One of the most unpleasant and certainly potentially dangerous conditions is food poi- soning. A person’s body reacts to toxins produced by bacteria that contaminate food. The most common types of food poisoning result from the bacteria of salmonella, campylobacter, and staphylococcus.
Symptoms range from nausea, overall body weakness, fever, and abdominal cramps to violent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea as the body tries to rid itself of the contaminated food.
Most cases of food poisoning can be avoided. Food poisoning occurs as a result of improper handling, storing, or cooking of food. That is why it is important for peo- ple to always wash their hands thoroughly with soap before eating and especially before preparing a meal.
It is important to refrigerate foods like mayonnaise, egg salad, potato salads, rice puddings, and fried rice. These foods can be easily contaminated. Another common mistake is not to cook foods thoroughly and at high-enough temperatures. This is espe- cially true with meats.
Follow the old adage in deciding whether or not to eat leftovers: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Food poisoning can also occur from eating plants that contain toxic chemicals (cer- tain types of mushrooms) or foods contaminated with chemicals (e.g., heavy metals like lead). If you suspect that your child has eaten a poisonous plant, seek medical attention immediately.
Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning are short-lived, and your appetite will return within one to two days. However, head to the emergency room if you or your child has a medical condition that impairs the immune system (e.g., HIV, hepatitis) or displays any of these severe symptoms:
• Violent vomiting
• A fever exceeding 102 degrees F
• Vision problems
• Severe diarrhea that lasts more than one day or contains blood
• Trouble breathing or talking
• Headache and dizziness
EXAMPLES OF FOOD POISONING Staphylococcus
Foods that have been handled by people with skin infections can be contaminated
when left at room temperature. The classic example is a potato salad left out for a long time at a picnic. Symptoms usually come on very quickly, within 2 to 8 hours, and usually begin to resolve within 12 hours. Symptoms may include
• Severe nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal cramps
• Headache and fever
This infection usually results from poultry that has been infected and not cooked prop- erly. It can also occur from unpasteurized milk and contaminated drinking water. Symptoms usually begin 2 to 5 days after exposure. Symptoms may include
• Nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal pain and cramping
Infection is by one of the many types of salmonella bacteria. The most common con- taminated foods include unpasteurized milk and undercooked poultry and eggs. This infection causes acute intestinal distress, with a sudden onset of headache, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. Dehydration in infants can be severe. Symptoms start 16 to 48 hours after eating and can last up to 7 days.
Home-canned foods are the most common source of the spores that cause toxicity to the nervous system. Commercially prepared foods can also be at fault. The botulinum spores are very resistant to heat. It is recommended that canned foods be exposed to moist heat at 212 degrees F (120 degrees C) for 30 minutes to kill the spores. The tox- ins that are produced by the spores can be killed through heat by cooking the food at
176 degrees F (80 degrees C) for 30 minutes. Symptoms usually come on 18 to 36 hours after ingestion of the botulinum toxin. This can be a very severe and potentially fatal poisoning. Symptoms can include
• Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, followed by neurological symptoms such as
• Vision changes
• Muscle weakness
• Difﬁculty breathing
Note: Infant botulism occurs most often in children who are less than six months old. Botulinum spores may be present in honey, so it is recommended that children under one year of age not be given honey (as their immune systems may not be able to handle it).
This infection usually occurs as a result of undercooked beef or unpasteurized milk or through fecal-oral contamination. This bacterium infects the digestive tract and typ- ically leads to bloody diarrhea and possibly kidney failure. Young children (younger than ﬁve years old) and the elderly are most susceptible to the damaging effects of this infection. Symptoms usually include
• Severe abdominal cramps
• Watery diarrhea, followed by bloody diarrhea (usually lasts 1 to 8 days)
• Fever is usually absent or low grade
This bacterium is found in feces, water, soil, air, and water. Contaminated meat left at room temperature is the main source of infection. Symptoms usually begin 6 to 24 hours after ingestion and resolve within 24 hours. Common symptoms include
• Watery diarrhea
• Abdominal cramps
Bacteria endemic to the local water cause this infection. Viruses or bacteria can also cause it. It occurs in areas that lack adequate water puriﬁcation. Common symptoms include
• Nausea and vomiting
• Loud gurgling noises in the abdomen
• Abdominal cramps
• Diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after ingesting the contaminated water or
Giardia is the most common example. This parasite is transmitted through the fecal- oral route, mainly through water contamination. In most cases there are no symptoms, and symptoms usually take one to three weeks after exposure to appear. In cases where symptoms occur, the most common are
• Watery, malodorous diarrhea
• Abdominal cramps and distention
• Flatulence and burping
• Low-grade fever
Chemical Food Poisoning
Plants or animals that contain a naturally occurring poison fall under the heading of chemical food poisoning. Common examples include
• Wild mushrooms (e.g., Amanita phalloides)
• Wild and domestic plants (yew, nightshade, castor bean, morning glory, and
In addition, fruits and vegetables sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals can cause chemical poisoning if the foods are not washed.
Obviously severe cases require conventional treatment that focuses on identifying the type of infectious organism and then prescribing an antimicrobial medicine (e.g., antibiotics for bacterial infections). However, natural therapies are often effective for mild cases and can be used adjunctively for more severe cases.
The most important thing is to keep hydrated by drinking two cups of liquid every waking hour. Try water, diluted fruit and vegetable juices, electrolyte drinks, and broths. If you have a dry mouth or suddenly wrinkled skin that does not snap back when gently pulled, you may be on your way to severe dehydration. Foods that are easy to digest, such as soup, broths, and steamed vegetables, are recommended.
Food to Avoid
During the most intense stages of diarrhea, you will probably not feel much like eat- ing. Do not force yourself to take in solid food during this time (although you should drink plenty of ﬂuids).
As you feel better and regain your appetite, you should stay away from dairy prod- ucts, fats, and oils, which will only upset your stomach again. If you do not have intol- erance to any of these foods, reintroduce them to your diet slowly.
Avoid sugar, especially if you have a bacterial infection. Bacteria feed on it. Even if bacteria aren’t the cause of your problem, keep sugar out of your diet; it promotes inﬂammation, which discourages healing.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are too stimulating to the digestive tract.
If the cause of the problem is not clear, determine whether a food allergy or intol- erance caused your diarrhea. Once you feel better, use the elimination diet on page
253 to identify troublesome foods. Many cases of diarrhea can be traced to gluten intolerance, so make a special effort to examine the effects of wheat and seeds on your digestive system.
As you feel better, eat basic, simple foods that are easily absorbed. Soups, cooked fruits and vegetables, and brown rice are all good choices. Apples, bananas, carrots, and potatoes tend to taste especially good at this time, and for an excellent reason. They all contain an ingredient, pectin, that has a gentle binding quality.
One study has shown that roasted carob powder reduces the duration of diarrhea. Try a few tablespoons in some water.
Diarrhea is your body’s method of self-detoxiﬁcation. It’s generally a good idea to fast on liquids for the ﬁrst day; most likely, you will not want to eat solid foods anyway. See the dietary recommendations for details.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Food Poisoning
Super Prescription #1 Homeopathic Combination Diarrhea Remedy and
Homeopathic Combination Nausea/Vomiting Remedy
For acute diarrhea and nausea/vomiting, alternate doses of a combination diarrhea and combination nausea/vomiting remedy four times daily for twenty-four hours. Then if you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. If your symptoms do not improve within twenty-four hours, pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms under Homeopathy in this section.
Super Prescription #2 Ginger (Zingiber ofﬁcinale)
Drink a fresh cup of ginger tea, or take 500 mg in capsules or 2 ml of a tincture
every two hours. Ginger reduces intestinal inﬂammation and lessens the effect of food poisoning.
Super Prescription #3 Probiotic
Take a product containing at least 4 billion active organisms two to three times daily. It contains friendly bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and biﬁdus, which ﬁght intestinal infection.
Super Prescription #4 Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Take 1 ml of the tincture or 300 mg in capsule form four times daily. It helps
improve diarrhea that is related to an intestinal infection.
Super Prescription #5 Oregano (Origanum vulgare) oil
Take 500 mg of the capsule form four times daily or as directed on the container. Oregano oil has powerful antimicrobial effects.
Super Prescription #6 Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Take 1 ml of a tincture or 250 mg in capsule form or drink 1 cup of fresh tea every two hours. Peppermint reduces nausea and cramping.
Super Prescription #7 Activated charcoal
Take 3 capsules every two hours for three doses. Activated charcoal capsules taken internally can help to absorb toxins from food poisoning. Charcoal works best when taken in the ﬁrst stages of food poisoning (when you ﬁrst realize you have food poisoning).
GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS Parasite Blend
If your doctor suspects that you have a parasite infection, take a herbal parasite blend
with herbs such as garlic, black walnut (Juglans nigra), wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), and grapefruit extract. Take as directed on the container.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. For acute symp- toms, take a 30C potency four times daily. After you notice improvement, stop tak- ing the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Arsenicum Album is the most common remedy for food poisoning. Symptoms include diarrhea (especially burning diarrhea), vomiting, chilliness, anxiety, and rest- lessness. Symptoms tend to be worse between midnight and 2 A.M. The person expe- riences burning pains in the abdomen. Symptoms are better from warm drinks.
China (Chinchona) is a good remedy for diarrhea and bloating that has led to exhaustion and weakness. It is useful to take after an acute bout of food poisoning, to regain strength.
A study in the Journal of Gut reported that live pro- biotics interact with intestinal cells to pro- tect them from the harmful effect of the bacteria Escherichia coli (EIEC 029:NM). Researchers found that these good bacte- ria prevented the E. coli from adhering to the cells and pre- vented invasion.
The following test helps assess possible reasons for food poisoning: Comprehensive stool analysis—bacterial and parasitic infection, ﬂora
Ipecacuanha (Cephaelis ipecacuanha) is for extreme nauseousness and vomiting. The person experiences a sinking sensation in the stomach. Vomiting does not relieve the symptoms.
Mercurius Corrosivus is for food poisoning that causes bloody, burning diarrhea. The person may alternate between feeling chilly and sweaty.
Nux Vomica (Strychnos nux vomica) is for food poisoning that causes heartburn, cramping, and painful diarrhea that feels better temporarily from passing stool or from warm applications. The person is chilly and irritable. This is also a good general rem- edy to use for the ill effects from food, such as spicy or rich foods.
Phosphorous is a remedy for burning diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting that feel better with cold drinks or cold food.
Podophyllum is for profuse, watery, explosive diarrhea with gas. Stool may con- tain yellow mucus.
Veratrum Album is indicated when there are profuse, rice-water stools that occur simultaneously with forceful vomiting. The person experiences violent cramping and feels very cold.
Work Stomach 36—four ﬁnger widths below the kneecap and one ﬁnger width toward the outside of the leg (outside of the shin bone on the muscle).
Constitutional hydrotherapy helps relieve abdominal pain and bring good immune cells into the digestive tract to ﬁght the infection.
Add 2 drops of German chamomile and 1 drop of black pepper into a carrier oil, and rub over the person’s abdomen.