Is It Food Poisoning, or Something Else? How to Know and 5 Food Safety Tips
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Is It Food Poisoning, or Something Else? How to Know and 5 Food Safety Tips

Dr. Josh Axe — Food is Medicine
Aug 7, 2018

While most food poisoning cases cause just mild to moderate discomfort, it’s far from harmless: 128,000 people are hospitalized every year and 3,000 people die from food poisoning annually.


Every year, approximately 48 million Americans get food poisoning. (1) And while most food poisoning cases cause just mild to moderate discomfort, it’s far from harmless: 128,000 people are hospitalized every year and 3,000 people die from food poisoning annually.

Protect yourself and your family by knowing the signs of food poisoning, and speed up your recovery if you come down with a case of food poisoning with these natural tips and strategies.

What Is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning, as its name suggests, is becoming ill after eating contaminated food (even if the food doesn’t look or taste or smell like it is bad).

Also known as “foodborne illness,” it can be classified into two types: (2)

  • Foodborne infection caused by eating food that has become contaminated with live bacteria.
  • Foodborne intoxications caused by the toxins produced by bacteria in the food.

No matter the category you’re affected by, they all share the common signs of food poisoning.

Signs of Food Poisoning

Because the bacteria or the toxins from the bacteria are transported into your body via food, the symptoms of food poisoning center around the gastrointestinal system. This is why one of the most common of the signs of food poisoning is diarrhea.

Other signs of food poisoning include: (3)

  • Stomach cramps
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • General fatigue or exhaustion

Food Poisoning Causes and Risk Factors

The salmonella bacteria is one of the most common food poisoning causes, (4) but it’s not the only bacteria that may be lurking in your food. The five major groups of bacteria behind the majority of foodborne illnesses are: (5)

  1. Salmonella and Campylobacter

If you eat a lot of eggs, meat or poultry, you’re at risk of contracting these bacteria. These bacteria live in animals’ digestive tracts, hence the higher risk associated with eating meat, poultry and eggs (especially if the food is undercooked). There are also occasional outbreaks of recalled vegetables and fruits that have been contaminated by dirty surfaces or animal feces.

  1. Clostridium perfringens

You may find it in unpasteurized dairy or raw meats, as well as raw produce that has touched bare soil. Common food poisoning cases include eating meat-based soups or stews that aren’t properly refrigerated.

  1. Listeria

Listeria sources include unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses made from milk that is not pasteurized, and deli meats (including cold cuts and hot dogs).

  1. Staphylococcus aureus

If someone is ill with a staph infection, the bacteria may end up in food that the sick person touched. Common meals that have caused outbreaks include unrefrigerated egg salad.

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