During this time of celebration, meals are often abundant. If food isn’t handled properly, it could cause food poisoning. Identify the risks.
Catalina Cardona Cifuentes
Internist and gastroenterologist
It is the holiday season, and with Christmas and New Year just around the corner, everyone is ready to celebrate around the table with a good meal. Overeating is a possibility. In addition, it may be possible for a microorganism to enter your digestive system and cause some type of food poisoning. Therefore, you must pay attention to what you eat.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website, MedlinePlus, defines food poisoning as an illness caused by the consumption of food or water contaminated with a bacterium, bacterial toxin, parasite, virus, or other chemical. The website states that “most cases of food poisoning are caused by common bacteria such as staphylococcus or Escherichia coli (E. coli).”
It is often thought that the combination of different ingredients can be harmful. But with the exception of intoxication from alcohol or psychoactive substances, from a nutritional point of view, food poisoning usually doesn’t result from mixing different types of food.
Food poisoning vs. indigestion
To learn how to determine if you are suffering from food poisoning, gastroenterologist Catalina Cifuentes explains that it is important to differentiate it from indigestion, since both problems share some symptoms. “Food poisoning is caused by bacteria in food or water, but indigestion happens by mixing certain foods or eating too much,” says the specialist.
According to the gastroenterologist, food poisoning is usually acute and severe, and can happen even with small portions of food. It is characterized by colicky abdominal pain, and is usually accompanied by fever, vomiting, acute diarrhea, and headache. In very severe cases, stools may be bloody and sometimes other symptoms such as skin rashes or joint pain may occur.
Indigestion, on the other hand, happens when there is an excess of food or when you have eaten something that does not sit well due to individual sensitivity. This may cause abdominal distention, pain, but no fever, chills or malaise. “A persistent feeling of fullness is experienced, including diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, but not other signs such as acute fever, increased palpitations, or low blood pressure,” states the gastroenterologist. “There are foods that, due to their composition, are more difficult to digest, so they are more work for the digestive tract, but they do not represent food poisoning as such,” says Cardona.•
Hygiene and proper handling of foods is crucial in preventing food poisoning. You must be aware of what you eat so you don’t have a bad time.
Three principles you should never forget
Gastroenterologist Catalina Cardona offers some tips for taking care of yourself when there is an abundance of food.
1 Stay hydrated if you experience food poisoning
Sometimes food poisoning can be mild and handled at home simply with hydration and rest so that your electrolytes do not decrease, putting your health at risk. However, there are more severe cases that need hospital treatment because they require antibiotics and antiparasitics. Oral rehydration salts, which are commonly used, are available without prescription and can be taken without problem in case of discomfort. There are also some over-the-counter antiemetics (drugs to relieve nausea and prevent vomiting).
What should be avoided at all costs is self-medication with antibiotics. It is best to consult with a doctor.
2 Be careful with street food
Sometimes, when eating street food, especially fruit or vegetables, dairy products, and seafood, the food is not washed properly, which makes food poisoning more likely. Foods left in street vendor stands for an entire day may be susceptible to going bad. Try to buy street foods that are cooked and hot, in places where hygiene and biosafety protocols are met, especially during the pandemic.
3 Drink in moderation
The metabolism of alcohol depends on how fast each person’s liver can process it. It is a fact that eating fatty foods that take a long time to be digested contribute to a certain extent to lowering the effect of liquor. Drinking alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach is not recommended, and you should drink in moderation. What is most worrying, especially in December, is the risk of consuming adulterated alcohol, which can cause severe side effects, especially for the liver. Some symptoms that can alert you to alcohol poisoning are abnormal changes in a person’s behavior, delusional states of consciousness, or seizures.