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Caring for summer’s minor mishaps: food poisoning (Part III)

For lots of my patients (and me!), summertime is about having fun with food. Whether we are traveling abroad or tailgating at the stadium, coming together around meals is a big part of what we do when the weather gets warm.

But during these summer months, I see more people on Mondays with upset stomachs from their weekend exploits than during the rest of the entire year. Even for people who are not inclined to being over adventurous at the table, this is a time of year when it seems more likely that food can wind up being a little (or a lot) “off.”

Typically, the signs and symptoms of food poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and fever, start within hours or days and can last more than a week. Once we’ve consumed the tainted food, we actually feel poisoned and our bodies try to pass it through as quickly as possible.

In Traditional Chinese medicine we recognize two main components to food poisoning:

Dampness – which causes the icky, heavy feelings

Heat – which causes the urgency

Our goal is to rid the body of both this dampness and the heat so that food can be appropriately digested, and nutrients effectively absorbed. When encountering this, here are some tips to help get you feeling better faster.


[pq] Acupuncture is an effective treatment for all kinds of GI upset, including food poisoning. If you are able to get in to see your acupuncturist, treatment can really help to eradicate the symptoms and recover your wellness. [/pq] But we understand that leaving the house isn’t an ideal scenario for a lot of people suffering from food poisoning. For those times when you’re just not able to get out and come to a treatment, here are some things you can do for yourself and achieve results on your road to recovery.


There are two very effective remedies for food poisoning that can be purchased at any Chinese herbal pharmacy. These are great to have in your first aid kit and good to have on hand when you travel.

Po Chai pills – This well known remedy was developed over 100 years ago for quick relief of digestive distress, especially in the cases where dampness is predominant. It can dramatically reduce gas, nausea and vomiting.

Huang Lian Su (huang lian pills) – This is for cases where the heat is prominent and we want to clear it and the pathogen out of the body. Huang Lian pills contain Berberine which is a strong anti-bacterial agent and helps to eliminate toxins by reducing the inflammatory, cytokine responses.

Home Remedies

  • Activated charcoal helps to neutralize and eliminate the poisons. Take six tablets while sipping a full eight ounces of water. Goldenseal Extract is a natural antibiotic for bacterial food poisoning. Be careful not to take goldenseal for more than a few days and do not take it during pregnancy.
  • Kelp to help restore electrolytes that are lost when you’re clearing your body, much like what happens in a movie theater where someone yells “fire” and everyone rushes for the door.
  • Vitamins C & E are helpful detoxify and support immune function.
  • Acidophilus restores healthy, friendly intestinal bacteria that gets lost with diarrhea.
  • Garlic is a powerful detoxifier and natural antibiotic that can destroy unhealthy microbes in the intestines.
  • Apple-Cider Vinegar stir in 2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water. Sip the mixture until it’s gone, drinking it slowly to enhance your chances of keeping it down.

Other Recommendations 

  • Let your stomach settle. Stop eating and drinking for a few hours.
  • Try sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water. You’ll know that you’re getting enough fluid when you’re urinating normally, and your urine is clear and not dark.
  • Get plenty of rest. The illness and dehydration may have made you weak and tired.
  • Don’t use anti-diarrheal medications. Drugs intended to treat diarrhea, such as loperamide (Imodium, others) and diphenoxylate with atropine (Lomotil, Lonox), may slow elimination of bacteria or toxins from your system and can make your condition worse.

After the storm

Avoid certain foods and substances until you’re feeling better. These include dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.

Gradually begin to eat bland, easy-to-digest foods. Consider the B.R.A.T. diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) Ease back into eating.

Congee (rice porridge) is a great way to get your nutrition back on track. Here is a great congee recipe from Jill. Include ginger in your ingredients: it has gingerols and shogals which influence the chemicals that cause muscle spasms in the stomach and gut and give quick relief. It also has anti-infective properties that make it a valuable tool for food poisoning.

Bon Apetit! Caring for summer’s minor mishaps

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