Stomach cramps. Nausea. Diarrhea. These are just some of the possible symptoms of food poisoning, a gut-wrenching illness that afflicts one in six Americans per year.
But scientists at the McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have discovered yet another downside to this common ailment: Those who fall victim to food poisoning may retain bacteria in their gut that can later contribute to Crohn’s disease, reports ScienceDaily.
Affecting more than 780,000 Americans, Crohn’s is a debilitating, chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It can cause persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and more, ultimately contributing to a loss of appetite and weight loss.
“This is a lifelong disease that often strikes people in their early years, leading to decades of suffering, an increased risk of colorectal cancer and an increased risk of premature death,” reports Brian Coombes, senior author of the study.
The researchers studied mice that had been infected by common food-poisoning bacteria. The authors found that even after the mice had eliminated the food-poisoning bacteria, they still displayed increased levels of adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC) in their guts. And it’s this bacterium that has been linked to the development of Crohn’s over time.
The authors hope that their findings can spur the development of new diagnostic tools that can help treat and prevent Crohn’s. “We need to understand the root origins of this disease — and to use this information to invigorate a new pipeline of treatments and preventions,” says Coombes.
4 Ways to Help You Avoid Food Poisoning
And despite the prevalence of food poisoning, there are ways you can protect yourself. FoodSafety.gov provides important steps that you can take when prepping foods, including:
1. Avoiding washing meat, poultry or eggs in the sink, as this can transfer bacteria to your sink, countertops and other kitchen surfaces.
2. Investing in a food thermometer. When cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, ensure that they reach a safe minimum internal temperature before serving.
3. Washing your hands with soap and running water before and after preparing food.
4. Preventing cross-contamination. Don’t place ready-to-eat food on surfaces that held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.