(Reprint of 05/1997 Newsletter)
This month my subject is food poisoning. I am specifically going to write about salmonella because that is the most common type of food poisoning. The Center for Disease Control has reported a dramatic increase in salmonella poisoning in the last decade. There are now 2-4 million cases in the US annually. Interestingly, the highest rate of increase has been in the Northeastern United States where cases have increased six-fold.
Every year - particularly in the summer months - I get a quite a few calls from people that appear to have food poisoning. Symptoms are usually vomiting and diarrhea although fever, headaches, abdominal pain, and blood in the stools may be present. Dehydration can also occur as the illness progresses. Most cases of food poisoning are treated at home but it can become a serious illness requiring admission to the hospital. Babies, old people, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.
Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacteria that is wide spread in poultry and swine. Other environmental sources of the bacteria include water, soil, insects, factory surfaces, kitchen surfaces, animal feces, raw meats, raw poultry, and raw seafood. Salmonella is usually spread through eggs, meat, and poultry but it can be spread in other much less common ways like eating unrinsed alfalfa sprouts and handling pet reptiles. Contamination can also occur directly from infected people when hygiene is poor. The onset of illness occurs within 12 to 24 hours after eating the offending food or coming into contact with the bacteria.
Some ways that you can avoid salmonella bacteria:
Fully cook all egg products - beware of things like mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and royal frosting which may have uncooked eggs in them.
Do not use sponges and rags to wipe up areas where meat, chicken, fish, or eggs has been prepared.
Replace sponges frequently and wash kitchen cloths in hot water frequently.
Never put cooked meat onto a dish that has held raw meat.
Never put the barbecue brush directly into the barbecue sauce bottle.
Avoid salad bars and other areas where mayonnaise products may not be well refrigerated (such as picnic and buffets)
Rinse all alfalfa sprouts and lettuce well.
Refrigerate sandwiches that are traveling to school or work.
Stuff poultry only with cooled stuffing.
Avoid all sushi or undercooked fish.'
Despite all efforts to avoid salmonella, food poisoning can still occur. Often people who call me think that they have a gastrointestinal flu. Luckily in homeopathy, treatment can be determined by the symptoms that the body is putting out rather than by definitive diagnosis of the disease (although diagnosis is always helpful). If you have diarrhea and vomiting - often occurring at the same time - the first remedy to think of is Arsenic album. With the intensity of food poisoning symptoms, you may need to take a 30C remedy very frequently. It would not be uncommon to take a remedy every 10 minutes during the worst of the symptoms. If stomach cramping is intense, the remedy Colocynth 30C can be use to ease the pain. It can be alternated with the Arsenicum.
With food poisoning, you will often notice a great feeling of fear and trepidation. This is a common symptom of food poisoning and should be addressed to some extent by the use of the Arsenicum album. Despite the fact that you feel like you are dying, bear in mind that someone with a reasonably healthy immune system should be able to handle a case of salmonella without any permanent damage. Try to keep fluid intake a priority. Even if you vomit water that has been ingested, some of it is absorbed.
If the Arsenicum is not working after a couple of hours and it is impossible to keep any fluids down, the next remedy to try is Veratrum album 30C. That can also be taken very frequently. When Arsenicum has failed, it is often Veratrum album that will do the trick. Veratrum album is the last remedy in Boiron's "Le Kit." You may not use it often, but it is well worth having around.
If you have a stomach flu or parasites ("Montezuma's Revenge") with vomiting and diarrhea and not salmonella, the same remedies will apply. The "key note" is the presence of vomiting and diarrhea. Treating early and aggressively is the trick to getting the illness under control. If all that fails and you continue to be drastically ill after a few hours or abdominal pain is intense, a trip to the local hospital is well advised. For the most part though, you should be able to handle it at home. Call me if there are questions. If you cannot reach me - as always - choose on the side of safety and get appropriate medical care.
For those of you who are vegetarians and do not eat meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, be aware that salmonella can be present in other places and may have infected the food that you are eating due to careless handling or contamination from substances that you do not eat. If the symptoms fit, take the remedies even if you have not had exposure to something that you think can contain salmonella.