Food Poisoning Specialist Jessup MD

From fine dining to take-out Thai, Americans eat out much more than they used to--an average of four times every week. Food poisoning is also on the rise--it's second only to the common cold in how frequently it strikes. Some 76 million Americans suffer from it each year.

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Fight Food Poisoning

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By Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH

From fine dining to take-out Thai, Americans eat out much more than they used to—an average of four times every week. Food poisoning is also on the rise—it’s second only to the common cold in how frequently it strikes. Some 76 million Americans suffer from it each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the four most common contaminants include Campylobacter (from undercooked poultry or raw chicken cut on a board shared with raw veggies), Salmonella (often from unwashed hands), E. coli (undercooked beef or unwashed hands), and norovirus (again, unwashed hands). Depending on which germ lurks in your food, symptoms can develop in as little as a few hours to as much as several days later.

When it comes to food poisoning, “the best thing to do is let nature take its course—as long as you don’t have bloody stools, abdominal pain, a fever, or dehydration,” says gastroenterologist Patricia Raymond, MD. Your body’s trying to evacuate the bacterial invader, she says, so bucking the system by using antidiarrheals can be counterproductive. Worse, Raymond says, “antibiotics can prolong your diarrhea.”

Drink plenty of fluids (such as water, diluted juice, or weak tea) to counteract the dehydrating effects of vomiting and diarrhea. To make your own electrolyte solution, Raymond suggests combining fresh squeezed citrus (for taste), 1 liter of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 4 teaspoons of sugar. Also, stock your cabinet with the following items to tame food-borne illness:

Calcium. Taking calcium supplements regularly might keep you from coming down with food poisoning in the first place. In a study published in the journal Gastroenterology, half of the 32 human volunteers consumed extra calcium daily, and all were exposed to E. coli. The calcium group recovered a full day earlier than those given a placebo. Researchers theorize that calcium increases the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and that these in turn fight off the infection-causing germs. Take 800 to 1,000 mg of calcium phosphate (a common form of calcium found in many dietary supplements) daily, separated into two equal doses.

Probiotics. When friendly bacteria take up residence along your gut wall, disease-causing bacteria have trouble finding a foothold. Numerous studies confirm that consuming foods with Lactobacillus and other friendly bacteria or taking supplements containing these good bugs makes it less likely that salmonella and other germs will make you sick. But if you do get sick, your illness will be less severe, and you’ll recover more quickly.

After a bout of diarrhea caused by food poisoning, many of your helpful bacteria have been washed out. Holly Lucille, a naturopath in Los Angeles, recommends taking at least 6 billion live organisms of various strains of probiotics daily, from either supplements (powder, capsules, tablets, liquid, or chewables) or foods such as active-culture versions of yogurt, kefir, cot...

Author: Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH

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