Stop Blaming Food Poisoning for What You Last Ate

Vomiting is pretty awful, so when it happens to us, we usually want to try to figure out what exactly is going on in our body to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If gastric goiter does not occur, you may suspect food poisoning and blame the restaurant where you ate a few hours ago. But this is probably not the point, even if you see this meal the other way around.

When you get so-called “food poisoning,” it is almost never the last food you eat. As Dr. Deborah Fisher, a gastroenterologist and professor at Duke University, explains to The New York Times , the reason is probably before the last thing you ate. So, if you get sick at night, it is not your dinner that is to blame, but your lunch. But why is it so?

First, food takes time to decompose inside your body. On average, it takes the stomach at least four to six hours to process a meal, plus six to eight hours in the small intestine. It is unlikely that you will get sick until the process is in full swing. However, the “gut transit time” is different for everyone. If you are not sure which one you have, gastroenterologists suggest finding out with the help of the so-called “corn test”. You usually eat corn and then watch out for indigestible grains in the stool. You may be wondering how long it will take.

More important, however, is the fact that “food poisoning” is usually caused by typical stomach ailments . The point is that these insects need an incubation period before you develop any symptoms. The most common gastric microbes such as norovirus, campylobacter, and E. coli take at least one day, and sometimes several days, to appear. Costridium perfringens, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Salmonella shed the fastest, but they still have an incubation period long enough to make it unlikely that your illness was due to a previous meal. The FDA has a handy spreadsheet explaining them all .

In addition, food does not always cause vomiting and diarrhea. Even if you get one of the stomach problems mentioned above, it is impossible to know where it actually came from. You may have forgotten to wash your hands after touching something covered with germs, such as a phone or a railing, and then eating some food with your hands. Or perhaps your nighttime bloating is not at all caused by what you have swallowed. Stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, and other tedious things that put pressure on your mind can be causing the problem. So, before you get angry and blame this new restaurant, think about the timing of your food poisoning.

This story was originally published in 2017 and has been updated on 11/20/19 to provide more complete and up-to-date information.


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