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Some of us may be all-too-familiar with the feeling: the sudden onset of slow, churning in your stomach followed by fever, body aches, malaise, and loss of appetite. Eventually you cannot keep anything down. It seems the illness must inevitably run its course and there is nothing on earth that can change it.

Food poisoning and “stomach bugs” strike dread in the hearts of many.  Whenever there is an “outbreak” of something that causes these symptoms, there is often a chain-of-communication about its origin via word-of-mouth to inform others in case of further illness. When the outbreak is connected with a restaurant or other business that serves food, it makes the newspapers and the health department gets involved.

A few years back, a business my family has supported and counted on for 25+ years announced that it had an outbreak of salmonella originating from its deli department. The Boise Co-op is a health food store in Boise, ID that provides a variety of organic and natural foods including grassfed beef and other natural meats and poultry, raw milk and other dairy foods, fermented foods, organic produce, and bulk spices, herbs, and others such as beans, grains and nuts. Their offerings include local products from farmers I personally know, and national brands that I have researched and trust, which we buy and are frequently found in our kitchen. I am incredibly dependent upon and grateful for this business to provide my family with healthy food.

A customer filed a lawsuit against the store because she experienced symptoms associated with food poisoning after eating a tuna fish sandwich purchased by her husband, a tradition that she has been engaging in weekly for sometime.

The hysteria around this event prompted me to realize we do have choices. We are not powerless. We have the ability to learn about how to better care for our bodies and our health and prevent illnesses like this and others. I feel disappointed that as a culture, we look for ways to put the responsibility for our choices on other entities rather than educate ourselves and take charge of our own health.

As a way to prevent illness, I’d love to see the following acknowledged:

During childhood, I remember experiencing nausea and gastrointestinal symptoms frequently. I hated it, and preferred having a head cold and sore throat for a week to nausea that resulted in throwing up. It happened often enough that I began to think it was “normal”, and just something I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. To this day, I loathe the feeling of being sick to my stomach and having to go into the bathroom to kneel in front of the toilet to vomit.  Back then, I experienced gastrointestinal illness a minimum of two to three times a year from childhood into early adult years.

What if there was a way to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms or eliminate incidence of “food poisoning” and “stomach bugs”?

The good news is, there is a way to minimize or eliminate these episodes!

If you already in the throes of gastrointestinal distress, it may seem like nothing will stop it.  You can’t keep anything down and you feel like death warmed over. What can you do? Depending on what’s in your gut, how much of it you’ve come into contact with, and what you do during the illness will affect the outcome. Remember: the way you treat your body before, during, and after illness CAN have a real impact on duration, severity, or whether it manifests into much of anything at all.

I’ve observed instances in my own family where nothing we did seemed to make a difference.  When my son was younger, he had a number of these kinds of illnesses. I’d not offer him anything else except teaspoons full of liquids such as fermented beverages and broth. But sometimes no amount of probiotics and nourishing broth seemed to matter until the body was finally read to accept them. So I continued to offer these to him, and eventually his body could tolerate more of these liquids, and then he was able to keep food down again.

Prevention can go a long way.

As I mentioned, in the past it was not uncommon for me to experience food poisoning or “stomach bugs” regularly; sometimes two or three times a year.

And then something truly remarkable happened: when I learned about eating clean, real food the occurrence of these illnesses has all but disappeared. It’s true: I haven’t experienced any kind of full-blown stomach bug in over 12 years.

Now when I feel any kind of nausea coming on – which is rare – I take this probiotic and the feeling subsides within 5 minutes: Enzyme Formulations Formula #17 powdered probiotic. This product must be obtained from a health care practitioner. Follow the link to find a practitioner in your area.

It is the most effective method of eliminating nausea I’ve encountered. It is also effective on abdominal cramps. My husband and son have also had success with this product.

I also recommend the following probiotic supplements as a way to prevent and maintain optimal health: Prescript-Assist, Bio-Kult, Genestra HMF powder.

If you find yourself “too far gone”: take care of yourself, rest, hydrate as much as possible with small amounts of broths and fermented beverages, and take probiotics until symptoms abate. Keep the following in mind with regard to prevention of gastrointestinal illness and “stomach bugs”.

What can I do to prevent “stomach bugs”?

Here are my recommendations to avoid nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, and related symptoms:

1. Avoid processed foods and prepared foods.

That includes grains, factory-farmed meats and animal products, conventional produce, and vegetable oils (think canola, soybean, corn, peanut, safflower, and sunflower oils), and foods that are genetically-modified. Anything in a package, box, or can is suspect for containing ingredients or being processed in a way that can upset the delicate balance of your digestive tract, immune system, and overall health.  

Animal foods from confinement environments can definitely contain residue from antibiotics and hormones, known disruptors of gut flora and culprits of chronic disease. Look for organically, sustainable, and traditionally-raised foods from animals and birds raised on pasture. Read Questions to ask your farmer for more detail about buying from local, mindful producers and The heatlh benefits of grassfed beef, Part I

Avoid any food grown or produced with genetically-modified substances or GMOs. Read more on the health risks of these organisms, which are found in the majority of our food supply from the Institute for Responsible Technology

These products may seem cheaper or more convenient, but the actual cost of consuming them can come later down the road in nutrient deficiencies, frequent illness and sick time, doctor visits, and long-term chronic disease.

2. Avoid excessive alcohol intake.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I used to be a heavy drinker and I know this contributed to imbalanced gut flora and frequent “stomach bugs”.  Alcohol is high in sugar content and can offset the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and immune system, causing an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast which can contribute to weakened immunity and an increase in infections and chronic health issues.

I still enjoy alcohol from time-to-time, but I usually only have one glass of wine, and typically with food.

3. Eat real, traditional foods.

Develop habits of shopping for single-ingredient foods and preparing meals at home, from scratch. A variety of real, organic foods raised and produced the way nature intends supports healthy gut flora and overall wellness. This includes animal foods from pastured sources. These foods are some of the most abundant sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, Vitamin B12, Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and minerals which are largely absent from the modern food supply, and are critical for supporting health and preventing disease.

4. Consume fermented foods daily.

Fermented foods contain probiotics, or friendly bacteria which support our digestive health and overall well-being. Homemade fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt and kefir from raw dairy are especially rich in valuable nutrients that support wellness.

5. Consume mineral-rich foods and beverages.

This includes homemade bone broth from the bones of animals and birds on pasture,  beverages such as beet or other type of kvass, nettles or other herbal infusions, kombucha, water kefir, raw milk, and filtered water with sea salt. See this article for descriptions of these and other nourishing beverages to support health.

I recommend these real salts via Amazon affiliation: Celtic Sea Salt, Real Salt, Minera Dead Sea Salt. I also recommend these liquid mineral supplements: Fulvic Ionic Minerals and Vital Earth.

6. Get enough rest by going to bed at a relatively early hour (by 10 p.m.).

When your body is well-rested, it will be much less vulnerable to pathogenic or harmful bacteria it comes into contact with that could compromise health and make you feel unwell or cause unwanted symptoms to appear. Our bodies require regular sleep and during times when our bodies are most likely to replenish, detoxify (removing free-radicals), and repair. A paper from the Journal of Anatomy shows that sleep deprivation causes oxidative stress to the liver. 

7. Receive moderate, regular exposure to the sun.

The sun has magical, healing powers. We all need Vitamin D, and sun exposure is one of the primary ways we get this critical nutrient.

8. Avoid the use of antibiotic drugs, antibacterial cleaners and other products.

Antibacterial and antimicrobial substances remove all bacteria, including the beneficial variety. Beneficial bacteria help reduce and eliminate harmful bacteria that can make us sick. Removing beneficial bacteria contributes to more incidence of resistant bacteria that can make us ill.

In one study from UC Davis, the ingredient triclosan was observed to disrupt hormones. In another from Tufts University, various repercussions to health were shown including the development of tumors and thyroid function disruption. There is also a known risk of harm from exposure to dioxins, a family of compounds ranging in toxicity that are linked to triclosan. These dioxins are considered carcinogenic. Other issues include antibiotic resistance and environmental damage.

Read 10 ways to protect yourself from superbug bacteria.

9. Find stress relief that works for you.

Just as when we don’t get enough sleep, too much stress can cause our bodies to become vulnerable to illness. So whether that is some kind of exercise, movement, or meditation/prayer, relaxation and stress relief are important to our continued state of well-being.

10. Take activated charcoal at the first onset of nausea or stomach distress.

Activated charcoal is effective in pulling out toxins from the intestinal tract.  It is a safe substance that has been used for thousands of years. It is commonly used in medical environment to treat overdoses or poisonous substances materials that have been ingested. Activated charcoal works by adsorbing the contaminant.

I recommend Nature’s Way.