The Recovery Journey from Food Poisoning - Funmbi Oo - Nutrition, Diet, Health Care, Weight Loss and more

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It could have been a multiple experience or just a single one but at some point, we've all been there. I, for one, have been a victim of food poisoning few times than I would like to remember. With food safety making news headlines frequently these days, it’s impossible not to worry about food poisoning, whatever the cause. Recent food recalls from major food industries and stores have shown that any business or homes are liable to foodborne diseases. This could also make one reluctant to purchase future food products but the best defense is to about different infections, their symptoms and what natural remedies can be applied to protect oneself. First, let us take a brief look at the term ‘food poisoning’.
What is food poisoning?
Foodborne illness, more commonly referred to as food poisoning, results from eating contaminated, spoiled, toxic food or drinking unsafe water. Although it’s quite uncomfortable, food poisoning isn’t unusual. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 48 million cases of food poisoning are estimated each year which roughly translates to one to six people.
Most food poisoning can be traced to one of the following three major causes: Bacteria, virus and parasites with bacteria being the most prevalent of the three. Such bacteria include E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella spp. Campylobacter and C. botulinum (botulism) are two lesser-known and potentially lethal bacteria that can lurk in our food.
If you have food poisoning, chances are it won’t go undetected. Symptoms can vary depending on the source of the infection. The length of time it takes for symptoms to appear also depends on the source of the infection, but it can range from as little as 1 hour to as long as 28 days in extreme cases which usually requires hospitalization. Common cases of food poisoning will typically include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite, mild fever, weakness, nausea, and headache.
Potentially life-threatening symptoms include diarrhea persisting for more than three days, a fever higher than 101.5°F, difficulty seeing or speaking, bloody urine, severe dehydration which may include dry mouth, passing little to no urine, and difficulty keeping fluids down. Food poisoning can be tough to track as two people may have different reactions to the same pathogen. Regardless, those who are more at risk of food poisoning are pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with suppressed immune system. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Suitable conditions for food poisoning
Pathogens can be found on almost all of the food that humans eat. In order for bacteria to thrive, they must have the right conditions. Sufficient food source such as meat, eggs, and dairy products are frequently contaminated as they provide the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The right temperature needed for this bacteria growth is between 40oF (4.40C) and 140oF (600C). That is why it is important to set your refrigerator at 40oF or colder. Under 40oF, bacteria growth slows down drastically while, above 160oF (71.10C), bacteria is totally wiped out. Freezing foods can stop bacteria growth but it doesn’t kill them completely.
Like humans and all other living organisms, bacteria needs moisture to survive as damp environment are perfect places for survival.
Can food poisoning be treated?
Absolutely. Food poisoning can pass through the body and resolve itself within three to five days without the need for treatment but in other instances, they could be more severe. Symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, high fever, severe headache, etc. may signify more dangerous pathogens such as E. coli or listeria and would require immediate medical attention. But, for most healthy adults, adequate rest and fluid intake can eradicate food poisoning.
Dietary intake: what to eat during food poisoning
It’s best to gradually hold off on solid foods until vomiting and diarrhea have passed and start incorporating more fluids to balance the electrolytes and ease digestion slowly. Replenishing fluids is very important due to the resulting dehydration from the symptoms and this is resolved by the intake of electrolyte-rich drinks such as Gatorade or Lucozade.
Coconut water has been recommended by dietitians as an alternative to sugary sports drinks. It is a natural source of electrolytes loaded with potassium, sodium, magnesium and phosphorus without any added sugar to replenish and hydrate.
Once you are able to tolerate solid foods, it is advisable to stick to bland foods or the BRAT diet (banana, rice, applesauce and toast) until the digestive system is fully recovered. Crackers, oatmeal, bland potatoes are foods that can also be consumed while rehydration is continued.
Smoothies, chicken broths and water-rich fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers and watermelon are also excellent ways to rehydrate. Fermented drinks such as ginger tea and yoghurt have also proved excellent in restoring gut bacteria as well as easing nausea and replacing fluids. Some months ago when I had a terrible encounter with food poisoning, I could not keep any food down as I had serious bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. Once the symptoms seized hours later, I became very hungry and tried to take in bananas which are rich sources of potassium but I vomited that as well. I guess my stomach was just not ready for bananas yet so I tried eating crackers with ginger tea and the nausea subsided. What works for one might certainly not work for another but the most important thing is to listen to your digestive system in such periods and feed it with what is rightly needed till full health is restored.
If you are lactose intolerant, you can steer clear of dairy yoghurt and go for non-dairy options or plain, unsweetened yoghurts which are low in sugar and contain no artificial sweeteners – two sneaky stomach irritants.
What not to eat when you have food poisoning
To prevent your stomach from getting more upset, it is best to avoid harder-to-digest foods such as dairy products especially milk and cheeses, fatty foods, fried foods, highly seasoned, spicy foods, sugary foods as well as caffeine (soda, energy drinks, coffee), alcohol and nicotine-containing products even if you think you feel better. It is also advisable to steer clear of fibrous meals such as oatmeal, vegetable soups, whole grain meals, etc. as they tend to irritate the digestive system in these periods.
How to prevent food poisoning
One of the best ways to prevent food poisoning is to handle food safely and cook your meal properly and thoroughly. Meat, poultry, eggs, and shellfish may contain infectious agents that are killed during cooking. If these foods are eaten in their raw form and not cooked properly, food poisoning can occur. While there are certain circumstances beyond our control, such as a drinking water or un-sanitized environments, there are certain things you can do to prevent or minimize your chances of picking up food poisoning:
·         Wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 15 seconds. Then rinse and dry them before or after any interactions you have with food, whether you are cooking your food or dining out.
·         Replace your sponges, dish or hand towels frequently. I can bet that most people, myself included, use the same sponge and towels for far too long. Their moisture, coupled with their location (which is usually on or around the sink) makes them perfect breeding sites for pathogens. It is important to wash hand or dish towels as often as you can or replace them for new ones once they start to fray. Do not use a dish towel to wipe up spilled juices or to clean up raw meat as this makes it easier to spread pathogens. Instead, use a paper towel or antibacterial wipes.
·         Avoid cross-contamination. You are at a higher risk for cross-contamination if you are using the same trays or cutting boards to prepare raw meats and vegetables. It is advisable to use different cutting boards or utensils for raw meat and clean them properly after each use.
·         Package your foods properly. The USDA recommends that cooked food should be left at room temperature for no more than two hours. You can packaged cooked foods and left overs in air-tight containers and refrigerate them. Raw foods can also be refrigerated in Ziploc bags or air-tight containers so as to retain their freshness. When packing your lunch to your office, put in a food warmer or depending on the container, include an ice pack to help keep your food cold until it can be refrigerated. Dispose of any uneaten perishables instead of keeping them in the container all day and ensure to wash your food containers and lunch packs with soap regularly to prevent bacterial growth.
·         Rinse raw foods thoroughly. Do not soak but always rinse your fresh foods before use so as to remove dirt and ensure that any bacteria on the surface is properly rinsed off down the drain. Use a scrub or brush to scrub dirt from hard-skinned fruits and vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, melons, etc. and rinse delicate products such as tomatoes, berries, and leafy green produce.
The key to staying healthy is by educating yourself and feeding on current information about food safety. Stay informed by regularly visiting and subscribing to certified food safety sites to learn about different infections and current steps taken to protect yourself and those around you as well as keeping your immediate environment clean, neat and tidy.

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