Food poisoning also called foodborne illness, occurs when we consume food that has been contaminated either by microbes. These microorganisms can contaminate the food during any part of their processing journey till it reaches us and cause illness. Food poisoning is not necessarily caused by outside food, it can also occur when food is incorrectly handled or cooked at home too.
At times it’s hard to believe that you could get sick by eating your favourite food. With monsoons approaching, we often have an urge to feast on street food – from piping hot jalebis or those spicy chole bhature, but are never sure of the unwanted consequences that it would bring. Food poisoning is caused primarily by improper and unhygienic handling of food—which can breed and spread harmful bacteria. Many thousands of cases of supposed flu are actually food poisoning cases demonstrating similar symptoms like abdominal pain and fever. Disease-causing bacteria are most commonly found in meats, seafood and dairy products, though we have also seen outbreaks of contamination in lettuce, melons, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as a limited number of packaged and prepared foods. Experts believe that disease-causing bacteria can never be fully eradicated from the food chain, and there is widespread agreement that bacterial food contamination is on the rise—representing a major threat to public health. Some home remedies for food poisoning can come quite handy.When you are suffering from food poisoning, your body is likely to lose more water than normal. Hence, consuming a good intake of fluids and avoiding solid food becomes the initial plan of action.
symptoms can begin hours, days, or weeks after ingestion and include:
- Stomach ache
What Causes Food Poisoning?
Most often food poisoning is seen in a large groups of people who have all consumed the same, contaminated food. It can also occur in individuals. Food poisoning is mainly the result of contamination of food, which can occur due to:
- Products that are kept out of the refrigerator for too long, especially foods with a tendency for getting spoiled like dairy products, food containing mayonnaise etc.
- Raw foods like fish or oysters, or raw vegetables that have not been washed well.
- Untreated water, which can contain contaminants like bacteria, viruses and parasites.
- Unhygienic preparation of food by use of unclean hands, utensils, cutting boards etc.
- Contaminated water can also be the cause of it.
- Consumption of eggs or meat that have been undercooked.
- Improper handling of food, especially poultry and meat, through which microorganisms enter our bodies, if they are not being killed thoroughly while cooking.
Home Remedies for the Food PoisoningAnybody can get affected by food poisoning, by consuming food of unknown origin. The symptoms can range from being mild to very serious, depending on the type of microorganisms we get infected by and each body’s individual defence system.
Cold MilkCold milk soothes your stomach lining by reducing the acidity in the stomach and inhibits acid reflux; hence, gives symptomatic relief in case of food poisoning. It is recommended to have a glass of ice-cold milk to cure your upset stomach. You can add any flavor for taste, but for instant relief, it is recommended to consume plain cold milk.
ApplesAs the proverb says “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away”; apples play an important role in curing food poisoning. Apple considerably reduces reflux and heartburns. It prohibits the formation of bacteria that causes stomach ache and diarrhoea.
Owing to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, honey is one of the most effective food poisoning remedies.
Eat about one teaspoon of honey in its pure form three times a day. Else, you can have it with tea or lemonade.
Garlic is famous for its antipyretic (prevents or reduces fever) and cardiac properties. Due to its strong antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, it relieves symptoms such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
Swallow one clove of garlic daily with a glass of water. You can consume garlic juice also if you cannot stand the smell of garlic. Otherwise, prepare a mixture of garlic and soybean oil and massage it on your stomach after dinner.
Bananas are a good remedy to cure food poisoning as they are very light and easy to digest.
Rich in potassium (an important mineral in the body that helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals) and fiber, bananas make for a reliable, quick, healthy cure for food poisoning.
Consume at least one ripe banana per day or you can also have a glass of banana shake.
Lemon is considered the “king of remedies” as far as food poisoning is concerned. The strong anti inflammatory (reduces swelling), antiviral (virus-killing), and antibacterial properties in lemons kill the bacteria causing food poisoning.
Mix about one teaspoon of lemon juice with sugar and consume directly. You can dilute it with lukewarm water.
Yogurt And Fenugreek Seeds (Dahi and Methi)
An effective and convenient method to cure food poisoning. Yogurt has antibacterial (bacteria-killing) properties that help fight the bacteria causing food poisoning. Plus, fenugreek seeds have a high content of soluble fiber which absorbs water and adds bulkiness to the stools which helps the food to move along. This lubricating property of fenugreek seeds helps to treat abdominal discomfort.
Consume approximately one teaspoon each of yogurt and fenugreek seeds. It is advised to just swallow the seeds and not chew them.
Ginger plays an important role in reducing the symptoms of food poisoning. Due to its natural anti inflammatory properties, ginger will soothe your stomach lining.
It is recommended to boil a cup of water with about one spoon of grated ginger in it. Add honey or sugar according to taste. Alternatively, you can consume pieces of ginger directly.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar or ACV, as it is commonly called, is a vinegar made from apples. It is one of the best treatments to cure food poisoning due to its alkaline effect. The alkaline effect reduces the acidity in your stomach and hence, helps in relieving symptoms of food poisoning.
Mix 2-3 teaspoons of ACV in a cup of hot water. Consume the prepared drink before eating your meal. If the problem persists, consume 2-3 teaspoons of undiluted ACV for better results.
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Food poisoning is often accompanied by dehydration which extracts out essential fluids and salts from your body. Hence, drinking lime water can hydrate and replenish essential salts in the body.
In a liter of water, mix 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice along with sugar and salt according to taste. Drink it on a daily basis to prevent dehydration.
WaterIn summers, water is the universal healer. Drink plenty of water (approx. 2.5 liters to 3.5 liters every day), especially during food poisoning to effectively flush out all the toxins and bacteria from your body.
Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
Cumin seeds or ‘jeera’ is a very popular home remedy for the treatment of food poisoning. It increases the activity of digestive enzymes (break down food) present in your body, potentially speeding up digestion.
In a cup of water, boil cumin seeds and add freshly extracted coriander juice and consume it twice a day. You can also have a mixture of salt, cumin seeds, and asafoetida (hing). Consume this drink 2-3 times a day.
Basil or tulsi leaves are the best herbs against food poisoning. Basil leaves have anti inflammatory properties which have a positive effect on the digestive tract. Basil also helps to restore your body’s correct pH level (pH is the measure of how acidic or basic any liquid is) by balancing the amount of acid in your body.
Extract a glass full of basil juice from a few leaves. Add honey for taste and drink it several times a day.
- Alternatively, add a few drops of basil oil in water and consume.
- Mix three plain tablespoons of plain yogurt, add a pinch of black pepper, basil leaves, and sea salt. Consume several times a day till the symptoms subside.
Eat anything that contains peppermint or menthol, like hard candies and chewing gum, and consume it for the cure against food poisoning. Peppermint has antispasmodic (suppresses muscle spasm) properties and hence, relaxes the digestive tract to ease your symptoms.
Take approximately a handful of mint leaves, strain it in boiling water and consume three times a day.
Coriander leaves are used as taste enhancers in almost every Indian meal. But very few of you might be aware of its medicinal properties. It soothes your stomach against the injury caused due to stomach infection. It can be consumed fresh or as a powder. Coriander oil is also known to have antibacterial properties.
Throw some coriander leaves in a bottle of water and leave them in the refrigerator overnight. Drink it the next morning.
There are some DO’S and DON’TS that should be adhered to if you have food poisoning.
- If diarrhea and vomiting persist for more than a day, sip an oral rehydration solution that is available in the pharmacy or you can make it at home.
- Clean your hands properly with an antiseptic soap before eating or cooking.
- Maintain proper hygiene in the kitchen.
- Keep unpreserved food items in a deep freezer.
- Get proper rest and sleep well for a speedy recovery.
- Don’t eat solid foods, try to eat semi-solids and liquids. It will reduce pressure on your digestive system and aid in speedy recovery.
- Avoid street foods and foods from an unhygienic place.
- Avoid fried, greasy, spicy, and excessively sweet meals.
- Avoid nicotine, dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol during the course of recovery.
- Avoid smoking.
So, this was a detailed account of what you are supposed to do to protect yourself from food poisoning this season. Stay hydrated, wear light clothes, and always carry a water bottle whenever you go out.
Who is at risk for food poisoning?
People with compromised immunity are especially at risk of getting food poisoning and getting severe symptoms, as their bodies may not be able to fight off the infection as well.
Other people at risk include people over the age of 65, pregnant people, children, and infants.
In addition, a person who eats the following foods may be more at risk:
- beef, chicken
- fish (especially raw like sushi) and seafood like shellfish
- fruit and vegetables
- raw flour
Food poisoning prevention
Standard advice to avoid food poisoning includes four key components:
- Cook. Ensure adequate heating time at the proper temperature to kill any bacteria that could cause gastroenteritis. It is helpful to use a thermometer to test cooked meat and to ensure egg yolks are firm.
- Separate. Separate foods to avoid cross-contamination and especially raw meat.
- Chill. Chilled storage slows the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Clean. Keep utensils and worktops clean and wash hands frequently, especially before eating or touching the mouth and after handling raw meat or eggs.