Have you ever been caught unaware by food poisoning while travelling? The condition notoriously strikes during travels and more so in warm weather. A seasoned traveller rarely travels without an array of medicines to combat the situation. But what if you aren’t one of these people? Don’t worry, use this guide to know what causes it and how to tackle food poisoning.
Causes of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is caused due to eating food that is contaminated with infectious organisms or their toxins. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of eating the tainted food, and you may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or abdominal pain. You may also have a fever accompanying the symptoms. Most cases of food poisoning are mild and settle in a few days as long as you stay well hydrated. However, some patients may experience symptoms severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Kong Teck Chuan, “Food poisoning results from Dampness and Heat in the digestive system. It may also be caused by other imbalances like Cold and Dampness or Food Stagnation. He also warns that it may progress to jing (essence) and Qi Deficiency and even the collapse of yang (active energy).
Are you planning to pop in some of the over-the-counter (OTC) medicine available to stop diarrhoea? Be aware that diarrhoea is your body’s way of purging itself from infectious agents and toxins. By stopping the flow, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Hence, if you must, take these medicines only under the guidance of a doctor. A more prudent solution would be to opt for natural remedies.
Here are some tips to fight food poisoning the traditional way.
Natural Remedies Against Food Poisoning
Though food poisoning appears to be a minor ailment, it can leave you drained for days. Take this opportunity to give some well-needed rest to your digestive system and body.
Ensure you replace the water your body is losing by staying adequately hydrated. An oral rehydration solution is the best way to restore the balance of water and electrolytes lost. These are available as ready-to-drink or powder sachets which need to be mixed in water. If you can’t get your hands on them, try the following simple recipe to make it at home:
- 3 pinches of salt
- 1 scoop of sugar
- 1/2 litre of clean drinking or boiled water
Add the salt and sugar into the water and stir until dissolved.
After drinking this solution for a day, your urine should be clear and not a dark colour.
Give your stomach the rest it needs
Avoid spicy, oily or fatty food until your symptoms ease. Also, stay away from dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol. Start with eating small portions of bland and easy to digest food like congee. Add a slice or two of ginger while cooking it to get the benefits of its anti-spasmodic and anti-infective properties.
Homemade yoghurt or curd is a great way to restore the friendly gut bacteria that gets lost with food poisoning. Just add a spoon of yoghurt to a glass of warm milk and leave it undisturbed to set for a few hours. If you don’t want the hassle, your neighbourhood supermarket has many ready-to-eat options in multiple flavours. Probiotic drinks also help to build up your stores of healthy gut bacteria.
If you have trouble keeping things down, look no further than your kitchen cabinet. Stir in two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water. Sip this mixture slowly till your nausea is gone.
Activated charcoal is a another great way to neutralise and eliminate toxins. Take it with plenty of water.
Your TCM pharmacy will be well-stocked with TCM remedies for food poisoning. These are good to keep handy in your first aid kit, especially when travelling.
- Po chai pills (保济): These provide relief from symptoms when Dampness is predominant. They quickly reduce gas, nausea and vomiting
- Huang lian su pills (黄连素): These are most effective when the food poisoning is caused by Heat. These pills contain Berberine, which has antibacterial activity and helps dispel toxins.
If you are up for a visit to your acupuncturist, acupuncture is an effective treatment option for food poisoning. If you are not feeling like getting out of the house, you can always try self-administered acupressure. Physician Chuan recommends applying pressure and massaging the following points:
- Gong sun (SP4, 公孙): Located on the inner aspect of the foot in the depression below the base of the first metatarsal bone
- Nei guan (PC6, 内关): Located on the inner arm near the wrist.
- Gua sha therapy on these acupoints and on tian shu (ST25, 天枢) are also helpful to relieve the symptoms and recover from food poisoning.
With these natural remedies, you should be able to control the symptoms of food poisoning and restore balance to your body. However, do see the doctor if you are having any of the following symptoms:
- Blood in vomit or stools
- Diarrhoea lasting longer than three days
- Frequent episodes of vomiting and inability to keep liquids down
- Severe abdominal cramps
- High fever
- Excessive thirst, little or no urine, dry mouth, dizziness and fainting episodes
- Blurry vision, muscle weakness and tingling numbness in the arms and legs
Of course, prevention is better than cure. Next time, be careful of what and where you eat. Uncooked meats, salads, and shellfish are notorious for causing food poisoning. It is safer to consume food cooked over high heat. Eat from hygienic places and avoid places with flies hovering around food. Throw away stale food or food that has not been refrigerated and always look out for the expiry dates on packaged foods.
Don’t let food poisoning ruin your vacations. Keep this guide handy, and make sure some natural remedies find a place in your first aid kit!
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