After experiencing food poisoning, it might be hard to think about eating. However, the right foods, combined with drinking lots of fluids, can actually help speed up your body’s recovery. In most cases, the best way to recover from food poisoning is to prevent dehydration and replace the fluids and electrolytes that your body has lost.
It’s important to understand when you can and should start eating again and what to eat after food poisoning. I’ll share what foods and liquids are best for your sensitive stomach, and what foods to avoid.
Steps to Take After Having Food Poisoning
Most of the time, people with food poisoning get better without medical treatment. It is important to keep yourself hydrated and replace lost electrolytes from vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes, you may want to take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat your symptoms.
To keep yourself hydrated, drink plenty of liquids. If you are vomiting, try slowly sipping small amounts of clear liquids. Replacing lost electrolytes and fluids is the most important treatment for food poisoning.
Ways for adults to replace fluids and electrolytes include drinking:
- Sports drinks
- Fruit juices
Children can drink rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte, Naturalyte, Infalyte, and CeraLyte as directed by their medical provider.
Infants should continue to drink breast milk or formula. Infants can dehydrate quickly, so call their medical provider immediately and tell them you suspect food poisoning.
Adults, in some cases, can take loperamide (Imodium) for diarrhea from food poisoning. Check with your medical provider first, however as they may suggest not stopping diarrhea as it’s your body’s way of getting rid of the infectious microbes.
For children, talk to their medical provider before treating them with OTC medications for their nausea and diarrhea.
Foods to Eat After Food Poisoning
If you can stomach the idea of eating and drinking again, and you’ve slowly started reintroducing bland foods, there are more recommendations beyond the BRAT diet. Here are some foods that may help restore your appetite and strength.
As long as it doesn’t have added sugar, coconut water can be an appealing way to get you to drink more than you normally would. However, it isn’t any healthier than regular water.
This contains electrolytes, which your body loses through vomiting and diarrhea and needs to function properly. Pedialyte allows you to replenish electrolytes and helps you retain fluid to avoid dehydration.
Dairy Free Yogurt
Since dairy products are less bland than BRAT foods, they might be more tough on your stomach. However, if you can tolerate yogurt, it might be good for your stomach, especially if it contains probiotics, which help with digestion. Plus, yogurt contains fluid, which helps to stay hydrated.
Besides the obvious, that these water-based soups and broths are great for hydration, they can be a great base for adding in natural herbs, like ginger, fennel, mint, licorice root, etc., which contain natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe your stomach and aid with digestion.
Decaffeinated teas with natural, homeopathic ingredients, like peppermint or spearmint, ginger, or chamomile, can soothe your stomach, reduce inflammation, curb nausea and hydrate you.
These crackers are bland and gentle on your stomach, and they also contain salt. Salt helps retain fluids, so it’s recommended when you’re ready to start eating again.
Bananas are easy on the stomach and are also packed with the electrolyte potassium. They are a great choice when recovering from food poisoning.
Cereals that are bland and not packed with sugar are best to eat when you are starting to feel better.
Plain oatmeal is easy to digest and offers some health benefits such as being full of antioxidants and good bacteria for your gut.
Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates and can help give you energy. It also has vitamins and nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins.
Plain potatoes, including mashed potatoes, are easy on the stomach and a good source of antioxidants and vitamins.
Applesauce is easy to digest and gives you all the benefits of fresh apples. It also contains lots of liquids in it for hydration.
While not high in nutritional value, Jell-O is full of liquids that can help hydrate you. Gelatin, one of the main ingredients in Jell-O, is easy on the stomach. Eating jello after an upset stomach is an easy way to start getting food into your stomach.
Foods to Avoid After Food Poisoning
While doctors generally agree that you can eat anything your stomach can tolerate, it’s best to avoid foods that are spicy and fatty. These can be much harder for your stomach to digest than the bland BRAT diet.
You may want to be cautious of dairy products, even with probiotics, since they may irritate your stomach. I would also caution you against eating a big meal.
Instead, start slowly with small meals to see how your stomach handles the food. When you’re just starting to eat again, avoid foods with strong odors, as they may trigger nausea and/or vomiting.
The bottom line is to use common sense. Listen to your body about what foods your stomach can and cannot tolerate.
Can I Eat After Vomiting and/or Having Diarrhea?
When your stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea have fully or partially subsided, you may feel up to eating again. The goal is to reintroduce bland foods that are easy for your stomach to digest.
The most recommended foods to eat after the stomach flu, food poisoning, or a regular stomach ache are part of what’s known as the BRAT diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These particular foods are ideal because of their blandness and they’re easy to digest. Plus, their high starch content will help bind your stool together, which may reduce bouts of continued diarrhea. BRAT foods are low-residual, meaning they stay in your stomach for less time.
When to See a Medical Provider
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, severe dehydration is what doctors are most concerned about when it comes to food poisoning. Therefore, if you’re unable to hold down any fluids, it’s recommended to see a doctor. Here are some other potential warning signs to watch for. These may indicate the need for medical attention:
- If you’re pale or light-headed
- If there’s blood in your stool or diarrhea
- If diarrhea lasts for more than a week
- If you’re having severe abdominal pain
- If you’re over 65, pregnant, or have diabetes
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are considered a high-risk case, it’s time to speak to your doctor. During your visit, the doctor will probably ask for your medical history, do a physical exam, and take a stool and blood tests. These will all help provide a diagnosis and determine if additional treatment is needed.
One additional “red flag” to know about is if you’ve recently been hospitalized or have used antibiotics in the last 3-6 months. If so, and you experience any of the concerning symptoms, you could have a C. diff bacterial infection.
This infection can develop after taking antibiotics and can cause severe abdominal pain, profuse diarrhea, fever, and nausea, among other severe symptoms. Therefore, it’s worth talking to your doctor if any of these symptoms or indicators sound familiar.
In most cases, symptoms of food poisoning are mild and last only a short time. If you have any other questions about what to eat after food poisoning, speak to a doctor.
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