Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Treatment & What To Eat

Clinical review: Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
March 2022

Food poisoning happens when you eat food that is contaminated with toxins produced by fungi or bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli. Although, this type of condition is not usually serious and most people get better after a few days, 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 require any type of special treatment. Generally, plenty of rest and if fluid is recommended for recovery, as diarrhea and vomiting can lead you to dehydration. 

If you experience very intense symptoms, or if you do not feel improvement within a few days, you should see your doctor for assessment. 

Main symptoms

Symptoms of food poisoning typically 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 with 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, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions, and to initiate treatment as necessary. 

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 with more serious symptoms.

Treatment options

Food poisoning symptoms can be managed at home without the need for any type of specific medication. You are advised to increase your fluid intake with water, tea or strained natural juices, and to adopt a low-fat, low-fiber diet. You should maintain these while you have symptoms and a few days after they disappear. 

However, if symptoms are very severe, or if they gradually start to worsen, you should see your doctor to assess whether you require treatment with medication like antibiotics. 

What to eat

If you have food poisoning it's important you follow a diet that promotes the relief of symptoms. Some foods that are especially recommended during a bout of food poisoning include:

  • Sugar-free tea without caffeine (avoid black tea or green tea);1
  • 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, cabbage, butter, whole milk, seeds, and strong seasonings. You should also avoid processed or fatty foods. 

In the first days, it's important to opt for cooked fruits without peel and strained fruit juices. Once the diarrhea resolves, can you start eating vegetables, preferably boiled or blended into a soup.

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em March de 2022. Clinical review por Tatiana Zanin - Registered Dietitian, em March de 2022.

References

  • 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
Clinical review:
Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
Graduated in Clinical Nutrition in 2001 and has a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition. Licensed to practice under the CRN-3 in Brazil and the ON in Portugal