Scallan et al in 2011 estimated that foodborne diseases cause approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the US each year.
The source of these foodborne illnesses is oftentimes very difficult to determine.
In the average GI tract, food that is ingested into the stomach takes around 4-6 hours to empty, depending on the food content. It next travels through the small intestine for 6-8 hours. Once it enters the colon it can remain there for 1-3 days.
So, how can you determine the source of a food that you’ve consumed that has brought on a gastrointestinal disorder.
The length of time that food travels completely through your GI tract is individualized. The easiest way to determine this travel time is by following the passage of indigestible kernels until they pass in your stools.
Trust Your Gut
Vomiting is usually related to something you ate in the last 4-6 hours. Cramps and diarrhea are related more to something you consumed 18-48 hours earlier.
Unfortunately, there are many times, when you have consumed contaminated food, where it will be exceedingly difficult to trace to the source. There are some bacteria, such as Listeria, that may not produce physical symptoms, in an affected individual, for days to weeks.
Foods that are most commonly associated with contamination from bacteria and viruses include: leafy greens, culinary herbs, melons, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, as well as raw meats, poultry, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, and flour.
It should be noted that GI disorders are not only associated with foodborne illnesses. They can also be related to germs from your hands, difficult to digest carbohydrates, side effects of medications, medical conditions, and stress (1).
A good rule of thumb, in regards to the foods with the highest risk of a foodborne illness, is related to the number of hands that have had direct contact with the supplied ingredients, food contact surfaces and the food itself.
Do you trust your gut when you’re eating out? Comment below.
Gary Russotti, MD, MS
Idea Boxx – Director of Medical/Biochemical R&D and Regulatory Compliance
- Murphy, K. “ What to Blame for Your Stomach Bug? Not Always the Last Thing You Ate”. NY Times. June 2017. p. 1-8.
- Zarrella, D. (2015, May 1). Trust Your Gut