contact with animal faeces or sewage can contain this bacteria. It is also found in the intestines of animals, unpasteurised milk, and certain sprouts.
- Campylobacter: This bacteria species enters the human body through undercooked poultry or poultry products, unpasteurised milk or water that has come in contact with animal faeces.
- Shigella: This bacterium is contagious. If the person handling your food has this bacterium on their body, it can infect your food and spread to you. Shigella is likely to be found in raw food, seafood, and fruits or vegetables that grow in areas contaminated with human faeces.
- Listeria: This bacterium grows in cold temperatures—including the one your refrigerator is at—and can be found in cheeses made from unpasteurised milk and raw, ready-to-eat foodstuffs like deli meats.
- Clostridium botulinum: Improperly preserved foods, like canned vegetables or cured pork and ham, can contain this bacteria. Foods kept at warm temperatures for too long can also act as a good host for this bacteria to grow.
Treatment and Diagnosis
If you are pregnant, immunocompromised, over 60 years of age, or are suffering from a chronic disease, you shouldn’t take food poisoning lightly. Infants and young children should also be treated by a doctor immediately if they’re experiencing symptoms of food poisoning.
To understand your symptoms and their causes, your doctor will ask you about your travel history, recent foods you’ve eaten, and about the water you drink. You may be asked to take a stool test, urine test and/or blood tests if your symptoms continue to worsen.
Any medicines prescribed aim to control symptoms of food poisoning and kill the bacteria responsible for causing it. You may also be asked to consume electrolytes to keep your body hydrated.
Mild cases of food poisoning heal by themself. You can aid the healing process by trying the following home remedies for food poisoning treatment.
- Consume lots of water and other fluids like soups and fresh juices to make up for the water-loss caused by diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods as they will be harsh on your GI tract.
- Eat simple and easy-to-digest foods like crackers, chicken broth, boiled vegetables, oatmeal, and bananas. Avoid dairy products like milk and cheese. Stay away from others foods that can be harmful for your stomach.
- Add probiotic-rich foods like yogurt to your diet. These foods contain good gut bacteria and can strengthen your digestive system.
You can also take others steps to improve your digestive system so that it’s better equipped to fight off and recover any other stomach illness. Supplements can help too! Setu Tummy: Probiotic contains 9 different strains of probiotics, keeping the microflora in your gut diverse and healthy. Consuming these supplements everyday can help you enjoy better immunity, digestion and overall health.
1) Which foods are most likely to cause food poisoning?
Poultry, fish, beef, pork, shellfish, eggs and unpasteurised milk are most likely to contain harmful bacteria. Always cook these items well before eating them. You can also consume alternatives to milk if dairy products upset your tummy.
2) Can the food poisoning symptoms be mistaken for any other illness?
Some symptoms are similar to those of the common flu. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever occur during both illnesses. Your doctor will be in the best position to provide the right diagnosis.
3) What are some tips to avoid food poisoning?
Avoid eating food that is undercooked, spoilt or stale. As far as possible, source your food from places that are hygienic. Wash fruits, vegetables and your hands well before eating. Store cold food at 40°F or less and heat foods up to 140°F before consuming them. Don’t consume packaged food that is past the expiry date. Keep an eye out for foul tasting or smelling food, and immediately discard it if something seems off.