Food poisoning: Symptoms, Treatment & What To Eat

Food poisoning happens when you eat food that is contaminated with toxins produced by fungi or bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli. This type of condition is not usually serious and most people get better after a few days, but it can cause very uncomfortable symptoms like frequent vomiting, nausea, headache, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, and weakness.

Normally people with food poisoning recover at home and don't need any type of special treatment. It is only recommended to get some rest and keep the body well hydrated, since diarrhea and vomiting can cause a great loss of water.

However, if symptoms are very severe or if they don't improve after a couple of days, it's important to seek medical help.

Food poisoning: Symptoms, Treatment & What To Eat

Main symptoms

Symptoms of food poisoning occur a few hours after ingesting the contaminated food. The main symptoms include:

  • General malaise;
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Low-grade fever;
  • Stomach aches.

In more serious cases, it's also possible to present other types of symptoms, such as dry mouth, excessive thirst, earache, and dizziness. If you notice any of these symptoms or if symptoms do not improve after 2-3 days, it's important to see a G.P to identify the cause and start a more adequate treatment.

Pregnant women, elderly people and children should always consult the doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear, as they are more prone to complications and generally present more serious symptoms.

Treatment options

Food poisoning symptoms can be treated at home without the need for any type of specific medication. Main recommendation include drinking a lot of fluids, such as water, tea or strained natural juices, and adopting a low-fat, low-fiber diet, until a few days after symptoms disappear.

However, if symptoms are very severe, or if they get worse over time, it is important to consult with a G.P, since some cases may benefit from the use of some medication or even antibiotics. 

What to eat

If you have food poisoning it's important you follow a diet that helps relieve symptoms. Some foods that are specially recommended during food poisoning include:

  • Sugar-free tea without caffeine (avoid black tea or green tea);
  • Cornstarch puree;
  • Peeled baked apple or pear;
  • Banana;
  • Boiled carrot;
  • Plain white rice or pasta;
  • Boiled potato;
  • Grilled or boiled chicken;
  • White bread with jam.

It's also important to avoid heavy foods that are hard to digest such as tomato, cabbage, beans, red meats, lettuce and cabbage, butter, whole milk, seeds, and strong seasonings, and also avoid processed or fatty foods. 

In the first days it's important to choose cooked fruits without peel and strained fruit juices, and only after the diarrhea goes away, can you start eating vegetables, preferably boiled or blended into a soup.

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  • BERNARDES, Nicole B et al. Intoxicação Alimentar um Problema de Saúde Pública. Id on Line Rev. Mult. Psic. Vol 12. 42 ed; 894-906, 2018
  • ALMEIDA, Cristiane F. et al. Perfil epidemiológico das intoxicações alimentares notificadas no Centro de Atendimento Toxicológico de Campina Grande, Paraíba. Rev Bras Epidemiol. Vol 11. 1 ed; 139-146, 2008
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