Recovering from food poisoning
Food poisoning occurs when we eat food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria – though sometimes viruses and parasites can be the cause. Food can become contaminated if is not stored properly, not cooked properly or left at room temperature for too long. The resulting symptoms are usually diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever and chills.
While food poisoning is a horrible experience, it is usually not life-threatening, and I’m afraid you’ll just have to let it run its course!
There are, however, a number of things you can do to help speed up your recovery from food poisoning.
For advice on how to avoid food poisoning, click here.
My tips for a speedier recovery from food poisoning
If not treated properly, food poisoning and its after-effects can drag out for several days, and may result in secondary conditions like severe dehydration. To ensure a speedy recovery from food poisoning, follow my top tips:
- The first, and perhaps most important, tip is to keep hydrated! While experiencing the worst of your symptoms take frequent small sips of plain water. After a few hours, as your symptoms ease off, make sure to have some fruit juice, coconut water or our Balance Mineral Drink to help replace electrolytes that you have lost, in addition to plain water. You can also buy rehydration treatment from your local pharmacy. There is not much point drinking these things while your symptoms are still severe as it is unlikely they will be absorbed.
- When you feel that you are ready for food, eat something bland and easy on the stomach. Bananas, toast and rice are good places to start, or homemade soup if you have some! Don’t force yourself to eat if you aren’t ready as this may make things worse. Avoid dairy, spicy food, fatty food and caffeine as these will irritate the stomach further and prolong your suffering.
- If you are on holiday or enjoying the British summer, try to keep out of the sun for a day or two. Exposing yourself to sun and heat may make you more dehydrated, and overwork your body – it’s already fighting an infection, the last thing you want to do is force it to focus on keeping you cool as well!
- Get plenty of rest. This is important to help your body heal itself quickly. Don’t try to go to work or do the housework or go out shopping. Instead, lie down, watch some TV, read a book and relax.
- Ginger is great at easing nausea, so try some ginger tea, ginger biscuits or ginger ale to settle your stomach.
- Once your symptoms have started to slow down, there are some herbal remedies you can try. Milk thistle is great a supporting and detoxing the liver, and the liver plays an important role in supporting digestion and helping the body process toxins
- Resist the temptation to use medicines like Imodium to ease diarrhoea – it seems like an easy fix but it actually hinders your body’s natural recovery process and means the harmful bacteria stays inside you for longer!
How to stop it spreading
When you have food poisoning, you need to make sure that you don’t pass it on to anybody else, especially young children or the elderly. I recommend that you:
- Make sure you and your family wash your hands regularly in hot, soapy water.
- Wipe down surfaces regularly with antibacterial spray or wipes, especially ones that you have touched
- If you are suffering from food poisoning, you should not prepare food for others. Anyone in your household who is preparing food must make sure to be extra careful about washing their hands and washing utensils and chopping boards
- Make sure to use a different hand towel and face cloth to everyone else
- Don’t go into work or school until at least 48 hours after the last time you experience vomiting or diarrhoea
- When you have recovered, wash all your laundry – the clothes you’ve been wearing, any blankets you’ve used, any bedding you’ve slept in and any towels you’ve used – in the hottest laundry setting (90 degrees if you can, or 60 degrees for things that cannot be washed as hot).
Want a better night's sleep? Get your FREE 6-day personalised sleep programme now
Simply answer 2 quick questions to receive personalised sleep tips straight to your email inbox.
When to seek medical help
If your symptoms don’t show any signs of improving after a few days, you should consult your GP.
People who are particularly vulnerable (for example the elderly and the very young, as well as people with underlying health conditions) should seek medical advice.
If you are unable to keep any water down at all for more than a few hours you may need intravenous hydration at a hospital. NHS24 will be able to advise you whether or not it is time to go to hospital.
If you suspect that your food poisoning came from fish, in particular shellfish, or canned food, or if your symptoms are particularly severe and include slurred speech, confusion, paralysis, pain in your teeth, muscle pain, coordination problems and loss of consciousness, seek immediate medical assistance. Food poisoning from fish, shellfish and canned food can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.
If you are at all worried about your symptoms, call NHS24 for advice.