Food poisoning, also called food borne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organism including bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning. Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked.
Most food poisoning can be traced to one of the following three major causes:
- Bacteria: Bacteria is by far the most prevalent cause of food poisoning. Of these the most dangerous bacteria are E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Among these Salmonella is most dangerous one. Campylobacter and C. botulinum are two lesser-known and potentially lethal bacteria that can lurk in our food. The source of E. coli from contaminated food, especially under cooked ground beef, unpasteurized (raw) milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and raw fruits and vegetables (such as lettuce, other leafy greens, and sprouts); contaminated water, including drinking untreated water and swimming in contaminated water. The source of Listeria from unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products; soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, raw fruits and vegetables (such as sprouts), ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs, refrigerated meat spreads and smoked seafood. The source of Salmonella from vegetables, chicken, pork, fruits, nuts, eggs, beef and sprouts.
- Parasites: Food poisoning caused by parasites is not as common as food poisoning caused by bacteria, but parasites spread through food are still very dangerous. Toxoplasma is the parasite seen most often in cases of food poisoning. It is typically found in cat litter boxes. Parasites can live in your digestive tract undetected for years. However, people with weakened immune system and pregnant women risk serious side effects if parasites take up residence in their intestines.
- Viruses: Food poisoning can also be caused by a virus. The norovirus also known as the Norwalk virus, causes over 19 million cases of food poisoning each year. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Sapovirus, rotavirus, and astrovirus bring on similar symptoms, but they are less common. Hepatitis A virus is a serious condition that can be transmitted through food. The source of norovirus from shellfish, ready-to-eat foods touched by infected food workers (salads, sandwiches, ice, cookies, fruit), or any other foods contaminated with particles of vomit or feces from an infected person. The source of Hepatitis A virus from raw or under cooked shellfish from contaminated waters, raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods, and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler.
Sign and Symptoms
Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination. Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Watery or bloody diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pains and cramps
Symptoms of potentially life-threatening food poisoning include:
- Diarrhea persisting for more than three days
- A fever higher than 40 Celsius
- Difficult seeing or speaking
Symptoms of severe dehydration, which may include dry mouth, passing little to no urine, and difficulty keeping fluids down.
- Bloody urine
Signs and symptoms may start within hours after the contaminated food, or they may begin days or even weeks later. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days.
- Older adults: As age advances the immune system may not as quickly and as effectively to infectious organisms, as when you were younger
- Pregnant women: During pregnancy, changes in metabolism and circulation may increase the risk of food poisoning. The reaction may be more severe during pregnancy.
- Infants and young children: Their immune systems have not fully developed.
- People with chronic disease: Having a chronic condition such as diabetes, liver disease or AIDS or receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer reduce immune response.
Diagnosis rests on the food history and symptoms followed by specific laboratory testing of suspect food (if available), feces, and blood.
Homoeopathy today is a rapidly growing system and is being practiced all over the world. Its strength lies in its evident effectiveness as it takes a holistic approach towards the sick individual through promotion of inner balance at mental, emotional, spiritual and physical levels. When food poisoning is concerned there are many effective medicines available in Homoeopathy, but the selection depends upon the individuality of the patient, considering mental and physical symptoms.
Food poisoning can be effectively managed with homeopathic medicines. These medicines help in boosting the self-healing mechanism of the body and fight the infection. They help to control the symptoms of food poisoning and speeding up the recovery process.
Arsenic Album is a highly recommended homeopathic medicine for food poisoning, also known as the ‘homeopathic first aid’ for food poisoning. Food poisoning with diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting is indicative of using this medicine. Vomiting may contain clear water or thick glairy mucus. If the person eats anything, it is vomited out quickly. The stool is loose, foul smelling, and is attended with weakness. Burning pain in the abdomen may be present. Frequent thirst for water at short intervals is usually present.
Veratrum Album is a beneficial homeopathic medicine for food poisoning where there is copious vomiting. Even the smallest amount of water gets vomited, and excessive weakness follows the vomiting. Along with this, nausea and copious loose stool may be present. The body may feel cold, apart from the above symptoms.
It is indicated in cases of food poisoning with marked diarrhea. The stool is watery, and there is an urgent need to pass it. Rumbling and gurgling in the rectum is present, and a constant bearing down is felt in the rectum.
Colocynthis is considered for food poisoning when marked abdominal cramps are present. Apart from cramping, the medicine is also indicated when cutting, colicky pains in the abdomen are present. Bending double or pressing the stomach helps relieve the pain. The pain tends to worsen from slight eating or drinking. Along with this loose stool, vomiting and nausea are also present.
It is a well-indicated homeopathic medicine for food poisoning with diarrhea and extreme weakness. The stool is watery, foul, and painless with marked exhaustion and debility. Excessive flatulence may be present, and the abdomen may be bloated. China is also a well-indicated medicine for food poisoning that occurs from the consumption of bad meat, unripe fruit, and bad water. It is also indicated for traveler’s diarrhea.
Nux Vomica is a prominent homeopathic medicine for food poisoning with excessive retching (efforts to vomit). The person in such a case wants to vomit but cannot. A frequent ineffectual urge to pass the stool is present. The person may attempt to pass stool frequently but is only able to expel small quantities. Loud, rumbling, gurgling sounds in the abdomen may be present along with the above symptoms.
Ipecac is used to treat food poisoning accompanied by intense nausea and vomiting. The nausea is present all the time. Vomiting appears, but it does not relieve nausea. Vomiting of watery fluids, green mucus, or blackish matter may be present. A frothy stool and pain around navel are often noted with the above symptoms.
Croton Tig is a significant homeopathic medicine for food poisoning. Its chief indicating features are copious, watery, and gushing stool. The urge to pass stool is constant, and stool is passed suddenly with great force in one gush. Colic before passing stool is also present.
The characteristic features to use this medicine are a profuse, offensive, yellowish or greenish stool. Fetid flatus, mucus in the stool, and vomiting of hot, frothy mucus may also be present.
It belongs to the natural order Cucurbitaceae. Elaterium Officinarum is a valuable homeopathic medicine for food poisoning with violent vomiting and diarrhea. The stool is copious, watery, forceful, greenish, and frothy. Cutting pain in the abdomen may be present.
It is a prominently indicated homeopathic medicine for food poisoning contracted by drinking impure water. Diarrhea with excessive flatulence and colic, heaviness and rumbling in the stomach, and belching are the primary symptoms that indicate the need for this medicine. It is also suited for diarrhea that results from eating melons.
Pulsatilla is effective for food poisoning from eating cakes, rich foods, ice cream, spoiled meats and rotten fish. Belching, taste of food remains a long time after ices, pastry. Diarrhea-rumbling, watery, worse at night. Changeable stools, no stools alike. The stomach often feels heavy, as if weighted by a stone. They want fresh cool air.
Carbo vegetabilis is another effective remedy for food poisoning from eating decayed meat. There is nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. There are contractive pains in stomach extending to chest with distension of abdomen. Crampy pains forcing patient to bend double. Digestion weak. Cadaverous smelling stools, followed by burning. The vital powers nearly exhausted, desire to be constantly fanned.
Lycopodium is indicated for food poisoning from eating shellfish, especially oysters. Vomits food and bile. The patient prefers warm drinks.
Urtica urens is effective for food poisoning with skin reaction after eating shellfish. Vomiting from suppression of nettle-rash.
Baptisia is indicated for toxic or infectious poisoning. Diarrhea with very offensive stools mixed with blood. Fever with diarrhea.