Food poisoning is an illness which is caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites.
Most people with food poisoning can recover at home by resting, staying hydrated and eating foods that are gentle on the stomach. Some of these food items are BRAT diet, probiotics, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, honey, etc.
Let us learn more about food poisoning and the best foods to eat after food poisoning.
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning (foodborne illness), is the result of eating or drinking foods contaminated with viruses, bacteria, parasites or toxins.
Foodborne illnesses are relatively common in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the US (1).
The top five germs that cause food poisoning from food eaten in the US are (2) –
- Clostridium perfringens
- Staphylococcus aureus
Some bugs cause illnesses that can lead to hospitalization. These include –
- Clostridium botulinum
- Escherichia coli
Symptoms of food poisoning
The symptoms of food poisoning can begin within a few hours or in some cases days after consuming contaminated food.
The symptoms of foodborne illness also depend on the amount of contaminated food or drinks you have consumed. These include –
- Diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucus
- Abdominal pain and stomach cramps
- A high temperature (Fever)
- Loss of appetite
- A lack of energy and weakness
In most cases, the symptoms pass in a few days, and you make a full recovery. During this time your goal is to prevent dehydration.
You should also avoid consuming solid foods and dairy products until your symptoms of nausea and diarrhea have passed.
Foods to eat
When you have been sick, your stomach and digestive system will be traumatized. If you are feeling nauseous, it may be hard for you to hold your food down.
You can recover more quickly if you eat food the right foods.
1. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is very important if you have food poisoning as you need to replace fluids lost during vomiting and diarrhea. You must take small sips of water and continue to drink as much as possible throughout the day.
You can suck on ice chips and let them dissolve in your mouth. Oral rehydration solutions like Ceralyte, Oralyte, and Pedialyte are a good option.
You can also sip on non-caffeinated teas like lemon, ginger or peppermint tea.
2. BRAT diet
BRAT is an acronym for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. However, these are not the only foods included in this diet.
It may also include some other mild foods like weak tea, crackers, cooked cereals, and non-greasy soup.
The BRAT diet is commonly recommended for people who are recovering from a gastrointestinal illness. This diet also helps to solidify stools.
3. Mild food
Eat mild foods that allow your stomach to recover. Opt for bland, low-fiber and low- fat diets that are gentle on the stomach. These foods include –
- Egg whites
- Peanut butter
- Mashed potatoes
- Clear Broth
- Baked chicken without skin
Taking probiotics after food poisoning can hasten the recovery time and prevent damage to the digestive system.
Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. When taken consistently, probiotics produce high levels of immunity.
The healthy bacteria help stimulate the production of white cells, which help fight off infectious organisms like the ones that cause food poisoning.
Natural remedies for food poisoning
There are several natural methods to treat food poisoning and ease their symptoms. These include –
According to recent research, apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties that can destroy E. coli bacteria, which is known to cause food poisoning (3).
However, it can also kill some other good bacteria in the gut that are good for digestion.
Apple cider vinegar can also delay the emptying of the stomach, which may give time for the stool to harden before getting expelled (4).
Mix two teaspoons of ACV in a cup of hot water and consume before you take your meal.
According to a study by the Washington State University, garlic is 100 times stronger than antibiotics which it comes to killing bacteria that cause food poisoning (5). Garlic contains diallyl sulfide, which is highly effective in treating foodborne illness.
Suck on a fresh garlic clove and drink a warm glass of water.
You can also boil some water with a few cloves of garlic in it and drink it through the day.
Ginger has been used for many centuries to treat symptoms of food poisoning like muscle spasms, diarrhea, bloating and nausea.
Scientific research also shows that ginger can be used as a remedy for diarrhea (6).
Ginger contains phytochemicals that help prevent chills, fight infections, and change muscle spasms in the lower gastrointestinal tract to flush out the source of bacteria.
You can consume pieces of ginger directly. Alternatively, you can also boil a cup of water with a teaspoon of grated ginger. Add some honey or sugar and drink.
Lemon juice has powerful antibacterial properties that help fight infections. Lemon juice with water also helps keep the body hydrated as it provides electrolytes to the body.
Mix one teaspoon of lemon juice with sugar and have it directly. You can also dilute it in warm water.
Honey is an effective remedy for food poisoning and indigestion thanks to its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Manuka honey has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve irritation of the intestinal tract in cases of food poisoning.
Take one teaspoon of honey three times a day to relieve an upset stomach due to food poisoning.
Fresh basil contains oils like estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene and limonene, which provides it antibacterial properties.
Basil is known to restrict the growth of bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Pseudomonal aeruginosa.
Boil a few basil leaves in two or three cups of water. Once it cools down, add some honey and sip it through the day.
Boil one teaspoon of cumin seeds in two or three cups of water and drink this tea for relief from food poisoning. You can also chew cumin seeds and drink water afterward.
Foods to avoid
Food poisoning irritates and inflames the stomach and intestines. So, avoid foods that are tough on the stomach like –
- Dairy foods: Foods like milk, cheese, and ice-cream can upset the stomach after food poisoning.
- Spicy foods: Spicy food can irritate your stomach, which can make the symptoms of food poisoning worse.
- High-fat food: Foods like fried chicken, French fries, and heavy sauces can worsen diarrhea symptoms.
- Foods with FODMAPs: FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates found in certain foods like beans and cabbage. These foods can lead to symptoms like gas, bloating and cramping.
- High-fiber foods: High fiber food is difficult to digest, especially after food poisoning.
- Sugar-laden drinks: Drinks that contain high amounts of sugar including dark sodas and fruit juice can stimulate the bowels and worsen the symptoms.
- Caffeinated beverages: Drinks like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and cocoa can increase your risk of dehydration and can also aggravate diarrhea.
- Alcohol: Alcohol consumption can also dehydrate you, so avoid consuming any alcoholic beverage until you recover fully.
When should you see a doctor?
Most cases of foodborne illness can be treated at home with rest, home remedies and eating the foods mentioned above.
However, you must call the doctor if you notice any of the following signs –
- Signs of dehydration like dry mouth, extreme thirst, not passing much urine, dark, concentrated urine and dizziness.
- Bloody stools
- Blood in the vomit
- Severe pain and cramps in the stomach
- Weakness and dizziness
- Diarrhea for more than three days
- Fever above 101.5 °F
- Vomiting that won’t stop
These patients may need intravenous fluids to rehydrate them. The doctor may also prescribe medication to reduce nausea and diarrhea.
Sometimes the doctor can also prescribe antibiotics to reduce the levels of bacteria in the stomach.
People with a higher risk of developing food poisoning
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone can get food poisoning, but certain groups of people are at a higher risk of getting sick and having a more severe case of food poisoning (9).
1. Adults aged 65 or more
People aged above 65 have a higher risk of food poisoning as their immune system and organs can’t get rid of harmful germs as they did once.
2. Children younger than 5
Children aged younger than five years do not have fully developed immune systems. These children are more likely to be hospitalized if they get a salmonella infection. One out of seven children who develop an E. coli infection can also develop kidney failure.
3. Pregnant women
Pregnant women are more likely to get sick from certain germs. They are ten times more likely to get a Listeria infection.
4. People with a weak immune system
People with diabetes, liver or kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, or those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy develop a weakened immune system.
These people are more prone to get infections and develop food poisoning.
Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food. Its symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
In most cases, this condition improves within a few days without any treatment. However, it is important to eat the right foods and avoid ones that can worsen the symptoms.
You can also follow home remedies that are known to improve the condition and lessen the symptoms of food poisoning.