Food poisoning is an unpleasant event most people will experience at some point. The infection has a variety of causes, the most common being viruses and bacteria in contaminated seafood, undercooked meat, eggs or dairy, and unwashed fruits and vegetables. Some strains, like norovirus, can also be passed from person to person. Treating the symptoms of food poisoning quickly will increase the speed of recovery.
Many medical professionals agree that letting food poisoning run its course may be the best option. As unpleasant as symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea are, they are also the body's way of ridding itself of the unwelcome organisms causing the infection. Though it is easy to buy over-the-counter anti-diarrheal and antiemetic medications, by stopping the body from ejecting the infection, they can prolong the illness.
Depending on the cause of food poisoning, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication. This is more common in severe cases when the body must fend off a particularly potent viral or bacterial strain, or when one's immunity is limited for another reason. One strain of food poisoning that can require antibiotics is listeria. This dangerous bacteria can be fatal, especially in those with weakened immune systems. If food poisoning symptoms last more than 36 hours, or if the individual cannot keep down food or water for 24 hours, a doctor should intervene.
It shouldn't be difficult to avoid food because even the thought often makes a person with food poisoning feel nauseous. Often, it is best to eat just enough bland foods such as saltine crackers to keep hunger away. Acidic and spicy foods should be avoided, as should consuming food within the few hours after the symptoms begin. This latter practice can help reduce vomiting and general stomach upset.
The symptoms of food poisoning can cause severe dehydration. In addition to losing fluids, the body also loses electrolytes and other nutrients. Drinking fluids can help prevent dehydration. Some people find it difficult to drink liquids; in this case, they can slowly eat ice chips. Ideally, take small sips rather than large gulps that could make the stomach react violently. Avoid soda or carbonated water, but juice may help replenish some of the lost nutrients.
When nausea begins to clear, it's important to slowly reintroduce food into the GI tract. Start with bland, easy to digest foods like toast, rice, Jello, or crackers. Sipping Pedialyte can help with recovery as it can help replenish electrolytes lost during the illness. It's important not to try to eat again too quickly. If nausea returns, stop eating and let the gut rest a bit longer before trying again.
Having food poisoning is exhausting. Nausea and cramping make it difficult to sleep, and vomiting is physically tiring. Most people with food poisoning will need to take a few days off until they get their strength back. Resting will usually help the illness run its course more quickly.
In the days following the start of food poisoning, even when the most acute symptoms have passed, the individual should try not to consume anything that might worsen or prompt the symptoms. That means avoiding items that are fatty or spicy. Caffeine, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and dairy products should also be skipped for a few days, as should cigarettes. Of course, dispose of the food that caused the infection, if it can be identified.
Ginger can be one of the most soothing remedies for an upset stomach. After the worst of the gastrointestinal symptoms of food poisoning have passed, consuming ginger in one of the many possible ways can help minimize recurrences. The most common is ginger tea, which can be found on most grocery shelves or made from scratch with fresh ginger root. Though carbonated drinks should be avoided, ginger ale sipped slowly could help soothe the stomach. Adding honey to ginger tea can also help ease the pain of a throat sore from vomiting.
Though dairy products can exacerbate the symptoms of food poisoning, yogurt can be an exception in the days after nausea has passed. Frequent diarrhea and vomiting can rid the stomach and intestines of not only the bad bacteria that caused the illness but also of the good bacteria that keep the body healthy. The probiotics in natural yogurts can repopulate these organisms and help heal the stomach.
Most cases of food poisoning will take care of themselves, and all the affected person needs to do is make sure their body has the help it needs to eradicate the infection. Sometimes, though, the toxins cause more damage or danger than our insides can handle on their own. In addition to persistent dehydration or a continuing inability to keep food down, other signs that the illness may have progressed beyond home remedies include extreme cramps, blood in stools or vomit, a fever above 101.5 degrees, blurry vision, and tingling in the extremities.
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