The other day, this guy mentioned how he’s had food poisoning twice in his life and how awful it was. He was going through the gory details as if he thought maybe I wouldn’t understand. All I was thinking was, twice in your life?! You’re so lucky! I’ve probably had it twice in the past year! So, maybe I do have a sensitive stomach. If there were a way in which it wouldn’t cause utter hideous pain, I could get big bucks using this stomach of mine as, perhaps, a device to test restaurant food quality or sanitary environment or something. The scale could range from amount of cramping, how many hours or days it lasted, how many times I yelled, “Get the #$&% out of here!” to anyone in the house who asked through the bathroom door, “are you okay?”…etc….
The California Department of Health Services gets close to 27,000 reported cases of food poisoning each year. Because there are many more cases of food poisoning that are never reported, the actual number of food poisoning cases per year is unknown. The annual incidence of food poisoning nation wide is estimated to be as high as 80 million cases, with 300,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 or more deaths annually.
The only time in my life I had an official hospital stay – meaning not some stitchable cut or contusion or broken bone sports-related visit to the ER – was the after-effects of eating a BLT at the House of Pancakes in Agoura, California. I was maybe ten-years-old but recall the day: my team winning our soccer game, the drive to the after-game family meal, ordering and eating my food…and then it fades to black. I was out for about a week, they told me I almost died, and the only part of the actual hospital stay I remember was how absolutely stoked I was to wake up to the gift of a Mattel Handheld Electronic Soccer game. By the time I left the hospital I fit into my four-years-younger sister’s pants (my mom having grabbed the wrong ones).
There are important differences in terms of food process hazard control among the three phrases that describe the various forms of foodborne illness, which are: 1) food poisoning (a chemical poison or natural toxin in the food, not made by a microorganism), 2) food infection (food containing living, vegetative pathogenic microorganisms that multiply in the body to cause diarrhea as well as other forms of illness such as vomiting, fever, etc.), and 3) food intoxication (specifically, either Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, or Clostridium botulinum multiplying in the food, thus making toxins).
I always remember where I got the food and what bathroom I ended up in. And despite wisps o’ wisdom from numerous folk regurgitating ol’ wive’s tales that it takes at least 12-24 hours before you feel the effects – it’s certainly not always the case (for me rarely the case). Depending on the bacteria or toxin involved, I almost always feel it very shortly after eating the food. The last few incidents: Costco (already cooked) crab – it’s a risk I no longer take; Caesar’s salad – seems innocent enough, ’til I ate one at that cute little pizza place in Volcano Village – recommend trying the pasta instead. It always feels like you’re dying, or maybe the closest a non-birther might get to the feeling of giving birth – one of those extremes. Usually they are smaller bouts of course – and likely go under the more accurate title of foodborne illness. Like the one today. What was I thinking ordering fast-food chili, fries and a chocolate malt? I’m learning though. I know now that one of the worst things one can do is try to keep it down. Just like when one has been “inflicted” with a bad case of alcohol poisoning. The minute you know you went too far, that the world feels as if it’s spinning at a variable and tilt inconsistent with reality and your body can’t handle the turmoil…you need to throw it up! To get the poison out of your system A.S.A.P. The sooner it’s expelled the better you will feel. So I did it, went to the bathroom, swallowed a couple charcoal pills with as much water as I could manage and within minutes all good.
Most cases of gastrointestinal symptoms are due to viral infections and are not true cases of food poisoning. Diagnosis of true food poisoning is difficult because of the many organisms found in different kinds of foods and varying incubation periods. The delay between consumption and appearance of the first symptoms is called the incubation period. This ranges from hours to days (and rarely months or even years causing certain diseases), depending on the agent, and on how much was consumed. If symptoms occur within 1–6 hours after eating the food, it suggests that it is caused by a bacterial toxin or a chemical rather than live bacteria. After eating food contaminated with bacteria, it multiplies in the stomach and the bowels. Some bacteria give off a toxin when they multiply. Vomiting and diarrhea are the body’s way of eliminating the toxin.
I mean I felt really good. Even though the cramps hurt and I hate that feeling of the uncontrollable cold sweat, in some respects the end results of this toxic elimination are something similar to a cleanse. I mean, people are spending hundreds of dollars for colonics, thousands on detox retreats, downing Master Cleanses, popping herbal remedies, choking on irritating icky-tasting psyllium fiber…. Just like “medicines” that act as poisons in large doses but cure in low ones, contaminated foods that don’t injure the body might in fact offer some benefits. Maybe purposefully eating foods that induce a purge or flush can be seen as similar to a cat (well, my cat-like dog does it too) who eats grass to cause them to throw-up their hair-balls. An unconventional nutritionist friend of mine used to actually tell me it was good to eat raunchy food every once in a while – that the body actually craved it. Perhaps “raunchy” can even be added to the controversial list of “flavors”: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, astringent/umami, pungent/spicy, kokumi/”mouthfulness”, the newly added “fatty” [maybe the last two are related]. From Aristotle to modern and alternative medicines, there are varying perspectives as to the types of flavors, their effects and how often and in what proportion they should be ingested. Why not raunchy as a flavor that has digestive and purification indications. And what if raunchy was turned into an actual “spice”, to be added to your food let’s say once a month, just enough to run it through the system. Like a fuel treatment or Drano, something that blows out all the piping. Used too much it could damage, but once in a while, in small amounts, clears up any clogs!
An estimated 55% of food poisoning cases are caused by improper cooking and storage of foods, and 24% by poor hygiene (not washing hands before handling food). Only 3% of cases are from an unsafe food source. About 20 organisms can cause foodborne illness.
According to Ayurvedic beliefs, we’re supposed to “allow our unique constitution to determine the proportion of tastes we eat. The body naturally desires tastes that balance its doshic makeup and shuns tastes of an aggravating nature. In this sense, things are made pretty easy for us: If we simply follow our natural inclinations, we are led to the proper foods.” What if I made that u-turn to Kozmic Kones because subconsciously my craving was for the raunchy flavor that my current constitution desired. Maybe I was constipated and didn’t know it. Perhaps other bacteria or virus, an on-coming stomach flu let’s say (though most “stomach flu” is really a “food poisoning”), was breeding in my gut, and this expelled the lot of it. Surely every situation is unique, but if we were better clued-in to our personal, physical needs, might we realize a small bout of food poisoning could have positive results? So, maybe sometimes it’s not so bad to leave your food out a little longer than recommended. On occasion you could try your chances at a beef enchilada from the cheap, grimy local Mexican place. Maybe just a few bites though, keep it regulated, and always know where the nearest bathroom is!
Not all food poisoning organisms cause vomiting as a symptom but almost all organisms cause diarrhea. Blood in the stool is seen in several types of food poisoning and is considered a serious symptom. Abdominal cramps are common, even if vomiting is not present. Fever is infrequent but may be seen. Contact a physician if a fever or bloody stools are present.
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Warning: Please consult your doctor before giving yourself food poisoning or eating at places where food poisoning is likely. Comprehension of sarcasm will help you with this process. Throw up at the first sign of an unhappy tummy. Keep charcoal on hand. Food poisoning is not a joke; diarrhea is a killer. Make certain you rehydrate, replace electrolytes and reintroduce healthy bacteria (acidophilus). • Whatcha might try if truly clogged up but don’t want a the full purge experience: hemp seeds, flax seeds (buy whole and crush in coffee grinder and add to smoothie or atop salad – eat your greens!), flax oil, slightly green bananas, slippery elm bark (pills or tea) or as far as pills go the one that seems least harsh and most effective are rhubarb (great if you’re constipated because of medication you are taking, and/or when traveling -instead of opting for the Montezuma’s Revenge – even we won’t go there!)…. And don’t forget what every momma knows – rub da belly! Chi Ni Tsang!