We write a lot about food poisoning – but on our news pages. It's probably the most frightening thing that can happen to a branded food company or foodservice operator. And it's no fun for the victims, either.
While the headline-grabbers usually include fatalities and stay on the nightly news for several days in a row, it's worth remembering that the vast majority of cases amount to little more than a few embarrassing trips to the bathroom, a wasted day of vacation or a day off work.
I guess I've led a charmed life, because I can't say for certain I've had the displeasure – until that trip to Israel in June, which I wrote about in our September issue (The Promised Land … of Exports). I can't say for sure where I got the food poisoning, but we did eat one day on a kibbutz, which included water out of the local well, poured from plastic pitchers and served at room temperature. There were several other likely suspects.
Now I'm one of the approximately 48 million Americans who get food poisoning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While I tossed and turned all night in Tel Aviv, making that one of the worst nights I've ever had, I made it to the 9 a.m. meeting the next morning and sat reasonably patiently through several presentations until the scheduled breaks.
If only I had some ginger tea!
"If you feel a bit queasy, a strong cup or two of fresh ginger root tea may be sufficient to ward off further discomfort," writes Chris Kilham on FoxNews.com. Kilham calls himself "the medicine hunter," researching natural remedies all over the world while also teaching ethnobotany ("the relationship between people and plants") at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he has the interesting title "Explorer In Residence."
Kilham writes: "Ginger is loaded with potent anti-inflammatory compounds that help to quell nausea and gastric distress. You can drink ginger tea as often as you like. Often, this does the trick." Kilham throws in a plug for Organic Ginger Tea from Traditional Medicinals, "which can be found at any natural food store and at many supermarkets."
No matter how careful you are, you can get food poisoning simply because there are so many pathogens that can get into food at so many steps in the food chain. But, at least for the milder cases, Kilham advises a number of botanical remedies that can get you through that painful, queasy day.
"If you feel that you are getting sicker, then a couple capsules of Andrographis – a Chinese herb – may stop things from progressing further. About 300 to 500 milligrams of Andrographis twice daily may alleviate symptoms. Nature's Way, an herbal medicine provider, makes a good standardized Andrographis extract supplement.
"To halt diarrhea due to food poisoning, a few drops of the Amazon herb 'dragon's blood' can help to slow everything down and restore proper intestinal function," Kilham continues.
"Available as a fluid, dragon's blood is widely used in South America for diarrhea. It is also a traditional remedy given to women after childbirth to stop any internal bleeding. You can obtain fluid dragon's blood from Raintree Nutrition.
"If you wind up very sick – with chills, fever and diarrhea – then you need to step up the action," he concludes. "Without a doubt, call your doctor. Food poisoning can be debilitating, and in some cases fatal. When it gets very bad, that's the time for antibiotics like the broad-spectrum Cipro."
Kilham advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is has been on TV and radio programs worldwide. Fox notes his research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France.
Take it all with a grain of salt – hey, how's that for a home remedy for skepticism? – but there's also considerable agreement that we Westerners don't put enough credence in time-tested botanical remedies.
His final bit of advice does sound rock-solid. Once you recover from food poisoning, he suggests, take a good probiotic. "Your intestines require a healthy colony of abundant friendly bacteria to digest food, eliminate waste, rid the bowels of toxins and reduce the potential for intestinal inflammation. The friendly bacteria in probiotics help to re-establish normal, healthy intestinal and digestive function, assisting you in returning to normal."
Now we're back in the mainstream food industry. I think we write about probiotics even more than we do food poisoning. Those "live and active cultures" once relegated to yogurt and kefir are popping up in everything from frozen yogurt to chocolate to cereal bars. Even The Republic of Tea is steeping probiotics into an organic red rooibos. I wonder if they can put it in a ginger tea.