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Created on 06 January 2014 Written by Dr. Rachna Pande
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Jill (not real name) returned from a party where she had thoroughly enjoyed the food and drinks. A few hours later, she started having loose motions and vomiting.  She was rushed to the hospital, where she was informed that she had got food poisoning.

Food poisoning develops after ingestion of contaminated food or drinks harboring microbes causing sickness. This could be the result of consuming stale, rotten food, unclean salads or raw fruits and vegetables, poorly cooked or undercooked items or consuming food in unclean dishes.  It can also occur if the persons involved in cooking or serving food have poor personal hygiene.  Contaminated drinks can also cause food poisoning. Food poisoning can manifest between an hour to 16 hours of taking the contaminated substance.

The   germs producing food poisoning do so by either liberating toxins in the intestines or causing local inflammation. The illness manifests as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting in variable intensity. Severity of the illness depends on the quantity of harmful substance ingested and resistance of the person.

Mild form of illness needs no treatment and subsides by itself within few hours. Bananas have natural anti diarrheal properties. Frequency of passing motions can be stopped or reduced if bananas are fed to a person at the earliest manifestation of food intoxication, provided there is no vomiting.  Readymade oral rehydration solutions can be given by mixing the powder with boiled, cooled water.   Alternately weak tea can be given to the sick person to be consumed in sips.  Plain water should be avoided because water without electrolytes can cause uncomfortable abdominal bloating and even vomiting.

Hot compressions done with a lukewarm water bag or cloth are useful in relieving abdominal cramps.

If someone has severe diarrhea or vomiting it is urgent to replace the lost water and electrolytes, preferably by perfusions otherwise it can be fatal.

Prevention is more important than treatment in cases of food poisoning. Utmost hygiene needs to be observed in all steps involved in cooking and eating. This ranges from cleaning raw food material, cooking well, serving with clean hands and eating food with clean hands and in clean dishes. Salads need to be washed thoroughly with warm water before being eaten.

As far as possible one should take warm freshly cooked food. Some infectious germs like listeria can survive in refrigerated food. Moreover if there are power cuts, the risks for microbes growing in the food substances kept in the refrigerator increase.

Milk and meat products carry a high risk of food poisoning if stale. Therefore they should never be consumed unless one is sure that they are fresh and safe. One should take particular care when eating out.

Here in Rwanda, Government has implemented good sanitary practices in hotels to ensure that people do not get sick after eating there. People also need to adopt and improve hygienic methods in food handling. Hygiene and cleanliness of food and water should be the first priority of an individual to protect his health.
Dr. Rachna Pande
Specialist-Internal medicine-Ruhengeri Hospital

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Created on 04 November 2013 Written by Dr. Rachna Pande
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By Dr Rachna Pande


Sixty to seventy years ago, various infections and diseases had no medical cure. Today numerous medicines are available for prevention and cure. Medical science has advanced and kidneys and hearts can be replaced. In spite of the medical advancement, however, people are dying from many diseases.

In developing countries, overcrowding, malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water, e.t.c. are considered causes of disease. However, even with good sanitation, good housing, safe drinking water and highly advanced medical facilities in these advanced countries, diseases still claim lives. Nature has provided every living being with some defense mechanism called the immune system. This happens to be most advanced in human beings. It consists of special cell types which prevent entry of and multiplication of harmful microbes in the body. They also destroy cancer cells invading the body. The bone marrow, thymus, spleen and lymph nodes are body parts principally involved in the immunity of the body, through various mechanisms. Skin and mucosa (lining of most organs) form the first line of defense. A human body can recognize foreign harmful substances entering the body and tries to eliminate it or contain it. There are mechanical means to expel foreign substances like coughing, sneezing and sweating. All body secretions like saliva, tears, genital fluids, e.t.c. contain chemicals which protect against harmful germs. Human beings su!er from infectious and other diseases now because this natural immune system has been compromised.

Malnutrition, particularly protein deficiency reduces body’s immunity because antibodies which try to combat the infection are mostly made of proteins. Deficiency of vitamins like Vitamin C, folic acid, essential micronutrients like zinc, copper, and selenium is also responsible for reducing the disease fighting ability of the body. Obesity another form of malnutrition also deranges the immune system. Smoking and chronic exposure to smoke and fumes impairs the immunity by causing chronic irritation of the protective inner layers of the body. Along with technical development in the past 50 or 60 years, human beings are now exposed to more than 1000 di!erent kinds of chemicals. In some way these chemicals have added to the physical comforts but have harmful e!ects on the human body.

Synthetic pesticides both organo phosphorus compounds and carbamates used to kill pests damage the immune system. Chemicals added to processed foods like antibiotic and hormone treated meat products, preservatives used in various, ‘ready to eat’ foods, have proved to be harmful to the body’s immunity. The list is endless. In short, we are exposed to many chemicals in the environment around us that potentially reduce body’s ability to fight diseases. What can we do to boost our immune system in the face of the disintegration caused by increased development?

Good sleep is essential for boosting the immune system, but the stress of modern life has deprived many people of this.

A balanced nutritious diet including proteins, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3 fatty acids, essential micronutrients is useful to maintain and boost body’s immune system. Fresh green leafy vegetables, onions, carrots, fruits, fish, walnuts, soya bean, garlic, honey are some of the food substances very useful in this regard.

“Going organic”’ is the mantra of the day to avoid harmful e!ects of chemicals. This ensures fresh vegetables. Manure and pesticides used should be organic, i.e. not chemical. Avoid fast and processed foods. Try to consume food prepared from scratch, i.e. absolutely fresh. Deep fried foods like chips, cutlets, etc. are not healthy and should be used only once in weeks or months.

Plastics and polythene are harmful for the environment as well as human health. There is no substitute for a disciplined healthy life for improving the immune system, which includes adequate physical exercise, balanced diet and a stress free mind. Good health will prevail only when men conquer majority of diseases and this shall be possible only when we boost our immune system so that our bodies are enabled to resist disease.TSM

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