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What to Do If You Have Food Poisoning

What to Do If You Have Food Poisoning

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If experiencing food poisoning, one should ease back into eating with foods that are easily digested, like toast.

Food poisoning is one of the last things most of us want to plan for when preparing for a trip. Even the thought of an upset stomach while on the road is uncomfortable. In any case, the possibility is always there, so it’s best to know how to identify and manage your symptoms ahead of time.

Click here to see the What to Do If You Have Food Poisoning Slideshow

According to the Mayo Clinic, food poisoning (also called a foodborne illness) "is illness caused by eating contaminated food." The most common causes of food poisoning include various infectious organisms like "bacteria, viruses, and parasites," which can contaminate food at any stage of production and/or preparation.

Thankfully, however, most cases can be handled without seeing a physician (although there are times when one should seek medical attention). There are also basic steps, like washing your hands and cooking foods to a safe temperature, that you can take to avoid food poisoning when in charge of preparing your own food. One doesn’t always have this control when traveling, though, so check out our slideshow for tips on how to bounce back in case you’ve come down with a stomach bug.

What to Do If You Suspect You Have Food Poisoning

All it takes it one instance of food poisoning, and you practically become an expert in spotting it.

You know the telltale signs: vomiting, diarrhea, and extreme stomach cramps.

While these are only a few of the symptoms you may encounter, they’re some of the most common signs of a classic case of food poisoning. Although food poisoning often feels like a death sentence at the onset, symptoms usually clear up within a few days.

Not sure what to look for or how to treat food poisoning? We’ve got you covered.

In this post, we’ll review the most common symptoms and provide a few tips so you can get better on your own.

You Have Food Poisoning. Now What?

Food poisoning is probably the last thing on your mind when buying or preparing food and sitting down to eat. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year roughly 48 million people get sick, 3,000 die, and 128,000 are hospitalized from foodborne illnesses. It’s enough to make you sick. Despite ongoing research and advances in food safety and production, worldwide food poisoning remains very common.

  • The most common illness resulting from eating or drinking a contaminated substance is diarrheal diseases, causing sickness in nearly 550 million people and 230,000 deaths each year.
  • Children under 5 years of age account for 40% of foodborne disease deaths.
  • Contaminated food containing parasites, chemical substances, bacteria, toxins, viruses, and parasites cause more than 200 diseases—ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to meningitis and cancer.

Knowing the causes and symptoms (and what to do if you have food poisoning) means the difference between good health and becoming sick to the stomach.

Food and drink can become contaminated in many different ways ranging from:

  • Improperly handling undercooked meat or raw shellfish
  • Lack of hand washing
  • Cross-contamination
  • Someone with gastroenteritis touching unprepared food
  • Food coming in contact with flies, pets, or other pests
  • Food stored or cooked at unsafe temperatures
  • Eggs, vegetables, or fruit exposed to animal feces

Foodborne illness is common in all parts of the world. It usually comes on suddenly, but lasts only a short time. Symptoms vary depending on the cause. In 2017, foodborne illness from bacteria was the most important food safety issue for adults in the United States.

What to Eat (and Drink) after Food Poisoning

A case of food poisoning leaves you questioning your last meal and thinking you will never eat again, at least during the symptoms. Despite the fact you may be having a hard time digesting food physically and mentally, it is vital to continue your nourishment.

  • First, allow your stomach to settle for a few hours after the majority of the symptoms pass.
  • Hydrate with ice chips and small sips of water. It will help your body fight the poisoning.
  • Add liquids slowly. Boost your electrolytes with sports drinks, decaffeinated tea, broth, and clear soda.
  • Bland food is gentle on your stomach. Follow the BRAT diet with bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Other low-fat and low-fiber foods to eat are egg whites, jello, oatmeal, and plain mashed potatoes.
  • Brush your teeth to get rid not only the taste of vomit but to remove the stomach acid that sticks to your enamel.
  • Rest as much as you can.

There are also several natural remedies to remove the bacteria residue from your digestive system.

1. Ginger Tea

With its antibacterial components, ginger fights pathogens affecting your body and soothes the stomach.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar

There are a few studies showing this type of vinegar has antimicrobial properties to flush out the toxins.

Sip on one cup of water mixed with two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.

3. Activated Charcoal

Said to remove toxins from the body while killing bacteria, these capsules will help speed healing time. Once you are beginning to feel like yourself again, it is recommended to add probiotics to your diet. Whether it is on the form of a supplement capsule or food, probiotics will kick-start your digestive system and replenish your stomach’s healthy bacteria.

How do doctors treat food poisoning?

To treat food poisoning caused by bacteria or parasites, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or medicines that target parasites, in addition to rehydration solutions.

In some cases, doctors may recommend probiotics. Probiotics are live microbes, most often bacteria, that may be similar to microbes you normally have in your digestive tract. Studies suggest that some probiotics may help shorten a bout of diarrhea. Researchers are still studying the use of probiotics to treat food poisoning. For safety reasons, talk with your doctor before using probiotics or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. This is especially important when children, older adults, or those with weak immune systems have diarrhea.

Doctors may need to treat people with life-threatening symptoms and complications—such as severe dehydration, hemolytic uremic syndrome, or paralysis—in a hospital.

Food Poisoning: How Long It Lasts + What to Do When You’ve Eaten Something Bad

Turns out, taking a chance on those leftover chicken salad sandwiches that had been sitting out on the free table at work all day wasn’t such a great idea.

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Now you’re home with dreaded food poisoning, splitting time between the couch and the bathroom.

While we think of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, as one thing, it’s actually a broad term that encompasses more than 250 kinds of disease-causing germs, including Salmonella, E. coli and rotavirus. And those germs can cause varying degrees of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, depending on a number of factors.

Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, answers some commonly asked questions about how to get through a bout of food poisoning.

Q: How do you get food poisoning?

A: You get food poisoning from eating or drinking food that is contaminated with pathogenic viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites or toxic chemicals. It doesn’t always come from rotten or spoiled food. It could come from perfectly good food that was just improperly handled or cooked.

Q: How long does it take food poisoning to set in after you eat something contaminated?

A: It depends on what the culprit is, how much was consumed and a person’s individual immune system. For example, common food poisoning like Bacillus cereus can set in within 6 to 16 hours. But there are some foodborne illnesses that are latent, meaning they have to reproduce in your system and get into a large load. Hepatitis A virus, for example, can take 15 to 50 days to present.

But in general, most common types take 4 to 24 hours to set in.

Q: How long does food poisoning last?

A: That also depends on the individual. In general, 1 to 10 days, but it can be longer in some circumstances.

Q: Can food poisoning give you a fever?

A: Yes, viral or bacterial food poisoning can sometimes produce fever.

Q: What should you eat during food poisoning?

A: It’s best to stick to a BRAT diet. That would be things like bread, rice, rice pudding, applesauce, toast and bananas. Something bland. Or chicken noodle soup.

You want to stay away from food that is more challenging for your digestive track to digest, like greasy, fried or spicy foods.

You want to drink lots of fluids, and not just water. Water is isotonic. If you’re ill and you’re losing a lot of water through diarrhea, or if you have a fever and you’re sweating, the best replenishment isn’t exactly water. It really should be a not-isotonic fluid. That would be something with salt, sugar or electrolytes in it, like Gatorade, broth, ginger ale or juice. When you consume that kind of fluid, you tend to keep it in your body — it’s less likely to just run off or go straight to your kidneys where you’ll urinate it out or you have diarrhea output.

Consult your physician if you have a medical condition that limits your sodium consumption, such as heart, liver or kidney disease.

Q: What can you take for food poisoning?

A: Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol®) is generally fine to take. It has soothing and anti-inflammatory effects. But be aware that it will turn your stool to black due to the bismuth. (This is normal but can be alarming if you’re not expecting it!)

I would not recommend taking something like loperamide (Imodium®) to stop diarrhea, as it’s better to expel the toxin out of your system rather than keeping it in.

Q: Should you go to the doctor if you have food poisoning?

A: For most of us with healthy immune systems, we can usually recover from food poisoning on our own. As long as you’re able to keep food or liquids down, then you can try to hydrate at home and let it run its course.

But if your nausea is so severe that you’re unable to keep any fluids down, you need to seek medical help. IV fluids can be administered for hydration and to replete lost electrolytes. You should also see a doctor if you develop a high fever, bloody diarrhea or extreme pain.

For people who are on immunomodulating drugs or medications that suppress the immune system, or who have medical conditions that suppress the immune system, I recommend seeking immediate medical attention.

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12 Best Foods To Cure Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is one of those bacterial attacks that can happen to anyone at any given time. Often, it gets cured within 2 days, automatically.

If not, then you need to consult a physician. You can also try some natural ways to recover from food poisoning.

You definitely would want to go in for medication while suffering from such ailments, but self-diagnosis is not the right thing to do. Rather, if you try simple home remedies for food poisoning, you can get a better result.

To keep yourself comfortable during such issues, you can try these easy tricks. Keep your stomach at rest and avoid eating and drinking for a few hours.

If you feel thirsty, you can keep ice cubes in your mouth. Also, you can take small sips of water. Specialists suggest that clear soda or no caffeinated sports drinks can also help during this time.

So, what are the simple ways to recover from food poisoning? There are some remedies for food poisoning that are very easy to find in your kitchen.

If you have ginger or garlic in your vegetable box, you have the perfect medicine for food poisoning.

Also, here are some of the natural remedies for food poisoning, which can soothe your trouble.

High-Risk Groups: Who Is at Risk From Food Poisoning?

While food poisoning is relatively mild and can often resolve on its own, there are specific groups who are at a high risk of both contracting food poisoning and suffering serious consequences from the illness. In fact, some cases of food poisoning can require hospitalization and—in extreme cases—can even result in death. If you are in one of the following high-risk groups, any case of food poisoning has to be taken very seriously:

  • Anyone with a compromised or not fully developed immune system is at an increased risk of contracting food poisoning. This includes both children, whose immune systems are still developing, and elderly people, whose immune systems are typically slower and more compromised.
  • People with autoimmune conditions or diseases that affect their immune systems are at an increased risk of contracting food poisoning. These could include people with diabetes or AIDS, or even cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Pregnant women are also at an increased risk of developing food poisoning, due to the changes their bodies are undergoing. In some instances, the fetus can become sick too.

How to Recover from Food Poisoning Fast

This article was medically reviewed by Erik Kramer, DO, MPH. Dr. Erik Kramer is a Primary Care Physician at the University of Colorado, specializing in internal medicine, diabetes, and weight management. He received his Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) from the Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2012. Dr. Kramer is a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and is board certified.

There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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There are few things that can disrupt your day like a bout of food poisoning. Mild to severe symptoms, this could include an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramps, can begin anywhere from an hour to several weeks after you ingest tainted food. In many cases, toxins or bacteria are transferred due to improperly processed, stored, or handled food. Most people will overcome food poisoning in a few days after it passes naturally through their system however, infants, pregnant women, and the elderly must be especially careful in avoiding food poisoning because of the potential for irreversible damage, and they also require immediate medical attention if they get food poisoning. Knowing how to recover from food poisoning fast will help you to minimize discomfort and to get back on your feet as soon as possible.

15 Home Remedies for Food Poisoning Symptom Relief

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is one of the best home remedies for food poisoning.

  • Mix 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of hot water. Drink it as need to sooth your stomach.
  • For a quick treatment, drink 2 to 3 tsp of undiluted apple cider vinegar.

How it works:
Though it is an acid, apple cider vinegar metabolizes as an alkaline, which is what makes it bring relief to your upset stomach. Additionally, apple cider vinegar has strong antiseptic properties to kill offending bacteria.

Basil Leaves

A list of home remedies for food poisoning wouldn’t be complete without basil leaves.

  • Add several basil leaves or 1 tsp of dry basil to a cup of boiling water and allow it to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Strain the tea into a mug and drink it throughout the day until you’re back to normal.
  • Also, you can add several drops of basil oil to 4 cups of water. Sip the water throughout the day to relieve symptoms.

How it works:
Basil not only has antimicrobial properties, but it also soothes abdominal discomfort.


Lemon juice is about the simplest of all the home remedies for food poisoning as you can get.

  • Take 1tsp of lemon juice every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day.
  • Or sip warm or hot water with lemon juice and a little honey throughout the day to clean out your system.

How it works:
The acid in lemons kills the bacteria which cause most types of food poisoning. Lemon is also anti-inflammatory to help ease discomfort.


One of the sweetest home remedies for food poisoning, by far, is honey.

How it works:
Besides settling out of control stomach acid, honey also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Fenugreek Seeds and Yogurt

Though the combination of fenugreek seeds and yogurt might seem like one of the strangest home remedies for food poisoning, it is one of the fastest acting.

  • Add 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds to 1 Tbsp of plain yogurt.
  • Swallow the mixture without chewing the seeds.
  • Take every 3 to 4 hours until symptoms subside.

How it works:
The combined antimicrobial properties of fenugreek seeds and yogurt not only kill bacteria, but also bring almost immediate relieve of abdominal pain and vomiting.


Eating a banana probably is not the first thing you think of when considering home remedies for food poisoning, but it works.

  • Slice a ripe banana and slowly eat it a few slices at a time until you feel your stomach relax.
  • Continue to eat more bananas throughout the day until symptoms are gone.

How it works:
Bananas are easy on your stomach and easy to digest. Additionally, bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which helps restore depleted electrolytes.

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint is one of the most soothing home remedies for food poisoning.

  • Keep peppermint tea on hand for all stomach discomfort.
  • Make peppermint tea according to package directions and drink it 3 to 4 times a day.
  • If you don’t have peppermint tea, sucking on mint candies, chewing peppermint gum or even a small dap of mint toothpaste can help.

How it works:
Peppermint calms the spasms in the stomach brought on by vomiting and gets you back to being able to keep food down again.


Cumin is a common spice found most kitchens it is a great addition to our list of home remedies for food poisoning.

  • You can thoroughly chew and swallow 1 tsp of raw cumin seeds several times a day.
  • Or make a tea by adding 1 tsp of seeds to a cup of boiling water.
  • Allow it to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes and then pour it into a cup.
  • Drink the tea several times a day.

How it works:
Cumin seeds help to ease inflammation and discomfort, but also help your stomach digest food easier and get you back to keeping down solid food more quickly.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is among the best home remedies for food poisoning.

  • Take 2 560mg capsules every 3 to 4 hours.
  • Or, mix 25 to 50 grams of activated charcoal powder in a glass of water. For young children use ½ to 1/3 of the above amount.
  • Drink the mixture every 3 to 4 hours.

Note: Do not use activated charcoal with Sorbitol, as it is a laxative.

How it works:
Activated charcoal prevents the toxins from being absorbed by your stomach and avoids a worsening condition.


Garlic is a superfood on every list of home remedies. It is another of the home remedies for food poisoning as well.

  • Chew on a clove of garlic 2 to 3 times throughout the day.
  • You can also take a garlic supplement capsule 2 to 3 times a day.

How it works:
Garlic aids in digestion when you do try to eat again, helps balance the pH in your GI tract and reduces inflammation.

Chicken Broth

Another of the best home remedies for food poisoning is chicken broth.

  • Sip a cup of warm chicken broth several times throughout the day until your stomach has calmed and you’re able to eat regular food again.

How it works:
Chicken broth helps to rehydrate, helps to restore lost electrolytes and helps provide vitamins and minerals to boost your energy again. Besides that, it tends to be soothing in every way.

Ginger Root

Ginger root is an excellent addition to our home remedies for food poisoning symptoms.

  • Boil 1 cup of water and add 2 Tbsp of grated or sliced ginger.
  • Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the tea into a cup, add lemon and honey, if desired, and sip every 3 to 4 hours.

How it works:
Not only does ginger aid in relieving nausea and indigestion, but it is also a great help for digesting and getting the most out of the foods you eat when you’re finally able to eat again.


Chamomile is a great relaxing, nighttime drink to make you sleep better, but it is also an effective addition to our home remedies for food poisoning.

  • Chamomile tea is another must have in your home. You can make it from a tea bag following the package directions.
  • You can also place 2 to 3 tsp dry chamomile flowers in a cup of hot water.
  • Cover it and allow the flowers steep 10 minutes.
  • Strain the tea and drink it every 3 to 4 hours.

How it works:
Chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory and also aids in relieving bloating, gas, indigestion, inflammation and pain.

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay is another of the great home remedies for food poisoning.

  • In an 8 oz. glass of water, add ½ tsp of calcium (not sodium) bentonite clay.
  • Repeat a 2 to 3 times throughout the day.

How it works:
Bentonite clay works similar to activated charcoal, helping prevent the stomach from absorbing the toxins and helping you recover more quickly.

Mashed potatoes

Who would have thought that such a great comfort food is also among the home remedies for food poisoning?

  • Prepare mashed potato flakes according to package directions. . You can add in basil, garlic, or make them with chicken broth instead of water to make them even more effective.
  • Consume the potatoes slowly until you start regaining your energy again.

How it works:
Mashed potatoes, like bananas, are easy to digest. They’re also loaded with vitamin B6, which will help boost your energy, plus potassium and other minerals that can help quickly restore what you lost from vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Great Tip

Combining these ingredients won’t cause any harm here is a recipe you can try at home.

Cumin Lemonade

Place the cumin and cloves into a cup and add hot water.

Then add the honey and lemon juice.

(Optional) Top up with soda if you want it sparkling, or still if you don’t.

A spin-off to the famous Hot Toddy cocktail recipe. If you want to add a kick to this drink, add 50ml of Whiskey!

One Last Thought

Food poisoning is uncomfortable and frightening when it is severe, in which case, you’ll find yourself in an ER. The majority of food poisoning cases can be treated at home using home remedies for food poisoning symptoms. Making use of any one or combination of remedies to get immediate relief and then others to restore what you lost from vomiting and diarrhea can get you back on your feet quickly.