If you have ever experienced food poisoning, you know how horrific it can be. If you are lucky enough to only get a mild case you might only have a few stomach cramps. But a sever case could result in diarrhea, severe stomach pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting.
My real inspiration for doing this piece is that a friend of mine had a really bad case of food poisoning not too long ago. She got so sick and couldn’t stop throwing up. Eventually she became so dehydrated that she had to go to the emergency room and for someone without health insurance, one trip to the ER can be detrimental to their bank account. So I really wanted to provide some information so that if you find yourself in the same situation as my friend you have some alternatives to try before you have to check into the ER.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poison is also known as foodborne illness or foodborne disease. These later terms are perhaps more accurate terminology because food poisoning is caused by pathogens that contaminate food, not by chemicals and toxins that we commonly view as poisons (although chemicals and toxins can also contaminate food and cause illness). Food poisoning is caused by improper handling, preparing and storing of food. The CDC estimates that every year there are 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. These numbers may be higher than stated because milder cases are often not detected or reported and many pathogens that are transmitted through food can also be transmitted through water or from person to person, making it more difficult to track.
Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning
Many cases of food poisoning happen when you are out to eat which is frustrating and scary because as a customer you really have no control over the condition of the food you are eating. However, most cases of food poisoning happen at home. Perhaps it’s because we are less diligent about cleaning or just more accepting about pushing the envelope of eating spoiled food. Whatever the reason, here are ways to help prevent getting sick from foodborne illnesses.
- Keep dairy products and foods that are perishable refrigerated.
- Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
- Be sure to cook chicken and pork thoroughly.
- Wash your hands, utensils and cutting boards with hot water and soap after handling meat and eggs.
- Make sure you have good bacteria in your belly by supplementing with probiotics.
- Avoid canned foods that bulge at the top or bottom.
- Reheating deli foods is safer, just in case they stayed out a little too long.
Cooking With Herbs
Cooking with herbs and using them in any sort of food preparation can help to deter the growth of bacteria and other pathogens that can be the cause of food poisoning. Most of the cooking herbs contain essential oils that have antimicrobial properties. Here are a few examples of some helpful herbs.
Cayenne pepper is able to significantly decrease a bacterium’s harmful production by modulating the expression of certain genes. As an internal disinfectant, the Mexican Indians used cayenne liberally to tolerate food pathogens. Juliette de Bairacli Levy would soak half of a cayenne pod in raw milk to kill off any bacteria that the milk might contain.
(E)-anethole, a constituent of fennel essential oil is a significant antimicrobial agent, protecting against most foodborne pathogenic, saprophytic, probiotic and mycotoxigenic microorganisms; furthermore, fennel and fennel essential oil can be used as food preservatives
Sage was shown to have some antimicrobial activity against 13 bacterial strains and 6 fungi and can protect against food borne pathogens such as Salmonella making it a valuable preservative.
Other herbs that are also helpful to combat against foodborne illnesses include garlic (best if it is raw), oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, horseradish and mustard to name a few.
Natural Ways to Provide Relief for Food Poisoning
If you suspect that you have been the victim of eating contaminated food, approximately 4 to 48 after eating you will see symptoms of food poisoning such as nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache and vomiting. All individuals who ate the contaminated food should also be showing signs of food poisoning.
- If you got food poisoning from a restaurant, be sure to contact the restaurant. Alerting them as to what you ate, could prevent others from also falling victim to contaminated food. You may also wish to contact the health department. If you got the food poisoning from home, clean your cutting boards and counters and wash your sponges. Tea Tree Oil can be added to your soapy water to further kill off any microbes.
- Dehydration becomes the enemy when you are constantly loosing fluids through diarrhea and vomiting. Replacing lost fluids is so important that a failure to do so can be fatal. Here is a recipe for a Homemade Electrolyte Drink but also consume clear liquids and broths. It is important to keep pushing clear liquids until you’re urinating normally again.
- The acupuncture point for nausea is located on your hand in between your thumb and forefinger. Pinch this area to help ease the nausea.
- Slowly sip peppermint or ginger tea. Both herbs are wonderful carminatives to ease the belly and ginger is an excellent remedy for nausea and vomiting.
- Supplementing with echinacea can increase levels of properdine by 21% which is important in helping the body to resist infection.
- Increase your intake of probiotics.
- Eat small and easy to digest foods like miso broth, applesauce toast, mashed potatoes, bananas, rice, yogurt and other bland foods. Avoid foods that are smoked, fried, oily, spicy, rich and sweet. Bland is the way to go.
- Taking over the counter pain medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen, for stomach cramps should be avoided because they can further upset the GI tract.
- Abdominal massage can help to calm the belly and ease the tension of the cramps. If you are vomiting rub your belly in a clockwise motion. If you have diarrhea massage your belly counterclockwise. If you are doing both, good luck and try and get it all in the toilet. Lavender and chamomile can further enhance the benefits of abdominal massage.
- Wait it out by getting lots of rest.
I hope these tips will be helpful if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having food poisoning. But remember that prevention is the key to dealing with foodborne illnesses and herbs are an amazing and tasty tool to ensuring that you and your family stays food poisoning free J
Bairacli-Levy, Juliette de. (1996). Common herbs for natural health. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing.
Mars, B., & Fiedler, C. (2011). The country almanac of home remedies: time-tested &
almost-forgotten wisdom for treating hundreds of common ailments, aches & pains
quickly and naturally.
: Fair Winds Press. Beverly, Mass.