Food poisoning: cause and treatment

If you have suffered food poisoning, you are ill as a result of eating food contaminated with (live) micro-organisms, their toxins, toxic chemicals or poisonous fish, shellfish or plants (mushrooms). The gastrointestinal tract is usually affected, but with botulism the central nervous system is initially affected, thereby disrupting breathing. This is a very life-threatening form.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning can result from improper storage and handling of foods, such as poor refrigeration or touching with dirty hands or equipment. Symptoms usually develop within 48 hours of eating. With some forms of food poisoning (cholera and shigellosis), the symptoms only appear after three to five days.


Food poisoning is suspected if acute gastrointestinal complaints suddenly develop. It is difficult to diagnose unless the same symptoms occur in several people who have eaten the same food or at the same restaurant. The disease usually clears up on its own within one to five days. But as mentioned earlier, there are serious cases that require treatment or admission to a hospital.

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Symptoms of food poisoning

You may notice the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Bloody bowel movements


Causes of food poisoning

It was already mentioned in the introduction that bacterial toxins can cause this condition. These toxins can be formed by excess bacteria in food before it is eaten. But living microorganisms are also risk factors, because they multiply in the body or produce toxins. In addition, toxic metals and the aforementioned poisonous fish, crustaceans and shellfish or plants (mushrooms) can also be identified as the cause.

Prevention: prevent food poisoning

Wash your hands well with soap and water before preparing the meal. Also ensure that foods are stored, cleaned, cooked and handled correctly. Don’t buy or use food from rusty, expanded, or leaking cans (a bulging can of tomato paste is a perfect example). Be sure not to taste the food to see if it has spoiled. In addition, do not eat mushrooms you pick yourself and throw away questionable leftovers immediately. Prevention is better than cure!

Treatment of food poisoning

Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and take anti-diarrheal medication (for example Norit). Remedies are available at common drugstores. In severe cases, an antiemetic may be given, although the body gets rid of the toxins through vomiting. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed depending on the specific source of infection.

To the doctor

See a doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Fever (above 38.5 degrees Celsius)
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal pain



Even if the symptoms do not disappear within a week, you should consult a doctor. There may be life-threatening complications in people with reduced resistance. Such as the elderly, young children and, for example, AIDS or cancer patients. These should be taken to a doctor immediately.

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