An estimated 1 in 6 Americans gets sick with food poisoning every year.
Symptoms of food poisoning can include diarrhea, vomiting, upset stomach, fever and chills, headache, and nausea.
These symptoms can appear within a few hours of eating food contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins.
Staphylococcus and E. coli are the most common causes of food poisoning.
Food can get contaminated with these bacteria and other germs through unclean food preparation, not storing foods at the proper temperature, undercooking meat or eggs, and other means of contamination.
Generally, people who get food poisoning recover in a couple of days. During this time, several at-home remedies can help you to feel better.
Rest Your Body
Resting your body can help your body to recover when you feel unwell from food poisoning.
If you can, taking time off of school or work can help you to feel better faster.
Two of the most common symptoms of food poisoning, diarrhea, and vomiting, can lead to a loss of fluids and electrolytes in the body.
Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes can help to prevent dehydration and make you feel better.
Ways to replace fluids and electrolytes lost as a result of diarrhea and/or vomiting include drinking water, fruit juices, sports drinks, and clear broths.
Eating saltine crackers can also help. Alternatively, you can buy an over-the-counter (OTC) oral rehydration powder that can help to replace lost fluids and minerals.
Follow the BRAT Diet
When symptoms of food poisoning first begin, you’re unlikely to have an appetite.
Letting your body rest and avoiding food or drink for several hours can help your stomach to settle.
Once your stomach starts to feel better, drinking water, sports drinks, and other hydrating liquids is the next best step.
As symptoms improve even further and you feel ready to eat, it’s a good idea to stick to a bland diet and eat small amounts of gentle foods that are easy to digest.
The foods included in a BRAT diet, such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, are good options for when you’re recovering from food poisoning.
If your stomach feels worse after eating, take a break until your symptoms improve.
Try a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotic supplements help to reintroduce beneficial bacteria into your stomach and digestive system.
Though researchers are still studying the use of probiotics to treat food poisoning, some evidence suggests that certain probiotic supplements may help to reduce the duration of some food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea.
However, it’s important to talk with your provider before taking probiotics for food poisoning.
Take OTC Medications
Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help to treat diarrhea caused by food poisoning.
These OTC medications include:
- Loperamide (Imodium)
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)
Keep in mind that these medications are not intended for use in children. Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can cause your stools to appear black.
Drink Ginger Ale
The ginger plant has been shown to have a soothing effect on the stomach and digestive system.
Though there’s no evidence that ginger ale can help to treat food poisoning, it can be soothing to drink and easy on the stomach when you feel unwell.
Avoid Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice
Apple cider vinegar, which is made by fermenting apple juice, has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties.
For this reason, it’s often recommended as a natural remedy for many ailments.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to suggest that drinking apple cider vinegar will help to soothe or treat food poisoning. In fact, it could irritate your gastrointestinal system even further.
Sucking on a peppermint candy or drinking peppermint tea may help to soothe an upset stomach caused by food poisoning.
In fact, one review found that peppermint oil (one of the main ingredients in both peppermint candy and peppermint teas) may help to smoothen muscle relaxation in the digestive system.
When To See a Medical Professional
In most cases, symptoms of food poisoning will resolve on their own within 24-72 hours.
But if your symptoms are not improving or if you experience any of the following severe symptoms, reach out to a medical professional for urgent care:
- Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
- Diarrhea for more than three days that does not improve
- Bloody diarrhea
- Frequent and consistent vomiting
- Inability to keep liquids down
- Dehydration (symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up, and not urinating as frequently)
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Bland Diet. (2021).
Fast Facts About Food Poisoning. (2022).
Food Poisoning. (2021).
Review article: The Physiologic effects and safety of Peppermint Oil and its efficacy in irritable bowel syndrome and other functional disorders. (2018).
Treatment for Food Poisoning. (2019).