Treating food poisoning can be a tricky task. For one, without formal testing, it’s hard to know exactly what caused it. You may suspect the egg salad, but technically it’s innocent until proven guilty. This is because food poisoning can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, chemicals or toxic substances (both man-made and natural).
Treating Food Poisoning at Home
There are no hard-and-fast rules about determining who the guilty party was, but below are several sources of food poisoning depending on pathogen type:
- Salmonella– Under-cooked poultry and eggs
- Listeria– Processed meats and soft cheeses
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)- Under-cooked meat and raw, unwashed vegetables
- Campylobacter– Poorly sterilized processed foods and drinks
- Norovirus– Undercooked or raw shellfish
- Staphylococcus– Un-cooked or re-heated food
- Mycotoxins– Moldy food such as cereal, grain, nuts, and dried fruit
There are two methods for treating food poisoning: attacking the pathogen, and neutralizing their toxic effects.
Attacking the pathogen usually involves compounds that can inhibit its reproduction and spread, or destroy its protective biofilm. These include natural antibiotics and antifungals such as honey and olive oil or antivirals such as bitter melon and hyssop. Toxins can be minimized or even neutralized with compounds which alter their expression, such as garlic, onion and chili or mustard, or their toxins absorbed by activated charcoal. A simple broth with garlic, onion, mustard, goosefoot (Chenopodium album) and some chili can neutralize many of the toxins produced by pathogens.
In most cases, it’s about managing the symptoms after a bout of food poisoning, because let’s face it – you’re unlikely to keep anything down during it. Therefore, it’s recommended to try the following.
- Drink plenty of water and non-caffeinated teas, especially something like mint, eucalyptus, goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), goosefoot and/or ginger tea which will help to settle your stomach, keep you hydrated, provide you minerals as well as fight any bacterial infections. The mentha present in mint also inhibited toxins produced by some bacteria.
- If a viral infection is suspected, such as from shellfish, then ingesting some natural antivirals such as a cup of hyssop tea or some bitter melon (Momordica spp.) soup may help. A couple of sips of some watered-down juice will hydrate you at the same time as providing some vitamins.
Nibbling on some saltine crackers can help you to replace lost electrolytes.
- Olive oil is an antimicrobial as well as a neutralizer so eating some bread dipped in olive oil should also reduce your symptoms.
- Eating probiotics such as fermented foods and yogurt can help restore your gut biome afterwards.
- If you suspect your food has been contaminated with pesticides, mold or staph toxins, then taking a single dose (½ – 1 teaspoon) of activated charcoal will absorb some of them from your stomach.
- Bentonite clay is reputed to help absorb some of toxins released by mold. A small capsule taken at 3pm for 2 – 3 days is recommended.
- Some fish, particularly scombroid fish like tuna and mackerel, contain incredibly high concentrations of histamine which can cause food poisoning. The treatment is to take antihistamines, such as those used for allergies and hay fever.
- Avoid food which is high in fat and sugar, or try to substitute fat for olive oil and sugar for honey.
- You should avoid caffeinated drinks as they tend to dehydrate your body.
Tea – Use a teaspoon of dried leaves or about a tablespoon of fresh leaves and brew for 8 – 10 minutes in hot water. Add honey if needed.
Soup – Lightly fry a chopped onion, add 4 cups of water, 1 – 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a handful of mustard greens, a handful of goosefoot, 1 – 2 pinches of salt and a chili. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes and it’s ready to serve.
When To See a Doctor
If you have a high fever (higher than 101 °F or 38 °C) or bloody diarrhea, then this could mean a bacterial or parasite infection, in which case a course of antibiotics is required.
If you are severely dehydrated and unable to replenish fluids due to continuous vomiting and diarrhea then only a doctor at a hospital can re-hydrate you.
The Bottom Line
Food poisoning can happen anywhere and at any time. Following strict food hygiene guidelines can minimize the risk of food poisoning, but contamination can occur along the entire food processing chain. So even though you can minimize the risk, you can never truly eradicate it.
Therefore, having a few simple remedies up your sleeve for treating food poisoning can ease some of your discomfort.