Our brain and food poisoning

In most Asian practises, if you are invited over for food then it is customary to accept the food prepared and served on the table. Of course, allergens should be mentioned beforehand, but it is best to keep personal preferences to yourself. After a recent dining experience trying monjayaki (prepared with fish eggs, cheese and cabbage), horumon and beef for the first time, unfortunately these foods did agree with my body, and resulted in food poisoning for me.

The common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, and start within hours of eating contaminated food (MFMER 2020). Vomiting occurs when the vomiting centre located in the medulla oblongata is stimulated (NZCYCN 2015). The medulla oblongata controls highly automated functions like reflex responses, such as swallowing, sneezing, coughing, digestion and vomiting. A lot of these functions are involuntary, or start off voluntary, and then transform in to involuntary functions. The medulla oblongata’s capability to respond quickly to a stimulus can be very important when there is a need to survive (NA 2020).

I was involuntarily vomiting to expel the ingested food. The green vomit with indigested food particles drenched my face mask, clothes, coat and long hair. I vomited multiple times in a train and train station. It was incredibly embarassing, but a great sense of relief followed. Fortunately, I had a lot of baby wipes on-hand and an attendant in the station to help.

When I returned home, I immediately cleaned myself up, but lost a lot of energy. Standing was difficult because I was too weak, typing was replaced with a speech-to-text function on my phone, and whenever I walked or moved (especially through the stairs), it induced more vomiting. The causes for this weakness and fatigue when you vomit is dehydration, and continued wretching on an empty stomach will exhaust you mentally and physically. Although food provides energy, in the scenario of my gastroenteritis, the body will not stop vomiting unless the “poison” has completely expelled and eradicated.

After this six hour wretching experience, I managed to consume an entire banana, which thankfully, did not come up. If you are experiencing food poisoning, like gastroenteritis, it is important to remember BRAT.

Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast

BRAT diet

The BRAT diet is recommended by pediatricians for children with upset stomachs but the same treatment works on adults. The BRAT diet foods contain low fiber, protein, and fat which are easy on the gastrointestinal tract to provide a chance to rest, and reduce the amount of stool produced (Watson 2021). It is not advised to follow this diet long-term because your body requires a range of nutrients, so only follow the BRAT diet when experiencing food poisoning, gastroenteritis, and other upset stomach scenarios. If you consume foods outside of the BRAT diet then expect the vomiting to continue.

I was relieved after consuming the banana because the most dangerous thing in food poisoning scenarios is severe dehydration. This is why it is essential to consume water, or beverages that contain electrolytes like Pocari Sweat, Gatorade, etc. Avoid dairy products or highly acidic beverages like juices, coffee, or cocoa until you have fully recovered, otherwise it will reinduce vomiting.

After consuming that one banana and drank as much water as I could, I passed out and slept from 7pm until 7am the following day. I managed to pull my strength together to cook my first hot meal, which was lugaw (in the Philippines), also known as congee (in China) or okayu お粥 (in Japan). In another article I will share my family’s secret rice porridge recipe to help you gather your strength and make a swift recovery as I did.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursday
Ingestion of bad food (7pm)Onigiri for breakfast.
Nauseous all morning
12pm first-wave of vomiting
3pm second-wave of vomiting
5pm third-wave of vomiting
6pm ate banana
Ate banana for breakfast. Congee for lunch and dinner.
Consumed only water and pocari sweat throughout the day.
Ate congee for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For dinner, tried to consumed smoked pork ham with congee.
Consumed only water and pocari sweat throughout the day.
Breakfast was normal rice with pork ham and peach fruit juice.
Lunch was normal rice with canned tuna.
Dinner was tonaktsu pork with rice.
Continued with only water and pocari sweat throughout the day.
Timeline of my recovery

Lastly, when experiencing food poisoning, it is best to rest – meaning sleep to give the body time to recover so please avoid working, watching television, and moving unnecessarily. It will only delay your recovery process. Everyone’s recovery time is will vary depending on your genetics, basal metabolism and other factors, but the universal truth is:

Rest to recover

I know what it feels like to be alone and to take care of one’s self, so I hope this will really help you and your families. If you found this article helpful then please let me know in the comments below!

References

Benarroch, E & Smithson, I 1997, Distribution and relationships of neuropeptide y and NADPH-Ddiaphorase in human ventrolateral medulla oblongata, J Auto Nerv Sys. 62(3): 143-146.

Campbell, A & Reece, J 2008, Biology, 8th edn, San Francisco (CA), Benjamin Cummings: 1245.

DiLonardo, MJ 2021, Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”), WebMD, United States of America, viewed on 04 February 2022, <https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/gastroenteritis>.

Hashimoto M, Hatasa M, Shinoda S. 1992. Medulla oblongata germinoma in association with Klinefelter syndrome. Surg Neur. 37(5): 384-387.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) 2020, Food poisoning, Mayo Clinic, United States of America, viewed on 04 February 2022, <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20356230>.

New Zealand Child and Youth Clinical Networks (NZCYCN) 2015, Nausea and Vomiting – management in the palliative patient, Starship, New Zealand, viewed on 04 February 2022, <https://starship.org.nz/guidelines/nausea-and-vomiting-management-in-the-palliative-patient/>.

Nursing Answers (NA) 2020, Medulla Oblongata: Function and Location, Nursing Answers, United States of America, viewed on 04 February 2022, <https://nursinganswers.net/essays/medulla-oblongata.php?vref=1>.

Wait, S, Beres, E & Nakaji, P 2009, Bacterial abscess of the medulla oblongata, J Clin Neur, 16(8): 1082-1084.

Watson, S 2021, The BRAT Diet, WebMD, United States of America, viewed 04 February 2022, <https://www.webmd.com/children/brat-diet#:~:text=The%20BRAT%20diet%20(Bananas%2C%20Rice,for%20children%20who%20are%20ill>.