We’ve all been there, and it’s not pleasant: nausea, diarrhea, puking, fever. Food poisoning is an all around crappy (pardon the pun) situation. But you can find relief and even shorten the duration with a few key natural items. More importantly, treating food poisoning properly may prevent future bacterial infections like SIBO.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is a brief illness caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites, or chemicals. The most common symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, and they occur from six hours to a day or so of eating the contaminated food.
Foods that most often cause food poisoning are eggs, poultry, fish, other meat, cheese, raw fruits, and veggies that may not have been washed.
Food poisoning is often a blanket term that includes gastroenteritis and food borne illness, but the symptoms of each are similar. What it all means essentially is you’ve ingested a pathogen in food or a toxin produced by bacteria in a food. It’s usually because food hasn’t been handled properly, is spoiled, or is contaminated by a host (which could be a human who’s handled the food passing along a pathogen). Infection from food-borne pathogens may be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses. Common food-borne pathogens are Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Norovirus, and Listeria.
Certain bacteria such as S. Aureus or B. Cereus will typically cause illness between 2-12 hours after the meal. Salmonella or Clostridium can cause illness between 12-24 hours afterwards. But infections with Campylobacters are slow to manifest, and illness may occur a week or more after the infected food has been eaten (source).
Infections caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses in food or drinking water include the following: (source)
- Campylobacter infection
- Escherichia coli (E.coli) infection
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Q fever
- Vibrio infections
Illnesses caused by toxins in the foods we eat include the following:
- Bacillus cereus poisoning
- Ciguatera fish poisoning
- Clostridium perfringens poisoning
- Scombroid (or histamine) poisoning
- Shellfish poisoning
- Staphylococcus aureus poisoning
- Mushroom poisoning
Some of these bacteria can stick around and take up residence in the gut long after the initial infection has passed. After you recover from the acute symptoms, if you still don’t feel quite right, make sure to get stool testing (I recommend the GI MAP which you can order here) to check for pathogens or parasites. Also consider breath testing for SIBO. Some 80 percent of SIBO cases are caused by food poisoning because the pathogens damage the migrating motor complex in the gut.
All that said, no matter what type of food poisoning you have, there are immediate steps you can take to lessen the duration and feel better.
How to Treat Food Poisoning
Note: these are adult dosages. While all these remedies are safe for children, you’d need to consult a doctor to determine dosages and safety based on your kid’s age and weight.
First off, how do you know you have it? Symptoms include stomach pain and cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, dizziness, chills, fever, and headache.
The absolute first thing to do if you think you’ve been food poisoned is to take activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is adsorptive, meaning it binds poisons and toxins in the gut. The chemicals are trapped in the holes of this porous substance rather than being absorbed. The charcoal isn’t absorbable by your body, so it passes through the GI tract, taking bound toxins with it. Take 2 charcoal tab/caps three times daily, preferably away from other supplements, with plenty of water. If you puke it up, take the dose again.
Secondly, start taking oil of oregano. Again, take 2 caps three times daily. It kills viruses and bacteria and basically most, if not all, pathogens. I don’t recommend taking drops of oregano essential oil internally, as it burns and may damage the delicate esophageal tissue unless you put it in a capsule first. Thieves essential oil (a blend of oils that kill germs) in the diffuser will kill airborne pathogens and may help you recover when applied to the bottoms of the feet.
If you have colloidal silver you can take that too. It’s a powerful antibiotic and antiviral. Here’s my post on it.
You can do freshly grated ginger tea for nausea. A shot of apple cider vinegar in a little water 2-3 times a day may help also. Peppermint tea is soothing to the stomach.
Stick to plain bone broth or bone broth-based soups with easy to digest cooked veggies such as sweet potato and zucchini or spinach for a few days while your digestion recovers. Chicken broth actually increases killer T cell activity. Drink plenty of water. If you have diarrhea, try bananas, smoothies, rice as you’re easing back into normal foods.
Also take a probiotic every 2 hours if you have diarrhea. One with saccharomyces boulardii, like this one, especially helps combat the runs.
Can Food Poisoning Be Prevented?
So here’s the thing. Your body was built to prevent food poisoning. Your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) should be very acidic, about a pH of 2, to kill any bacteria or pathogens that hitchhike in on your food. This is why the majority of your immune system is in your gut: Through the mouth and down the gullet is the most vulnerable place for you to be poisoned.
All that said, if your digestion is in good working order, you can likely fight off a potential case of food poisoning. However, most of us, especially as we age, do not have optimally functioning digestion. We’re producing overly alkaline hydrochloric acid that doesn’t kill pathogens, and we have poor probiotic diversity. If you experience regular GI symptoms like heartburn, gas, bloating, or constipation, you need a digestive tuneup. Read how here. Simply taking digestive enzymes and a probiotic will help immensely.
Daily Habits Prevent Food Poisoning
Day to day, make sure to wash your hands before you eat; cook your food properly; store food properly and at the right temperature; and pay attention to food prep. That means washing hands after handling meat, and don’t use the same knife and cutting board for veggies after you’ve used them with meat. Sometimes if I suspect I’ve eaten something dodgy, I’ll take hydrochloric acid tabs just to ensure I have enough acid to kill off any offenders.
Finally, buying your meat from smaller production local farms is a good way to ensure the animals were healthy and that the meat was handled properly, and it’s probably fresher.
Food poisoning is the pits, but these tips will help. Get the diffuser going, cozy up in bed with some Netflix and natural remedies (you can probably find all these at Whole Foods if you don’t order through the links, BUT good idea to have them on hand, especially if you have kids!), and you’ll feel better faster than you think.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
Hi, thank you very much for the post. I recently had food poisoning and it was so painful, therefore I am finding for a solution just in case I get the next food poisoning.
I have 2 question regarding your post.
1. “Secondly, start taking oil of oregano. Again, take 2 caps three times daily. I don’t recommend taking drops of oregano essential oil internally, as it burns and may damage the delicate esophageal tissue unless you put it in a capsule first.”
Q: So are you saying we have to buy the pill oregano instead of oil oregano?
2. “If you have colloidal silver you can take that too.”
Q: Do I need to take both Oil of Oregano and Colloidal Silver or I should go for either one?
Thanks a lot. Look forward to your advice.
Yes, I recommend taking oil of oregano in capsules. I’ve linked to the one I like. Oil of oregano is the priority, but if you have colloidal silver, it acts as a natural antibiotic and anti-viral.
Thanks for your reply. Can I take both (Oil of Oregano & Colloidal Silver at the same time) during food poisoning or flu?
Why do you recommend against chicken broth? I thought Killer T cells were helpful in fighting illness.
J I do recommend chicken broth (I call it “plain bone broth) in this post and do point out that it boosts T cell activity.
Is this safe for children?
Hi Ann, these recs are for adults. These supplements are safe for children, but you’d need to consult your child’s doctor to determine the correct dosage.
Great website. I had a food poisoning episode 8 months ago and haven’t been the same since. A stool culture confirmed one colony of bacilus cereus. I’ve just completed a 7 day clear liquids fast and am now introducing bone broth. I’ve tried activatewd charcoal (to no avail), and have simply managed this bacterial invasion through 16 strains of probiotics and one prebiotic. Any thoughts?
Hi Sam, depending on what stool test you did, I typically recommend a 4-step treatment with anti-microbial herbs and gut repair, similar to https://www.maryvancenc.com/4-step-plan-heal-gut/
Fasting and charcoal will not kill bad bacteria if that is the culprit.
Hi Mary, thank you so much for this highly informative post! I believe I got food poisoning recently during a day of travel (although motion sickness, stale airport/airplane air, dehydration and using double masks for more than 12 hours also may have contributed) and I’m better from acute symptoms (those were really only a few hours) but my stomach doesn’t feel quite right (just mildly) six days later so I’m looking into options to heal my gut. I’m thinking about charcoal, oil of oregano and probiotics. How long would you recommend taking these?
I’m also considering asking my doctor about the tests you recommend – at what point would you recommend those? I live in a rural area where we don’t go into town much so it’s quite the commitment to do something like that so hoping to not have to but also not wanting this to turn into a longer term problem!
Thank you so much for all of your help!
Hi Elizabeth, ideally if you continue to feel off, you’d do the GI MAP test (which you can order here https://store.directlabs.com/rs/Mvan
and have it delivered to your home, then Fed EX will pick up the sample from your house) to see if there are any pathogens present. That will also let you know how to tailor your herbal treatment. If you want to skip that for now, you can do a month of GI MicrobX (2 three times a day) https://maryvancenc.ehealthpro.com/products/gi-microb-x-120-capsules
and oil of oregano mentioned in the post (1 three times per day) for a month. The charcoal is really for bloating as needed and to help bind toxins.