Food Poisoning 101: Recognizing and Preventing Illness

April 02, 2019

Every year, 1 in 6 Americans (about 48 million people) will get sick with food poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that 128,000 of those people will be sick enough to require hospitalization, while as many as 3,000 may die. Food poisoning (also called foodborne illness or foodborne disease) is caused by eating food that is contaminated by harmful bacteria, viruses, or toxins. 

As common as food poisoning is, it’s a good idea to become familiar with its causes and symptoms so you can recognize it when it strikes. At AltaMed, we care about you and your family’s health, so we’ve put together this easy guide to understand the common sources of food poisoning, and tips for preventing it from affecting you or your family.

Food Poisoning Causes

Microscopic creatures

You can get food poisoning from food that has been contaminated with parasites, allergens, or toxic substances—these can be chemicals or toxins that occur in nature like mold or certain mushrooms. The most common causes of food poisoning, though, are bacteria and viruses like salmonella, norovirus, campylobacter, E. coli, and listeria.

 

Food Poisoning Symptoms

Ill man resting in a couch

Those with food poisoning usually suffer upset stomach, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. It may take a few hours or even days to develop the symptoms, but the contaminant that is the source of the poisoning will determine the severity of your illness and how long you’ll be ill. Most people will only experience mild symptoms for a few days, but there is a risk that the illness may be bad enough to require hospitalization, lead to long-term health problems, or even result in death.

 

When It’s Time to Call the Doctor

African American woman talking to her doctor

You should contact your doctor if you are experiencing severe symptoms that last more than a few days. If you have blood in your stool, a high fever (over 101.5°F), frequent vomiting, the inability to keep liquids down, or diarrhea for more than three days, all of which can result in dehydration, it’s time to make that call.

 

Who Is Most Likely to Get Sick?

Grandson and grandmother hugging

Some people in your home are more likely to get ill from contaminated food than others, and their symptoms are often much worse. This includes pregnant women, seniors over 65, people with chronic illnesses, infants and children under 5, and people with weak or compromised immune systems.

 

Plan Ahead

Woman talking on the phone

It’s always a good idea to have a plan for what to do if someone in your home falls ill with food poisoning. You can find out how authorities in your area investigate and control food poisoning outbreaks by checking with local, state, and national agencies. If you or someone you love does show lasting symptoms, report it to your state health department so that they can find the source, let the public know, and keep it from spreading.

 

Tips to Prevent the Spread of Food Poisoning

Hands holding a soap

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching food
  • Wash fruits and vegetables, but not meat and poultry
  • Clean your countertops with hot, soapy water or disinfecting wipes (washcloths and sponges can spread bacteria and viruses)
  • Clean out your refrigerator every few weeks
  • Don’t keep leftovers for more than four days
  • Use a food thermometer when cooking meat
  • Don’t eat undercooked or raw meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices
  • Keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold

 

If you’re still not sure if your symptoms are bad enough for a doctor’s visit, call us at 888-499-9303. We have caring, qualified professionals who can quickly assess your needs, help you find a location, and even schedule a same-day doctor appointment or connect you to the Nurse Advice Line. Food poisoning can be serious – and we’re here to help!

 

Sign Up for Articles

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

The Skinny on Those Tiny Tummy Teas

January 03, 2019

If you follow any celebrities or other influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably seen posts where the celeb is wearing a bikini or other revealing outfit and sipping on a cup of tea -- claiming that those flat abs came not from their personal trainer, a live-in chef, or plastic surgery, but from drinking a weight-loss tea with a cute-sounding name and pink packaging.  You click through the post to a glossy website with amazing before-and-after pictures and positive reviews – and you probably wonder if it’s all for real. 

Since January is the time of year when many people are working on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or save money, we can help you achieve both: don’t waste your money on these teas that make a lot of promises but only make you spend more time in the bathroom. 
 

New Packaging, Same Old Scam


tea
Flat tummy teas are nothing new. If you’ve ever been to a botanica or even your local health food store, you’ve probably seen teas advertising amazing benefits, such as appetite suppression, fat burning, or natural detoxing for your body. These teas have been around for decades. They’re almost the exact same thing that you’re seeing now in your social media feeds, just with different marketing.

So, what’s in them?


Laxatives


woman in pain
Look at the side of the box, and you’ll probably see a lot of ingredients you’ve never heard of – and maybe some you have heard of. Like Senna, which is an FDA-approved laxative that can be purchased over the counter. Senna is what’s called a stimulant laxative, and it acts by revving up the activity of your intestines. Senna is so potent, one slimming tea even comes with a warning:  “You should ensure that you have ready access to a toilet until you know how your body reacts…” 

What the packaging doesn’t tell you is that it’s dangerous to take Senna for more than two weeks. Long-term use can cause your bowels to stop functioning normally, muscle weakness, and heart and liver damage. 


Herbs that Make You Urinate More


toilet paper
Many of these teas also feature fresh-sounding ingredients, such as dandelion, juniper, parsley, and nettle. With ingredients like this, the tea has to be natural and wholesome, right? These are all herbs that have a diuretic effect: they increase the production of urine (you have to pee more). 

Unfortunately, when you drink these teas, you’re not peeing out calories or pounds: you’re peeing out important nutrients like potassium and calcium. Too much, over the long term, can cause dehydration, dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps. 


Caffeine and Other Stimulants


hands on heart
Many weight loss teas also blend ingredients such as caffeine, green tea, guarana, and cayenne to deliver some extra kick (and they will also make you urinate more). These ingredients may boost your metabolism for a short period of time but don’t provide any long-lasting effects. It’s a combination that can be harmful to anyone with high blood pressure or heart conditions. 

Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, and sleeplessness…which may actually be linked to weight gain. 


At Best, These Teas are a Rip-off


woman on computer
Basically, the only thing these teas do is rev up your heart rate and make you spend a lot more time in the bathroom. The only weight you’re losing will quickly come back. And our bodies already have detoxification tools: our liver, kidneys, lungs, and skim are remarkably effective at removing so-called toxins.


At Worst, They Can Cause Long-Term Health Problems


woman on couch
These teas are not FDA-approved – that is, they are not studied or regulated by the American Food & Drug Administration, the federal agency that protects the public by surveying the effectiveness and safety of various foods, drugs, and cosmetics. They may interact with certain medications. They’re not safe to take in the long-term. If you dig a little deeper online, you’ll find reports of women experiencing explosive cramps and menstrual irregularities.
 

Stick to Proven Methods for Healthfully Losing Weight


woman drinking
Any remedy that seems too good to be true usually is. Fortunately, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you shed pounds while increasing your overall level of health. 

If it’s a flat stomach you’re after, there’s no such thing as spot reduction, but toned abs and back muscles can help you stand up straighter, which reduces the appearance of a gut (as well as keeps your back healthy and strong).

Regular tea can also be used in a healthy diet. Black, green, and oolong teas can give your energy a boost and may even fight high blood pressure and cholesterol. Before you start any new health or fitness program, check in with your doctor!