Food Poisoning: Not Just Bacterial

July 29, 2015

Man With Stomach CrampsThere’s a tendency to blame bacteria for everything. We have antibiotics that can (or could) treat them, so perhaps it’s more comforting a thought. And salmonella and E. coli do cause quite a few illnesses.

But viruses can just as often cause food poisoning, from the infamous Norovirus, to the lesser known (and, frankly, studied) Hepatitis A (shellfish, processed produce), and Hepatitis E (pork). Recently discovered, most people have strong enough immune systems to overcome Hep E, even though as many as 20% of people will catch it.

It’s not just viruses, either. Protozoa, and prions (mad cow disease), though rare, can also cause illness. Then there’s parasites—which you’re actually more likely to get from grass fed beef (despite it being otherwise better) because a wandering cow is more likely to come into contact with other parasite carrying animals/their waste (like mice).

Even more rare, and to a certain extent just predicted/theorized, are bird flu and SARS food transmissions. For now, Americans don’t have a strain of bird flu we can catch, but it’s virulent, and new. What direction it mutates will be something to keep a close eye on. As far as SARS, in the outbreak over a decade ago, researchers think that it was contaminated food rather than human to human contact spreading the illness. I wonder if that will be true for MERS as well? At least officials are on top of the current outbreak, so we should have good data soon.

While most people don’t develop serious complications from food poisoning, it’s not fun. Prevent food poisoning by washing your hands and your food (especially non-smooth skinned produce, like lettuce and berries). And cook your food through. While it can be occasionally delicious to cheat health guidelines and have, say, a pink burger, apply sound judgement: where did it come from, what’s its age, how/by whom was it prepared?

People with weakened immune systems should be over-zealous food safety followers. Cook your steaks through a bit more to avoid toxoplasmosis and other issues, heat up your deli meat, maybe error on the side of overcooking your pork and chicken.

Get sick? Stay hydrated, and head to a doctor if you think you’ve got more going out then in.

And support your immune system. We have a great food distribution system when you think about it’s sheer size—and it gets better all the time. The downside, however, is that you never know when or where something will creep through. There are most likely foods including anything overly processed (pre-cut fruit to pre-made dinners). People with weakened immune system should keep an eye on recalls (check our Twitter feed or follow us on Facebook).

Be prepared: support your immune system so you’re at your best when an outbreak happens. Missing a good night’s sleep, having a junk-food day, giving up on exercise is a bit of a roll of the dice. Keep at those foundations, and add in the additional support of colloidal silver.

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