Food Poisoning: In Most Cases, It’s Not The Last Thing You Ate

When you find yourself kneeling in front of a toilet and looking at your dinner in reverse, the first thing you want to blame for vomiting is the last meal you ate. There may be some other causes behind the problem, and it turns out the last meal is unlikely to be the culprit, and the actual offender can be traced to a potato salad eaten several days ago.

Image Credit: powerofpositivity.com

It may come as a surprise, but most cases of food poisoning occur not because of the weird-looking dish you ate a couple of hours ago at a local ethnic restaurant. We are used to hearing that such places are more likely to be the source of contaminated food, but it appears that many of such claims are not based on evidence. Actually, no restaurant, café or household is free from such a possibility, as anyone can fail to wash hands properly and become a mount for bacteria.

Not a uni-corn

The fact that it is “the meal before meal” that is to blame is explained by the timing used by your body to process food. It takes your stomach 4-6 hours to prepare ingested food for the next stage, which lasts another 6-8 hours and takes place in the small intestine. After that, it travels to your colon, where it can stay for as long as 1-3 days before you flush it.

Bowel transit times may vary, and it’s difficult to say which one you have unless you test it. The simplest way to do it is to consume corn, and calculate how many hours it took them to appear in your toilet. As they are not digestible, they will be easy to detect in feces.

A bitter bug to swallow

In most cases, there is a common bug behind food poisoning. Among the bugs being responsible for sessions in the bathroom most often are Campylobacter, E. coli, and Norovirus, but the list of them is quite long.

It can be a challenge to determine which one is the culprit, as symptoms overlap, and some of them require similar periods of incubation until the infection manifests itself. The FDA has compiled a chart in which they stated common signs and symptoms associated with a particular microorganism infection, the time symptoms take to develop, and common food sources.

Where do they come from?

If you do not wash your hands properly, your food is likely to be contaminated with germs. Playing with your dog should be followed by hand-washing; public transport vehicles harbor a lot of microorganisms, and failing to remove them from your hands before eating can lead to health problems.

Restaurants and cafes have a higher risk of being a source of contaminated food, because there are more people involved in cooking. However, it does not mean your kitchen is a safer place. Do you still wash raw chicken? Well, you shouldn’t: the droplets contaminated with bacteria will spread all over the place and get to kitchen surfaces and other foods, leaving you wondering what led to those hours of fatigue. There is a list of foods which are more likely to be home to germs that find it easy to get inside humans.
Not the only cause

Besides bugs, there are plenty of things which can cause vomiting, nausea, fever and other symptoms of food poisoning. Stress, depression, gastrointestinal reflux, allergy, medications, an overdose of some carbohydrates like oligosaccharides, polyols and some others – all of them can be behind it.

If there is no blood in your stool and vomit, the fever is not debilitating, you do not feel extreme fatigue, and there is no severe pain, cases of food poisoning do not normally require medical assistance: you should relax and drink water to replenish fluid supplies depleted by diarrhea and vomiting. However, if you feel something serious is happening, call an ambulance.

Image Credit: cdc.gov
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