What EXACTLY is food poisoning?

Food poisoning

A friend got food poisoning today so thought I would pull back the curtain on foodborne illness. People call it food poisoning but the medical community calls it foodborne illness which makes a lot of sense. You’re not being poisoned by food, but infected by something that’s living on the food. Commonly food poisoning is caused by bacteria, viruses, mold, toxins, parasites or allergens.

They range from the fairly well-known e.coli and Salmonella to the far less known campylobacter, toxoplasma, listeria and clostridium perfringens. Most foodborne illnesses go away on their own and don’t have lasting effects. But there are those like E. Coli 0157:h7 which can cause kidney failure and death if not treated properly.

Not all e.coli is bad by the way. Some e.coli is actually part of your natural gut bacteria! So that’s why that one is the bad one. A number of things can result in food being poisoned or infected. Most often food poisoning comes from food that’s mishandled or not cooked properly. Maybe it’s left under the warmer too long, not refrigerated properly, handled by a person who didn’t wash their hands or it touched a surface that wasn’t recently cleaned.

Every contaminant has an ideal condition and they vary from bacteria to virus to bacteria. And though you might be thinking YES! I was at that place around the corner and TOTALLY got it from there, you might be wrong about that. Some of these foodborne illnesses can strike days or weeks after exposure because it takes a while for the organism to replicate in your body and strike – This is called the incubation period The most common pathogens, C. perfringens, Salmonella and the Norovirus have short incubation periods ranging from 6 to 72 hours. All three can cause diarrhea but while Salmonella and Norovirus ALSO will cause vomiting, C. perfringens doesn’t. E.coli and Campylobacter incubate for several days before striking and both result in severe diarrhea usually containing blood and vomiting.

Toxoplasma can incubate for weeks and produce no symptoms at all and Listeria can live in your body from 3 to 70 days before showing flu-like symptoms! Some cases of food poisoning or foodborne illness are even mistaken for the flu, because people can’t remember when they ate at that dodgy deli. And again, most of the time, you’re just going to get better on your own, anyway thanks to the immune system. But you won’t feel awesome though!

These diseases cause diarrhea because they’re inhibiting your body from absorbing nutrients and water OR they’re causing MORE water to be added into the bowel. This means that your body has to pass all that stuff out of your digestive system, and in a hurry as you probably know. If you’ve ever had this happened, you can go look up your symptoms on sites like foodsafety.gov and know what bacteria or virus you got, how long you’ve had it, and what probably has caused it.

And if you feel like you got to do something, drink lots of water but NOT caffeine or dairy products because your stomach is already irritated, and those will make it worse. Make sure you consume some broth or electrolyte drink to keep some nutrients flowing through you. And speaking of flow DON’T try and stop the flow out of your butt with anti-diarrhea medicine. Your body is doing this on purpose, and you’re just going to get in the way literally. If you see blood, call a doctor.

When was the last time you got food poisoning? And where’d you get it from? Tell us down below in the comments


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