Food Poisoning 101: Causes, Symptoms and Natural Home Remedies

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Food Poisoning 101Do you ever get that feeling, when you’re eating a meal, that something just doesn’t taste right? You can’t quite put your finger on it—something is either under-cooked, over-cooked, or, heaven forbid, not cooked at all!

The mistake that most people make in these situations is to ignore that “feeling” and continue to eat their meals. (“Hey,” you tell yourself, “It would be a sin to throw out a perfectly good chicken sandwich!”)

The reality is, if the food you are eating tastes even the slightest bit “off,” you may be consuming contaminated food. If your body can’t fight off the contamination, this can result in food poisoning.

One in six Americans gets food poisoning each year. The challenge is defining what causes food poisoning and its resulting symptoms. The good news is that there are various types of remedies that can prevent, or even aid a person, who has just been diagnosed with food poisoning.

What Causes Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is a direct result of the toxins, bacteria, parasites or chemicals that are mixed with a food or drink substance that you consume. These toxins have come into contact, at some point, with organisms or fecal matter. In most cases, the contamination takes place in a crowded environment, such as an animal-processing facility.

That is why meat, eggs and dairy products are constantly contaminated. In smaller areas, contamination can be caused by simply not washing your hands before touching raw products, or not cleaning your station before transferring new products to it. In most cases, the contamination is killed when the products are cooked. When the products aren’t cooked properly, it can cause food poisoning to develop.

Who Can Get Food Poisoning?

Every individual is at risk of being diagnosed with food poisoning. But pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those who have suppressed immune systems are said to have the greatest chance of being infected and suffer from greater complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people become ill from food-related diseases each year, which results in approximately128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 fatalities.


The main toxins that are contaminated with the food or liquids we consume are:

  • Enterotoxins
  • Exotoxins
  • Neurotoxins

All three of these toxins are found in plants and animals and, under certain conditions, can be poisonous. Despite there being many bacterial plants and toxins that are ingested with food and liquids, the outbreaks are limited.


The main parasites that can contaminate the food and liquids that we consume are:

  • Giardia
  • Amoeba
  • Trichinella
  • Taenia solium

These parasites are intestinal infections and are usually found in areas that have poor sanitation, mainly in animal-processed facilities—areas you would assume the sanitation levels are being monitored.


There are certain chemicals that are considered poisonous and they can directly cause food poisoning. Even though there are at least 80,000 different types of chemicals used in the U.S. today, only a few have been linked to food poisoning. Though most chemicals do not enter into food, the ones that do can cause food poisoning. One example is mercury, which is mainly found in water and various types of fish, such as tuna and marlin.

Types of Food Poisoning

There are several types of food poisoning that can transpire. Some are deadlier than others, which raises the question, how safe is the food we eat? Understanding the different types of food poisoning that can transpire might make us more aware of where we should buy the products we have grown to love.

Norovirus is one of the more common viruses related to food poisoning, and it is responsible for more than half of food poisoning cases. Norovirus is usually caused by the spread of unsanitary food preparation, mainly from cooks or servers who don’t wash their hands before touching the food.

Botulism is a rare, but extremely serious illness, which is caused by bacteria growing in food that has not been properly canned or preserved.

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is found in the intestines of both humans and animals, and can cause severe stomach cramps if too much is ingested. Contamination usually takes place during the processing or preparation of meat products.

Salmonella is a bacterium that is not caused by food preparation or processing—it is commonly found in the intestines of animals when they are processed. Meat and eggs are the two main products that salmonella can be found in. But if you cook your food long enough, or at a high temperature, the salmonella bacterium should be killed.

Did You Know?

Of the four types of food poisoning mentioned, norovirus and salmonella are the most common pathogens that cause death.

Food Poisoning Symptoms

In order to properly identify if an individual has food poisoning, we first have to consider whether or not the symptoms match the diagnoses’. The most common cases of food poisoning tend to result in vomiting, diarrhea and cramps in the abdominal area. These are minor symptoms, and in most cases, will resolve on their own.

However, there are certain signs that need to be taken with more precaution. If you are experiencing fever, nausea, headaches, or even weakness, then you should monitor these symptoms closely. If these symptoms do not resolve themselves after a few days—for example,

  • You cannot keep fluids down
  • Your diarrhea persists for more than three days
  • Your fever is higher than 101.5 degrees, or
  • You are unable to speak or see—these are signs that you need to contact your physician immediately.

It is when people do not monitor or seek medical help when experiencing food poisoning symptoms that it can becomes fatal. It might sound like a harmless infection, but in reality, the long-term effects of food poisoning could cause severe damage to your intestines.

Food Poisoning Prevention

The easiest way to prevent food poisoning is to handle your food safely and avoid any food that you think is unsafe. Here is a list of some of the foods that are typically associated with food poisoning:

  • Meat, eggs, and shellfish may all contain infectious agents that are killed during the cooking process. If these foods are consumed raw, have not been properly cooked, or handled on surfaces that have not been thoroughly cleaned, then food poisoning can occur.
  • Sushi and other fish products are common causes of food poisoning, because they are served raw or undercooked.
  • Ground beef is another common food that is a direct cause of food poisoning. The main reason being that ground beef is made from several different animals and is typically handled by several different people.

If you always wash your hands before cooking or eating your food, you can prevent food poisoning. If you ensure that your food is properly sealed, you can prevent food poisoning. If you sanitize any raw products that you purchase from grocery stores, or any food processing facilities, you can prevent food poisoning.

Always make sure that you wash fruits and vegetables before serving them—the last thing you want is for your family and friends to get food poisoning at a lunch party you’re hosting.

Finally, stay informed about recalls and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Discard any foods you have already purchased that have been recalled or reported.

Food Poisoning Treatments and Home Remedies

If you suspect you have food poisoning, visit your doctor. If that is not an immediate option, then there are a few ways you can treat food poisoning at home.

Often your family doctor will recommend you consume as many fluids as you can to stay hydrated. Try to drink 6–9 oz. of clear fluids per day. Even if you’re vomiting, keep drinking to stay hydrated! If vomiting is consistent, then drink water in small, quick sips.

Most people stray from eating, but gradually resume eating once the diarrhea stops. Fruits are a good start, along with dry toast. Under no circumstances should you immediately begin to consume milk or dairy products. The enzymes that are needed to digest the sugar in those products need time to replenish.

Food Poisoning Home Remedies #1: Ginger

Drinking one cup of ginger tea after eating can stop heartburn, nausea and other symptoms that associate themselves with food poisoning. Another great remedy is a teaspoon of honey mixed with a few drops of ginger juice. If you do this several times a day, it will reduce the pain.

Food Poisoning Home Remedies #2: Lemon Remedy

The presence of anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties in lemons can relieve pain. The acid in lemons kills the bacteria caused from food poisoning. By adding a pinch of sugar to a teaspoon of lemon, and drinking it twice a day, it will reduce the pain. If you sip warm water with lemon juice in it, you can clean out your system and treat the food poisoning.

Food Poisoning Home Remedies #3: Garlic Remedy

Garlic is best known to relieve the symptoms of diarrhea and abdominal pain because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties. By eating one single garlic clove, and swallowing it with water, it can reduce your stomach pain. If you don’t like the taste, you can try mixing garlic oil and soybean oil, and rubbing it on your stomach after you eat.

A Word to the Wise

There is no way to actually know which food has been contaminated and how your body is going to react. However, if we become attentive to the symptoms of food contamination, handle our food properly and cook it at the proper temperatures—then we can decrease the chances of food poisoning or prevent it.

See More :

“Food Poisoning Prevention,” E-medicine Health web site;
Selner, M. and Yu, W., “Food Poisoning,” Healthline web site, July 18, 2012;
“Food poisoning facts,” Medicinenet web site, February 10, 2015;
“Food Poisoning Treatment,” PDR Health web site;
“Home Remedies for Food Poisoning,” Top 10 Home Remedies web site;