Monday, August 4, 2008

Food Can Make You Very Sick- Some cautions and precautions

Food sustains and nourishes us. Without it we would literally starve to death, and yet, some foods themselves can actually make us very sick, even causing death. For those with food allergies the body itself is responsible- the person's immune system views a normally safe food as an invader and the body reacts accordingly, causing anything from a rash to anaphylaxis (which can sometimes lead to death). For those of us with Rheumatoid Arthritis (an auto-immune disorder), certain foods can trigger inflammation, and the accompanying pain. Foods in the nightshade family, like white potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes are potentially harmful, if eaten in excess, or eaten at all. I also have problems if I eat too much corn, another trigger for those with R.A. If I eat corn or potatoes, occasionally, I have no problems; it's when I eat these foods several days in a row that I notice an increase in achiness.

The most common allergenic foods are:

soy, eggs, wheat, cows milk, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and shellfish,

although most foods can cause an allergic reaction, even strawberries. So, those of us who know which foods cause trouble simply eliminate them from our diets, that is, if we value good health enough to make those sacrifices. It's as simple as that.

But, in other cases, the food itself is what creates havoc in our bodies, or to be more specific, the food that has become contaminated by microbes and other nasties, and there is usually no way to determine if something has become contaminated or not, until there is some major publicized outbreak. Like the recent tomato/salmonella scare, which has now turned into a jalapeno pepper scare. Foodborne illnesses can be very hazardous to our health, so it is essential to practice safe food handling at home.

Some suggestions:


**If you have a cooler, great. Place all frozen and refrigerated foods in cooler and transfer immediately to freezer and fridge as soon as you get home. Do NOT leave food in a hot car for an extended period of time.
**Choose veggies and fruits that are in good condition.
**Pick cans that are not dented, bulging or cracked.
**Cold foods should be cold, frozen foods solidly frozen.
**Choose a use-by date that you know you will use by.


**Make sure your fridge is 40 degrees F, and the freezer at 0 degrees F, bacteria can multiply rapidly in a fridge that isn't cold enough.
**Meat, fish, poultry products should be frozen if you don't plan to eat within a few days, and should be placed on a plate so the juices don't mingle with other foods.
**Eggs should always be refrigerated, and always refrigerate any foods that recommend refrigerating after opening.


**Always, wash, wash, wash those hands with warm soapy water before you touch any food item, and after you touch potentially bacteria-laden foods like meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
**Make sure you wash your kitchen towels often, and replace or disinfect your sponges often. They can also harbour lots of nasties.
**Keep flesh foods away from other foods. If you're a vegetarian, you don't have to worry about this, but if you're a carnivore, make sure you wash, in hot soapy water, all cutting boards, knives etc. before you start chopping that onion.
**Marinate or thaw food inside the fridge, not in the kitchen. Bacteria will start to proliferate before the meat thaws.


**Cook, cook, cook that meat, fish, chicken and those eggs until done. No rare steaks or runny eggs, please. Especially important for pregnant women, our elders, children and anyone with immune system troubles.


**Never re-use dishes and utensils that you used to prepare the food.


**Don't leave any perishable leftovers unrefrigerated for more than 2 to 4 hours. You're inviting bacteria to enjoy the food as much as you did. I would refrigerate any kind of dish with mayonnaise sooner than that.
**Large amounts of food will cool and keep better if placed in smaller containers.
**Remove stuffing from turkeys etc. and store separately. Remember, warm and moist can cause bacteria.


**Heat thoroughly all leftovers. Boil sauces, soups and gravies. If anything looks odd or smells odd, toss it. It's not worth getting sick over.


When we eat away from home, it's not so easy, but we can choose carefully the restaurants we decide to patronize. California has a wonderful system of grading, and the results are plastered on the front of every eatery. In other States, if you are concerned, you can simply ask to see their most recent inspection score. If they have nothing to hide, I'm sure they will gladly comply. You can usually tell if a place is safe to eat, although a recent outbreak of ciguatera-laden fish was found at a Whole Foods health food store in West Palm Beach, Florida, recently. One would think you'd be safe at a health food store, but apparently not.

If you do happen to get sick, and the symptoms are severe, get thee to a doctor, or emergency room, and report it to your local health department. You could be responsible for stopping an outbreak in its tracks, before it becomes a national health problem.


Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD said...

Hi, I think your blog is terrific, and I would like to feature you on
wellsphere .
Would you drop me an email?
Good health!
Geoffrey W. Rutledge, MD, PhD
Dr.Geoff's MedBlog

Incognito said...

Thank you Dr. Geoff. will do.