Managing Food Poisoning with Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Foodborne illnesses or food poisoning are common and affect ? of the population in developed countries at one point every year. In undeveloped countries, these numbers are much higher.

In the US alone in 2022, the CDC statistics report 48 million people suffering from food poisoning a year, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths yearly from foodborne diseases. [1]

Of the 250 identified pathogens that cause food poisoning, viruses, such as norovirus; bacteria, such as SalmonellaEscherichia coli, CampylobacterListeria, Clostridium, and Staphylococcus; and parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii and Giardia are the nine most common pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.

New pathogens constantly emerge, whereas others decrease in significance or disappear entirely. 

Foodborne illness is a major global issue, and food recalls are becoming more common. 

Improper handling of foods, inadequate storage facilities, faulty cooking, faulty food production methods, and regular antibiotic use (in people and farm animals leading to antibiotic resistance) are all predisposing factors for foodborne illness outbreaks. 

The symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea (with or without blood), vomiting, and abdominal cramping. Within a few hours, you may also suffer from headaches caused by dehydration, and if the infection is severe, fever, muscle, and joint pains may also occur, sometimes so much so that you cannot move your limbs. 

The symptoms are sudden and may begin between 6 to 24 hours after ingesting contaminated food. 

Most foodborne illnesses go away on their own; however, food poisoning can lead to dehydration when left unmanaged, which can be fatal if left ignored.

Foodborne illness is usually self-limiting, only occasionally being severe enough to warrant hospitalization or cause death.

Treatment usually involves symptom management, rehydration if the person is clinically dehydrated, and antibiotic therapy. 

Here are natural ways to manage and prevent food poisoning through diet and lifestyle changes:

1. Consume foods rich in antimicrobial compounds

There are natural antimicrobial compounds in foods that serve as inexpensive yet effective ways to manage food poisoning.

Some plant-derived compounds have antimicrobial activity against some of the common food pathogens mentioned previously.

Some polyphenol-rich foods have high concentrations of antimicrobial compounds that inhibit bacterial growth or replication. Furthermore, some polyphenols work synergistically with other compounds, making them even more potent antimicrobials. [2-3]

Examples of such foods with high levels of polyphenol compounds include citrus fruits, honey, Muscadine grape skins, and varieties of grape seeds. These foods are rich in gallic and ellagic acids, which show significant antimicrobial activity against the food borne pathogen S. aureus. [3]

Aloe vera and eucalyptus also have potent antimicrobial activity [4] due to alkaloids, fatty acids, sulfur, and other compounds that amount to hundreds of molecules with antimicrobial activity in these foods.

I recommend consuming aloe vera juice made by scraping aloe vera gel from the plant directly into a blender, adding water or juice, adding lemon, and blending, then drinking. You may also make some eucalyptus leaf tea and drink it.

Tomatidine found in red and green tomatoes is a bactericidal agent against variants of S. aureus. [5-6] 

Allicin and capsaicin found in garlic and chili peppers control the replication of the staphylococcal ?-toxin. [7-8]

You may also combine tomatoes, garlic, and chili peppers into a paste and eating it when you have food poisoning. This is a very potent antimicrobial recipe.

Combining different natural compounds together enhances their antimicrobial and antitoxin activities. So if you have food poisoning, you may consume all of these recommended foods during the first day with symptoms to prevent any escalation of the illness. [9]

2. Fluid and electrolyte therapy

Vomiting or diarrhea as a result of food poisoning can lead to dehydration. Fluid therapy involves assessing fluid and electrolyte loss. [10] Increasing water intake is best for remaining hydrated and rehydration. Another way to rehydrate is by eating fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as tomatoes, oranges, and grapes. Electrolytes are necessary for combating dehydration because they are salts and minerals that maintain fluid balance and blood pressure. To replenish electrolyte balance, drink coconut water. Coconut water also contains natural sugar that works well in replenishing energy stores. See my article on how to rehydrate here xxx

3. Follow a simple diet during foodborne illness.

To help alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea from food poisoning, you want to eat as little as possible and allow the body to remove the toxins yet still have the energy to heal itself. Bland fiber-rich foods will help expel the digestive tract pathogens and provide you with energy. A bland diet of brown rice or wholegrain toast, along with the foods mentioned above, will stop the pathogen from multiplying, help destroy the pathogen and block its harmful activity, and will ensure you heal as quickly as possible. These bland foods are also less acidic, which prevents pathogen multiplication. [11]

Although most people lose all appetite when suffering from foodborne illness, some people will still feel hungry. When feeling hungry, you want to avoid processed foods, fried food, dressings, and all animal products.


Prevention is always better than treatment. Following these simple basic hygiene practices, you will avoid most food pathogen illnesses. [12]

1. Wash your hands using soap before touching or preparing foods. Clean kitchen surfaces and appliances often, especially if you are preparing animal-based meals. Also, wash fresh vegetables and fruits under running water, especially if they were near animal-based products. Do not use the same utensils or cutting boards for different food groups.

2. Cook foods sufficiently. Thoroughly cook foods from animal origin to kill all germs. Reheat all foods only once after preparation. If heated more than once, the pathogens multiply too much to eliminate them all.

3. Storage – When storing foods, do so promptly, preferably under one hour after food is prepared. Before refrigeration, do not let food sit for longer than two hours at room temperature. 

4. Temperature – Also, ensure your refrigerator is cold enough. Bacteria multiply rapidly if left at a temperature above 4°C (40°F). Therefore you should keep your refrigerator below this temperature, and the freezer should be set below -18°C (0°F).

5. Consume a plant-based diet. Almost all foods that cause foodborne illness are animal-based. Sprouts are the only plant-based foods that may cause food poisoning if not grown in clean conditions or kept for too long. Otherwise, consuming a plant-based diet will help you avoid nearly all foodborne illnesses.

After illness and as a prevention for future illness

Take probiotic supplements

Researchers have recognized probiotics as having preventive properties in many disorders for their ability to improve the gut’s microbial community. Probiotics contain live organisms that promote the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. [13] Probiotic supplements can help replenish the normal intestinal flora that you lost while taking antibiotics, eating foods that support an unhealthy microbiome, and any previous food poisonings, vomiting, and diarrhea bouts. Probiotic supplementation replaces good bacteria that you may have lost and helps the body purge the digestive tract and eliminate harmful bacteria you may have introduced to the digestive tract through contaminated food. 

I recommend taking a probiotic supplement daily for two weeks. The probiotic supplement should contain at least ten different microbial strains and at least 100 billion microbes to be effective.

To conclude

The best way to avoid foodborne pathogens is by properly cooking, cleaning, and storing food at the right temperature. But, consuming a whole food plant-based diet made from natural foods and avoiding animal products is your best bet. If you think you have food poisoning, consume a variety of polyphenol-rich foods mentioned above and remember to rehydrate, take electrolytes and help your digestive system regain health. Probiotic supplements and a bland diet will help your body remove the toxins as fast as possible. 

All references are found at this link: I keep this list updated. 

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb


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