year come December and the flurry of weddings and functions starts.
With this there is also a proportional increase in the number
of patients who come to me complaining of indigestion, vomiting,
loose motions and terrible cramps. They will always tell me that
they had eaten at some function and then felt uneasy. Though most
of the time the symptoms settle after a few days sometimes they
can be very dangerous and life threatening. Especially where children
and old people are concerned you can't afford to take chances
and you must consult your physician. The most important thing
to remember here though is that "PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE."
WHAT IS FOOD
Food poisoning is
defined as an illness characterized by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
due to something the patient ate or drank that contained noxious
toxins, bacteria, viruses, parasites or metals.
There are a huge
number of organisms and toxins that can cause this but here are
a few of the common ones.
- Food poisoning caused
by bacteria -
There are a variety
of bacteria that can cause havoc in a person's digestive system.
But the ones that are most frequently found to be the cause are
Campylobacter Jejuni, E Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Clostridium
Botulinum etc The purpose of listing these out is to make people
aware of where these organisms dwell and what kind of food should
jejuni - this is one of the leading cause of bacterial
food poisoning. Usually occurs when food is contaminated with
raw or undercooked poultry. Even a single drop of this can
make someone very sick.
there are a number of different foods which carry this organisms.
Not only non-vegetarian food like raw, uncooked eggs, poultry,
raw meat but also vegetarian foodstuff like DAIRY products, fresh
vegetables, coconut, chocolate, sauces, salad dressing etc.
It can also be found inside an egg.
E Coli -
this species of bacteria is extremely large and most of them
are harmless. But there is a deadly strain which can cause severe
food poisoning and this is what we have to be careful about.
Contamination of food can occur very easily with this organism
if not heated to the adequate temperature. This organism can
cause severe food poisoning so you have to be very careful when
eating uncooked stuff like lettuce, salad and unpasteurized milk
and dairy products and fruit juices especially outside. It can
lead to kidney failure especially in the aged and children.
this a deadly spore forming bacteria. It's these spores that
contaminate the food and release a poisonous toxin. This type
is very rare but highly dangerous. It can happen by eating improperly
processed foods like green beans, mushrooms, spinach, olives,
beef and fish. Avoid eating canned food especially if they have
dents or are bulging.
poisoning caused by viruses -
There are a number
of viruses that can upset your tummy and give you the runs. One
of the most common one is the Norwalk virus. These viruses are
usually the cause of food poisoning in most cases and present
with milder symptoms but not always. But they are highly infectious
and spread rapidly. They are present in contaminated food like
salads, shellfish, things grown in polluted waters and eaten raw.
WHAT ARE THE
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF FOOD POISONING?
There is a general
misconception that the symptoms will start immediately after consuming
the contaminated food or drink. Sometimes it does but most of the
time it takes a few hours to days for the symptoms to surface.
- Usually nausea and vomiting
are the first signs to show up, letting you know that something
- Loose motions or diarrhoea occurs
most of the time. It could be of various kinds and sometimes
blood may be present too.
- Abdominal cramps can be very
severe and painful making the person extremely uncomfortable
or make the child howl holding his stomach.
- Loss of appetite is only natural
and the child refuses to feed or throws up instantly after consuming
- Fever is not always present
but when there it is not a very positive sign.
Rare and dangerous
- If the patient complains of
blurred or double vision, if the pupils are dilated then rush
the person to a hospital.
- There may be difficulty in opening
the mouth which is dry, sore.
- Weakness of muscles, grip and
difficulty in swallowing are very rare symptoms but when they
occur rush the person to the hospital.
- Dehydration and fainting
- Liver disorders
- Kidney failure
I have not listed
all these to scare you but to make you aware of the damage that
can be done. Be very careful when eating out and in your own
kitchen because as I said earlier prevention is always better
HOW CAN FOOD
POISONING BE AVOIDED?
There is no 100%
prevention or safety net but here are a few tips that will help
you tremendously when you eat at weddings or in your own house.
- Wash your HANDS. Wash them before,
during and after food preparation. Use soap and water. Teach
your children to wash their hands after visiting the bathroom.
- At home clean all your utensils,
cutting boards, cutlery with soap and hot water.
- All the sponges used and the
dishcloths should be washed with water and then the water should
thoroughly drained from them.
- Wash all your vegetables and
fruits before you consume them.
- Cook all food completely. When
eating out make sure that you eat food that is thoroughly cooked
and not raw salads, chutneys, milk products, cold cuts etc.
- Keep cold food cold and hot
food hot, in short don't leave food out in the open at room
temperature for a long time as bacteria start multiplying at
- Do not thaw or defrost food
outside at room temperature, it has to be done in the refrigerator
or the microwave.
- If something tastes funny or
looks suspicious then do not eat it or make someone else try
it. Remember even a tiny amount can make you violently ill.
- Do not drink WATER outside if
you are not sure of its purity. Instead have a soda or soft
drink which is the safer option or carry your own especially
if you have a child.
When eating at a
wedding or party just remember to eat the right and safe things
which are least likely to make you sick. Anything cooked well like
rice, dal, idlis etc. are rarely known to cause food poisoning
whereas things like salads, paneer, mithais, ice-cream etc. are
highly likely to upset your stomach.
HOW IS FOOD
Diarrhoea and vomiting
are ways that the body tries to rid itself of the toxins or harmful
organisms. Therefore it is not advisable to try and stop this process.
It is better to let all the contaminated food leave the body instead
of remain and allow the bacteria or organism to multiply inside.
But do not induce vomiting that is not advisable either.
The most IMPORTANT
thing to remember is to replace the fluid and water lost. Must
keep sipping water with a little salt and sugar if nothing else.
In the market are available certain electrolyte solutions like
ORS (oral rehydration solution). It is always handy to keep some
of this at home especially if you have small children. Avoid solid
food and specially oily, heavy food for a few days till your digestive
system has settled down. Just remain light on boiled rice, rice
kanji, arrowroot kanji and soups.
You should definitely
see your Doctor and get treatment in the following cases specially:-
- If the affected person is a
child or an elderly person you cannot afford to take any chances,
take them to your physician even if the symptoms are mild.
- Diarrhoea lasting longer than
24 hours needs treatment.
- If the vomiting does not cease
in 24 hours then go to your Doctor.
- Along with the food poisoning
symptoms the patient is running a fever then the Doctor must
- Severe cramps in the abdomen
is a bad sign, the patient needs medical attention.
- Inability to retain liquids
for more than 12 hours should not be taken lightly, see a Doctor.
- If the patient complains of
blurred or double vision, paralysis of certain parts, inability
to swallow, difficulty in breathing then rush him to a Hospital.
excellent remedies to offer in cases of food poisoning and gastroenteritis.
In these cases the correct remedy tries to bring the disturbed
digestive tract back to its normal functioning and rid the body
of the harmful effects of the organism or substance. It stimulates
the body's own immunity to fight against the offending, noxious
agent. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, all these can be very effectively
controlled with Homoeopathy and correct diet control. There are
a number of wonderful drugs for this problem but here are a few
that have proven to be extremely effective in controlling an acute
ARSENIC ALB -
There is terrible
nausea so much so that the person cannot even tolerate the smell
or sight of food. Even the thought of it makes him sick and brings
on the nausea and vomiting. The patient wants to drink ice cold
water which he thinks will make him feel better but even this is
He has no energy
at all, feels drained and exhausted, has lost his appetite completely.
This all leads to fear in the mind and a typical arsenic patient
thinks that he is suffering from some drastic disorder and the
end is near. There is great restlessness especially of the mind
and anxiety about his health.
Arsenic Alb 200,
5 pills four times a day will give great relief to the patient.
NUX VOMICA -
The Nux patient
will go to a party or wedding over eat, drink in excess and end
up with a bad attack of indigestion, gastroenteritis or food poisoning
the next day. They love all stimulating, pungent and fatty food
and alcohol. But the next morning when they wake up they suffer
from terrible nausea, acidity and vomiting. They try to induce
vomiting because it makes them feel better.
They feel hungry
but dare eat out of fear of nausea and retching they experience
later. This makes them depressed and sad.
Nux patient always
has a sensation of wanting to pass stool but when he tries little
comes. They feel unsatisfied and there is a constant urging which
makes them uneasy.
Nux Vomica 200,
5 pills four times a day will help to bring the system back to
This remedy is especially
effective against diarrhoea caused by food poisoning. The whole
digestive system is disordered and you can even hear the rhumbling
sounds. The patient complains of pain, gas which seems to be moving
inside shifting from one place to the other.
There is no pain
while passing stool and it seems to just gush out like water from
a tap. The person has to run to the bathroom for fear of passing
stool in his clothes. This is especially effective in cases where
a child has got loose motions due to milk and milk products. Sometimes
the diarrhoea is so severe that the person develops piles or prolapse
of the anus.
5 pills four times a day will resolve these symptoms.