What is Salmonella Poisoning?

Salmonella Infection (Poisoning)

What is it? Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria typically live in animal and human intestines and are shed through feces. Humans become infected most frequently through contaminated water or food.

Causes? Most people are infected with salmonella by eating foods that have been contaminated by feces. Many foods become contaminated when prepared by people who don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing a diaper. Infection also can occur if you touch something that is contaminated, including pets, especially birds and reptiles, and then put your fingers in your mouth.

Commonly infected foods: raw meats and seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, raw eggs and spice.

Symptoms:    Commonly develop within eight to 72 hours after encountering the contaminated element. Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatment.  In some cases, the diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be so dehydrating as to require prompt medical attention. Life-threatening complications also may develop if the infection spreads beyond your intestines.  Common symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Blood in the stool

Increases Complications – Your body has many natural defenses against salmonella infection. For example, strong stomach acid can kill many types of salmonella bacteria. But some medical problems or medications can short-circuit these natural defenses. Examples include:

  • Antacids. Lowering your stomach’s acidity allows more salmonella bacteria to survive.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. This disorder damages the lining of your intestines, which makes it easier for salmonella bacteria to take hold.
  • Recent use of antibiotics. This can reduce the number of “good” bacteria in your intestines, which may impair your ability to fight off a salmonella infection.

Complications:  Salmonella infection usually isn’t life-threatening. However, in certain people — especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems — the development of complications can be dangerous.

Dehydration –  If you can’t drink enough to replace the fluid you’re losing from persistent diarrhea, you may become dehydrated. Warning signs include: Decreased urine output, dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, reduced production of tears.

Bacteremia –  If salmonella infection enters your bloodstream (bacteremia), it can infect tissues in your body, including: The tissues surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meningitis), the lining of your heart or valves, (endocarditis), your bones or bone marrow (osteomyelitis), the lining of blood vessels, especially if you’ve had a vascular graft.

 Reactive Arthritis – People who have had salmonella are at higher risk of developing reactive arthritis. Also known as Reiter’s syndrome. Symptoms can include: Eye irritation, painful urination, painful joints.

Prevention:  Preventive methods are especially important when preparing food or providing care for infants, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Be sure to cook food thoroughly and refrigerate or freeze food promptly.

  • Wash your hands – Washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the transfer of salmonella bacteria to your mouth or to any food you’re preparing.  It is especially important to wash your hands after you: Use the toilet, change a diaper, handle raw meat or poultry, clean up pet feces, touch reptiles or birds
  • Keep things separate –  Store raw meat, poultry and seafood away from other foods in your refrigerator, have two cutting boards in your kitchen — one for raw meat and the other for fruits and vegetables, never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat.
  • Avoid eating – Cookie dough, homemade ice cream and eggnog  that contain raw eggs. If you must consume raw eggs, make sure they’ve been pasteurized.

Tainted Ground Beef Sickens More

The number of those sickened from tainted ground beef continues to grow. The meat was sold at a variety of stores, including Walmart and Sam’s Club and under a variety of brand names. Click and read for full list and then check your fridges and freezers!

De- Stress With a ‘Good’ Gut

Some days, weeks, months…  are just tougher than others.  Stress is high, anxiety is part in parcel and your stomach is a mess.  

Keeping yourself healthy, rested and focused is often difficult during stressful times.. but soooo important.  Your ability to make sound decisions in the face of hardship depends on your calm focus.  As you do your best to manage the day to day stressors, don’t forget the importance of the gut – brain connection.

Straight from the Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School:

“The gut-brain connection is no joke; it can link anxiety to stomach problems and vice versa. Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? Have you ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach? We use these expressions for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.”

Likewise,  research shows that stress can negatively affect the trillions of healthy bacteria in your gut, and sub-par gut health can have a depressing effect on your entire system. Understanding how to support your good gut microbes can help you with healthier and happier days.  Occasional stress is inevitable, but fortunately, we can choose to slow down, stop, and prioritize our health. Getting through tough stressful times is much easier when you are rested, your stomach isn’t tied in knots, and you stay calm. 

Tips to Improve Your Gut Health and Improve Your Stress Response:

  1. Diet – Focus on whole and plant based foods.
  2. Rest – Get your sleep.  Not only will you feel emotionally and physically better, your gut microbes are happier for it.
  3. Move Around – Don’t just sit there… Literally. Studies show more active people have healthier gut flora.
  4. Avoid Antibiotics When Possible – These drugs kill off the good flora along with the bad.  This includes antibiotics in the foods you select and prescriptions from your health care provider (discuss the necessity).
  5. Take aProbiotic or Prebiotic/Probiotic Supplement – This will help replenish the good flora.  Look for one with a variety of strains.
  6. Find ways to make your health a priority –  Ways to slow down, appreciate the moment and de-stress can literally save your life.  Be proactive… waiting for an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment or catastrophic event… maybe waiting too long!

Why Gut Health is Crucial to Overall Health

We’ve come a long way in terms of understanding the importance of our gut (intestinal tract) and its importance to overall health.

Years ago (1980’s) a handful of scientists and doctors were researching the influence of intestinal health and its likely connection to overall health and disease.  The mere mention that the ‘bugs’ in your intestine had an effect on your ability to fight infection and disease was met with harsh criticism from conventional medical researchers and negative attention from the FDA.   Most of these pioneer ‘gut bug’ researchers took their work to countries outside of the US, where they were free to pursue this ‘radical’ idea.

Fast forward (2018) –  my how things have changed.  Research regarding intestinal microbes (‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs – bacteria-  that  live and flourish in the intestines) is considered one of the most critically important. In general there are billions and between 300-500 different kinds of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs that live in the intestines.  The balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is now known to be a key factor.

Coming up with perfect intestinal bug combination is a work in progress.  Everyone’s intestinal microbe make up is unique – much like a fingerprint.  We now know that gut microbes are determined partly by the mother’s microbe mix — the environment that a person is exposed to at birth — and partly from diet and lifestyle. Research has also proven that these intestinal microbes affect everything from metabolism, to mood, to the immune system.

Further, research suggests the gut bacteria in healthy people are different from those with certain diseases. It’s thought some types of microbes may protect against illness, while others increase the risk.  Additionally, there are issues that can positively or  negatively influence a person’s intestinal microbe count and mix.

With the established general link between gut microbes and disease, scientists began to focus on specifics.  Continued research has shown a clear connection between certain illnesses and the bacteria in your gut.  These illnesses include: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), obesity, colon cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, depression and anxiety.

We’ve also learned that eating a diet high in fiber rich foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), regular exercise, and supplementing with probiotics can help encourage a healthy and balanced gut microbe mix.  Likewise, a diet high in fat and sugar and low in fiber can kill certain types of gut bacteria (upsetting the balance). The use of antibiotics, which not only wipes out the intended ‘bad’ illness causing bacteria, also kills ‘good’ protective bacteria. (When antibiotics are needed, a discussion regarding supplementing ‘good’ intestinal flora with a probiotic should be addressed with the health care professional prescribing the antibiotic treatment).

What’s next?  We know that microbes (‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs) also live on our skin and in our lungs.  These too have a connection to disease or lack thereof.  Experts say that future research needs focus on those areas as well as the intestines in order to pinpoint the exact types of bacteria that lead to certain ailments.  Then, you may be able to just take a probiotic pill and stave off diabetes or treat arthritis… that’s the future.  Considering how far we’ve come in 25 years…  that future may not be too far off.

Kissing Bugs, Parasites and Their Disease

Parasite Spread by Nighttime ‘Kissing Bug’ – Chagas Disease…

Since our FB post and “In the News” post to this site about ‘kissing’ bugs that bite people’s faces in the dark of night as they sleep.. spreading a horrid parasitic disease… the phone, email and FB questions have been going crazy!  One person wrote… “OMG, I saw one of these bugs on my porch and then one in my garage.  Never paid much attention before, but after seeing your post and a picture of this bug… it freaks me out.  I’m not a big pesticide person.. but this bug may be a game changer!”  Another comment: “You’ve got to be kidding.. those bugs are all over the place here!  Now, how am I going to sleep?”

Before you freak out, let’s get the facts on this creepy bug!  The University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health website has a great description of the bug: “Kissing bugs are wingless insects that are about 0.75 in. (1.9 cm) long. Kissing bugs are dark brown or black with red or orange spots along the edge of their bodies. They are also called assassin bugs or cone-nosed bugs. Like mosquitoes, kissing bugs feed on blood from animals or people. Kissing bugs have that name because their bites are often found around the mouth. They usually hide during the day and are active at night when they feed. They can go for weeks without feeding.”

That said, there are a couple issues with these nighttime darlings that are problematic: #1 Their bites itch like crazy and can become infected, #2 Some carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease, and #3 They are not that easy to get rid of.

Let’s address each issue:

#1 – When they bite, kissing bugs can cause patches of bites, often around the mouth (hence ‘kissing’ bug). The bites are usually painless, but they may swell and look like hives. Itching from the bites may last a week. It’s important not to scratch the bites, because according to the Mayo Clinic’s Patient Healthcare and Information website: “Scratching or rubbing the bite site helps the parasites enter your body. Once in your body, the parasites multiply and spread.

#2 – The possibility of contracted Chagas disease is probably the most feared aspect of a bite.  First of all, not all kissing bugs carry the parasite that causes this disease.  Chagas (CHAH-gus) disease is an inflammatory, infectious disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is found in the feces of the kissing bug. Infected bugs defecate after feeding, leaving behind T. cruzi parasites on the skin. The parasites can then enter your body through your eyes, mouth, a cut or scratch, or the wound from the bug’s bite. (We know… not pleasant). It is a disease primarily found in South America, Central America and Mexico, the primary home of the kissing bug. Cases of Chagas disease have been diagnosed in the southern United States, as well. It can infect anyone and left untreated, can cause serious heart and digestive problems.

The two phases of Chagas disease are well explained by the Mayo Clinic on their website for Patient Healthcare and Information, where they state, “Chagas disease can cause a sudden, brief illness (acute), or it may be a long-lasting (chronic) condition. Symptoms range from mild to severe, although many people don’t experience symptoms until the chronic stage.”

Acute phase

The acute phase of Chagas disease, which lasts for weeks or months, is often symptom-free. When signs and symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and may include:

  • Swelling at the infection site
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Body aches
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Enlargement of your liver or spleen

Signs and symptoms that develop during the acute phase usually go away on their own. If left untreated, the infection persists and, in some cases, advances to the chronic phase.

Chronic phase

Signs and symptoms of the chronic phase of Chagas disease may occur 10 to 20 years after initial infection, or they may never occur. In severe cases, however, Chagas disease signs and symptoms may include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Difficulty swallowing due to enlarged esophagus
  • Abdominal pain or constipation due to enlarged colon

Treatment for Chagas Disease

As stated on the World Health Organization’s website: “Treatment is urgently indicated for anyone during the acute phase and for those in whom the infection has been reactivated (immunosuppression). In these situations, treatment is almost 100% effective, and the disease can be completely cured.”  ‘Treatment’ involves the use of prescription medications.  The longer a person is infected, the less effective ‘treatment’ becomes.  The World Health Organization further states. “Adults, especially those with the indeterminate form of the disease, should be offered treatment, but its potential benefits in preventing or delaying the development of Chagas disease should be weighed against the long duration and frequent adverse events. During the late chronic phase, when cardiac or digestive manifestations may occur, additional lifelong medical treatment and surgery are usually indicated.”

What to do if you feel as though you may have been bitten by one of these darlings:

  • Wash the bites with soap to help decrease the chance of infection.
  • Try calamine lotion or an anti-itch cream to calm the itching. You can also hold an oatmeal pack (wrap 1 cup (0.2 L) of oatmeal in a cotton wash cloth, and boil it for a few minutes until it is soft) – holding on the itchy area for 15 minutes at a time.
  • Intermittent application of ice packs may also relieve any swelling.
  • See a medical professional if you think the bite may be infected. Or as the Mayo Clinic suggests, “See your doctor if you live in or have traveled to an area at risk of Chagas disease and you have signs and symptoms of the condition, such as swelling at the infection site, fever, fatigue, body aches, rash and nausea.”

#3 Kissing bugs can be hard to get rid of. These bugs can hide in cracks and crevices in your mattress, bed frame, and box spring. They can also spread into cracks and crevices in rooms, where they lay their eggs. Even if you’re not a big fan of pesticides, considering the alternative consequences, it is best to call a professional insect control company for treatment choices.

Prevention is almost always the first course of action.  Taking these steps would best to prevent these bugs from getting into your house:

  • Seal gaps around windows and doors. Fill in any holes or cracks in walls or screens that could let kissing bugs into your house.
  • Let your pets sleep inside, especially at night. Keep pets from sleeping in a bedroom. Keep clean areas where your pet sleeps.
  • Clean up any piles of wood or rocks that are up against your house.

It’s important to note these bugs are broadening their territories  (spreading) across the US and estimates of human cases of Chagas disease in the US range from 300,000 to over 1 million, with particular concern for those living in the US/Mexico border regions. In addition to documented cases in immigrants who were infected in central and South America, there are increasing reports of human cases of Chagas disease acquired in the United States.

‘Kissing’ Bug Spreading Dangerous Parasitic Disease in US

The ‘kissing’ bug…  or maybe it should be renamed the ‘Kiss of Death’ bug. Carrying a parasite that can cause dangerous heart issues… this bug bites people’s faces as they sleep (yikes!!). Once only found in tropical areas outside of the US, it is spreading and is now found in people across the entire southern half of the US continent. With this bugs growing popularity comes more of the difficult to diagnose parasitic disease, Chagas. This is one bug you want to become familiar with and aware of! (As more and more diseases are being linked to parasites, beginning to understand why Dr. Clark named her book about parasites ‘The Cure for All Diseases’).  Find out what states have seen cases of this disease and learn what the symptoms are – Click here.

Parasite Outbreak Linked to McDonald’s Salads

Over 500 people sickened, 24 hospitalized in 16 different states.  As per the CDC: “Epidemiologic evidence indicates that salads purchased from McDonald’s restaurants are one likely source of these infections.”  The salads in question were contaminated by the cyclospora parasite , which causes intestinal illness in people who consume the contaminated food or water. Symptoms can begin a week or more after consuming the parasite. The illness can last from a few days to a few months, and patients might feel better but then get worse again. McDonalds pulled the salads back at the end of July and switched suppliers. For now, perhaps salads aren’t the healthiest choice at McDonalds.  Be in the know- stay safe and healthy. Full story – click here.