Food poisoning occurs when a person eats contaminated or undercooked foods tainted with germs such as Campylobacter, E. coli, norovirus, Salmonella, or Vibrio.
When a person eats these foods, they can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, and headache. These symptoms can make it hard to keep down food.
Once a person starts feeling better and they are no longer vomiting, they may wish to start reintroducing foods that will restore their energy.
Best foods and drinks to eat after food poisoning
Bananas and toast are easy-to-digest foods.
When a person reintroduces food after a bout of food poisoning, the goal is to eat foods that are easy to digest. This may mean following a diet for an upset stomach known as the BRAT diet.
BRAT stands for:
The BRAT diet is one of the main dietary recommendations for recovery from gastrointestinal illness.
People suggest this diet is ideal for helping a person recover because the four foods are bland in taste and high in starch. As a result, they help bind stools together and reduce the incidence of diarrhea.
Though research is lacking to confirm the effectiveness of the BRAT diet, there is some evidence that green bananas and rice benefit children with diarrhea.
The banana in the BRAT diet is also high in potassium, which may help replace lost electrolytes.
Other foods to try include:
- fermented foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut
- clear broths, especially bone broths
- low-sugar oatmeal
- plain potatoes
- saltine crackers
- baked chicken without skin
These foods are good to eat because of their blandness, starchiness, and nutritional content. The longer the illness lasts, the more protein a person needs to aid the healing process and prevent muscle breakdown in the absence of enough food and calories.
Once a person can keep down these mild foods, they should be able to return to their regular diet within 24 to 48 hours of being able to tolerate food intake.
Drinks to try
When a person has food poisoning, they lose electrolytes via diarrhea and vomiting. These minerals help maintain the balance of fluids in the body.
As a result, the individual may need to drink oral rehydration solutions. Examples of these include:
These fluids are designed to rehydrate a person after they have been unable to keep foods or drinks down. Oral rehydration solutions are available to purchase online.
Other options include caffeine-free teas. Examples can include ginger or lemon tea. Peppermint teas may also help to soothe an upset stomach. However, a person should try to use oral rehydration solutions first.
It is important to avoid caffeinated drinks, as these can irritate the stomach and some may be more dehydrating than rehydrating.
Research has shown that people can prevent and recover from food-borne illness with foods and supplements containing probiotics or healthy bacteria.
Foods rich in probiotics include some dairy products, such as live yogurt and kefir, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut.
Foods to avoid
Food poisoning often irritates and inflames the stomach and intestines. Consequently, after food poisoning, people may choose to eat foods that do not overstimulate the stomach and are not likely to a cause stomach upset.
Examples of foods to avoid are:
Dairy foods such as cheese, ice cream, and yogurt can upset the stomach after food poisoning. So, people may want to avoid them in favor of hydrating beverages and less-irritating foods.
Fried foods such as fried chicken, french fries, and other high-fat items can all cause rapid emptying of the stomach and worsening diarrhea-related symptoms.
Spicy foods that people prepare with hot peppers can irritate the stomach and result in a stomach upset.
Foods that cause bloating
A person may also wish to avoid foods rich in fermentable carbohydrates. Nutritionists call these FODMAPs, and they can cause bloating in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While few researchers have studied reducing FODMAPs to help with food poisoning, doing so may reduce gas, bloating, or cramping.
Examples of foods rich in FODMAPs include:
Drinks to avoid
Many people may consider electrolyte-containing beverages a good alternative to oral rehydration solutions. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) caution against using electrolyte beverages, such as Gatorade or Powerade, because they are not designed to replace diarrhea-related losses.
These drinks can also contain high amounts of sugar, which can be stimulating to the bowels and could worsen symptoms.
If these drink types are all that a person has available, they should dilute them with water.
Other drinks to avoid include:
- dark sodas
- caffeinated tea
These drinks can affect a person’s hydration status and be more dehydrating than hydrating. In the case of milk, some people develop a temporary lactose intolerance after a gastrointestinal infection and may experience symptoms when drinking it.
When to see a doctor
If a person has a fever above 101.5°F, they should see a doctor.
A person can often treat mild to moderate food poisoning with over-the-counter methods. However, if a person has any of the following symptoms, they may need to see a doctor:
- bloody stools, which can sometimes resemble coffee grounds or have red streaks
- dehydration symptoms, such as little urination, dry mouth, or dizziness
- diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days
- fever above 101.5°F
- vomiting that prevents a person from keeping liquids down
If a person has any of these symptoms, they may need intravenous fluids to re-hydrate them. They can also receive medications to reduce nausea and slow movement in the gut to reduce diarrhea. Sometimes, a person may need to take antibiotics to reduce levels of bacteria in their stomach.
However, a person should usually only take medications to slow diarrhea or stop vomiting after they have had time to rid their body of the infection. Otherwise, the bacteria can remain for a longer time.
Food poisoning is an unpleasant condition that ideally will improve after a few days. A person can carefully start to reintroduce bland foods and hydrating beverages to reduce their symptoms and help them feel stronger after being ill.
However, if people experience dehydration symptoms or blood in their stool or vomit, they should see a doctor. A doctor can recommend further treatments that can help them feel better and overcome their food poisoning.