Young man with stomach pain indigestion

Do you have food poisoning or a bug unrelated to the food? Let’s start with something many don’t even think about: the definition of food poisoning. Most people will derive its definition from its name. However, “Food poisoning is an illness that can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.  It is caused by eating food that contains germs, such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Two examples of bacteria that are common causes of food poisoning are Salmonella and E. coli.” []. This is very different from having an allergic reaction to food, which can be dangerous and require a hospital visit or give you an upset stomach.

Now that we know what food poisoning is, how do we end up with it? Most people will end up with it from restaurants, where we do not know the exact details of how food was prepared or how clean the kitchen is. Here are some foods that have been notorious for giving people food poisoning and spreading germs and bacteria.

  • Unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and packaged juices
  • Raw sprouts (All types of sprouts—including alfalfa, mung bean, clover, and radish sprouts)
  • Ground meat that isn’t well done
  • Prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables (Always wash these anyways when preparing your own food!)
  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Raw oysters and other raw shellfish


Food poisoning symptoms can begin as quickly as four hours or as long as 24 hours after eating contaminated food. People who eat the same contaminated food—say, at a picnic or barbecue—will usually get sick about the same time.

What kind of symptoms will you get if you do get food poisoning?

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Belly pain (can be either but more common with food poisoning)
  • Diarrhea that can be watery or bloody
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever (can be either but more common with viral gastroenteritis)
  • Headache or muscle aches (more common with gastroenteritis)

When should I call a doctor/nurse or seek medical care?

  • If you have severe belly pain
  • Cannot eat or drink and have symptoms of dehydration (tired, dizzy, confused)
  • Vomiting blood or have blood in your bowel movements

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?

Yes.  You can:

  • Drink plenty of fluids so that you don’t get dehydrated
  • Avoid drinking juice or soda, as this can make diarrhea worse
  • Eat small meals and avoid eating foods with a lot of fat or sugar
  • Do NOT take anti-diarrhea medicines, as these can make the infection last longer


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