You have just been through a bout of food poisoning or stomach “bug” and you’re wondering why you still cannot eat a normal diet. The worst symptoms, vomiting and/or diarrhea are over, thankfully, but your stomach is still a bit gurgly and upset.
One potential cause could be the Norovirus, which is a highly contagious and easily contracted from an infected person, food, water, or a contaminated surface.
As you recover from your illness, it is important to consider whether your food poisoning either a virus, a parasite or bacteria caused the food poisoning. If you have a sensitive stomach, your condition may lead to a condition known as “Post-Infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
A viral “food poisoning” most often has a rapid, violent onset, reaching a peak of vomiting and diarrhea and resolves within 24 to 48 hours. Viral food poisoning can leave you feeling nauseous and unable to tolerate your normal diet.
A parasite should be suspected if the food poisoning happened during or after travel. The most common parasite in the U.S. is giardia and can be contracted by inadvertently ingesting water when swimming in a lake, river or stream, or drinking water from an untreated non-municipal supply, such as a country well.
A bacterial food poisoning may set in within 6 to 12 hours after exposure to contaminated food. If it sets in earlier, such as after eating potato salad or rice that has been sitting warm for several hours, it is more likely an exposure to a bacterial toxin. This type of infection leads to violent vomiting that resolves quickly.
Diarrhea, abdominal pain and also possibly vomiting and nausea usually characterize bacterial food poisonings. Bacterial food poisoning usually lasts 3 to 4 days and may require antibiotics.
If left untreated, bacterial and parasitic infections may persist for weeks. As discussed in my upcoming book on Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stool studies notoriously miss parasitic infections and may even miss a bacterial infection. If your symptoms persist, you should consult with your doctor for testing and treatment.
Regardless of the cause, a food poisoning leads to a leaky gut and reduce your ability to digest and absorb nutrients. I recommend taking a supplement that helps heal the intestinal mucosal barrier.
Saccharomyces boulardii (5 million cfu’s – measurement of viable bacteria) contains friendly yeast that binds toxins and helps line and protect the intestines and restore the normal functioning of the cells, thus reducing diarrhea and improving digestion. It is available OTC as Florastor®. Take 2 to 3 capsules up to three times a day, tapering off as symptoms improve.
Next you need to repopulate your gut with friendly bacteria aith Probiotics. These little bacterial helpers are just as necessary for a healthy intestinal tract as your own cells. Choose a high count, lactose-free probiotic with at least 50 billion cfu’s per capsule. Take 1 capsule twice a day before meals.
While recovering, eat a dairy-free, gluten-free diet. As your symptoms improve, you may want to incorporate a small amount of cultured foods. A basic Congee Rice Soup with immune-boosting shiitake, maitake or Reishi mushrooms and anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger will also help settle your unruly stomach and improve digestion.
Herbal teas that can soothe the stomach and reduce nausea include chamomile, ginger and fennel tea. I also recommend Stomach Ease and Ginger Tea by Yogi Tea. Sip the tea plain or add a little agave and a sprig of mint.
Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City. Follow Dr. Pedre on Facebook and Twitter.