The only sound I could make, other than some rather unpleasant rumblings from my convulsing tummy, resembled that of Lurch from The Adams Family. You know, that long, deep monotone, guttural sound somewhere between a groan and a moan. I’d awoken with a start from a deep slumber to make a mad dash for the loo at 5AM with intense stomach cramps, nausea, the trots, chills, fever, and aching all over. Daisy helped blaze a trail with me – her big brown concerned eyes never letting me out of her sight. She’s a good nurse dog and I was quite grateful. Food poisoning has a way of making you feel like a frightened five year again – I wanted my mommy to hold my hand. Her paw was the next best thing.
As I lay spent in my bed, still in the grips of the nausea (a sensation I detest more than any) with an overall malaise that persisted after my body had been completely emptied, I couldn’t help thinking of the first vacation in Ibiza that the ex and I took decades ago. Nick, his manager Michael Berrow, and Monique St.Pierre all ordered oysters at dinner, then teased me over how they’d be feeling frisky and I wouldn’t. I had the last laugh when they were all kissing the porcelain throne for the remainder of the trip. I might have been more empathetic had I known just how dreadful food poisoning actually feels!
So, what does one do when stricken with food poisoning? It’s vitally important to rehydrate, but in a couple small sips every half hour. Your body has most likely lost serious amounts of fluids and electrolytes. Most of us consume at least one liter of fluid a day, and get another liter from the food we eat. Since the stomach has stopped working and you won’t be eating, you need to get at least two liters of fluid back into your system. Stick to water and clear liquids (no dairy or caffeine).
Not that food would appeal in the slightest, but don’t eat for at least three hours after the last time you were sick. The stomach shuts down after being violently ill and stops contracting to digest food, so it will make you vomit. When you do start eating again, stick to the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) for a day or two. These foods are easy to digest, binding, and the bananas are high in potassium which helps replace those lost nutrients. As you start to feel better you can start adding other bland foods back in, but steer clear of dairy, fatty, or sugary foods for a few days at least. I guess the upside is I got a head start on that diet I’ve been planning to do.
I can’t thank my friend Norel enough for making a mercy trip to the pharmacy to pick up some anti-nausea medicine my doctor had called in for me, Tylenol for the fever and aches (aspirin or ibuprofen can irritate your stomach lining), and some Gatorade to help replace my electrolytes. I started feeling much better that evening, but rest is important too. Even after a lot of sleep, lounging in bed watching both seasons of Orange Is the New Black, drinking the recommended fluids, and eating only rice and bananas all weekend my stomach was still queasy on Monday morning.
Food poisoning is serious and can be life-threatening, so if you vomit for more than 24 hours, or diarrhea persists longer than 48 hours, or you have symptoms of extreme dehydration you should consult your doctor, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room. FYI, pregnant women, people with diabetes, and children can get dehydrated much quicker.
There are many different causes and forms of food borne illnesses. Mine came on after a meal I had at a local restaurant on Friday night, but if you think yours might have come from canned goods, or you experience double vision, trouble swallowing, breathing or muscle weakness you may be suffering from botulism and should get medical help immediately.
As a public health safety measure, you should also report the illness, so they can identify and track food borne illnesses. Trust me, once you experience how hellish the symptoms of food poisoning can be, you won’t want anyone else to suffer the same fate. Be prepared for a little bureaucracy – it took seven calls before I reached the correct department. Meanwhile, I’m going to brave adding a few cashews and asparagus to my rice tonight.
Cashew & Asparagus Pilaf
Turn ordinary rice into a colorful, delectable side dish. Whole wheat spaghetti adds a surprising texture and bit of color to the rice along with the cashews, red pepper, and asparagus.