It is the fag end of the rainy season and there is an unusual amalgamation of all weathers in this part of the country. It is also the time for many pathogens to gain strength and infections are the most common. The most affected are the respiratory and the gastrointestinal systems. The pathogens lurking in the foods that are spread easily causes food poisoning. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea or loose motions and cramps in the abdomen.
• Everything ingested is vomited out and the individual has nausea all the time.
• There could be loose motions with the patients sometimes passing the stools involuntarily. The stool could be very loose and watery, and, sometimes, filled with mucus and undigested food.
• There could be blood in the stool if it is dysentery.
• Fever could be associated with viral and bacterial infections, usually called stomach flu.
• Abdominal cramps may be severe and upset their work schedule.
• All these could be self-limiting but if remain uncontrolled could lead to dehydration which is the main reason for worry.
Causes of food poisoning
• The chemical contamination of foods that are usually mixed to store the food for a long time can cause the symptoms within a day of consuming the food. Such patients develop shortness of breath, difficulty in swallowing, etc. The common toxins in fish and mushroom storage can cause diarrhoea, muscle cramps, headache, and numbness of the body, and in severe cases, hallucinations.
• Staphylococcus bacteria are another common cause which releases toxins into the food and when consumed cause vomiting. Poorly cooked foods and raw rice are likely to contain similar bacteria. Clostridium is another spore that is dormant in the refrigerated hours and can germinate in cooked meat which is stored in warmth and can cause loose motions within 12 hours of consumption.
• If diarrhoea later turns into dysentery, that is bloody and mucus filled stools, it is due to the bacterial infection of the large, usually accompanied by abdominal pain. Campylobacter and Shigella are such bacteria in contaminated food and water.
• Typhoid causing and some non-typhoid causing Salmonella infections find their prey through poorly cooked foods – mostly chicken and eggs. All these infections occur within one to three days of ingestion of these foods.
• There are some bacteria which can affect both small and large intestine at the same time. E.coli, called the traveller’s diarrhoea, and Vibrio cholera spread through contaminated water. So does the Rotavirus. Worse could be Clostridium botulinum. These too cause an infection within three days.
• Some strains of E.coli and Yersinia take a little longer to incubate in the human body i.e., three to five days.
• Parasites can stay put in the human body and start to show their symptoms even after a month of entering. Giardiasis, Amoebiasis through drinking water and Trichinosis from undercooked pork and meat are the usual ones.
All the symptoms do resolve soon with fluid diet and rest with one to two days. But, if the fever, blood in the stools, loose motions, vomiting and signs of dehydration set in, a homeopath needs to be consulted.
Homeopathic remedies like Nux vomica, Aloe, Podophyllum, Veratrum album will help in bringing down the bowel movements, thereby preventing dehydration, while Ipecac will help in nausea and vomiting. To help assimilate electrolytes, Kali mur, Natrum mur, Solidago are useful. To keep the infection at bay, Merc sol, Colocynth is equal to the task.
Needless to say, prevention is the key. Foods should be cooked thoroughly while the leftovers should be refrigerated immediately to prevent the growth of bacteria. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly will help clear the dirt, chemicals and pesticides and infectious agents. Washing hands before handling food for cooking or eating is primary. To prevent cross contamination of foods, it is necessary to keep the cutting board, knife and the vessels hygienic.