Many of you might be panicking at the blanket, bagged-salad recall in Coles due to the salmonella outbreak in Victoria this week. Here are three easy natural remedies to avoid salmonella poisoning and protect yourself and your family.
1) Increase your levels of beneficial bacteria
Salmonella is a pretty nasty group of gram negative bacteria that can cause severe gastroenteritis. Whenever dealing with prevention of bacteria-induced food poisoning, you must focus on boosting levels of your own beneficial bacteria. This is key to avoiding the infection and/or drastically reducing the symptoms (virulence) if you’re unlucky enough to get it.
Diet and prebiotics have been shown to boost your own levels of the beneficial species lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in just 48 hours. Improving your microbiota profile as a way to avoid infection makes perfect sense. Most gut bacteria reside in the mucin layer lining the gut. This is where they get food and shelter, and competition for attachment is fierce.
Think of it as the same scramble for the best site when you go camping. No one wants the site next to the camp kitchen or toilet, right?
The same is true of pathogenic (bad) bacteria like salmonella. When you eat contaminated food, all these guys are interested in is to muscle their way into the mucin layer so they can eat, be merry and reproduce – fast. If the intestinal lining is already overcrowded with the good bacteria, this will dramatically reduce your gut symptoms as the salmonella won’t be reproducing as fast, and make its way out into your poop. Lower salmonella counts = fewer gut symptoms.
Top Tip #1:
Take 5ml of lactulose twice daily, with or without food. Lactulose is a prebiotic fibre that has been extensively studied as a way of increasing lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. There is also some evidence it is effective against salmonella. It is sold in Australian chemists under the brand names Actilax or Lac-dol. Do not take if you have severe lactose intolerance. Therapeutic doses are 10ml twice daily but start at the lower dose as it will give you gas initially (the gas usually stops after 5 days of daily use). This is suitable for children too (just give 5 ml once daily).
2) Acidify your stomach & your colon
Salmonella can survive a broad pH range, between 4-8 but doesn’t fare so well in more acidic environments. In healthy individuals stomach pH can go as low as 2. If you suffer from bloating, SIBO, are taking Nexium or Gaviscon you’re stuffed. Having a good stomach acid is essential as a first line of defence against salmonella as it will reduce bacterial count considerably.
Keeping your colon acidic (we like to see a pH of around 5 on stool analysis) means that you’re producing great levels of short chain fatty acids or SCFAs (unless there’s diarrhoea, in which case a low pH means a too-fast transit time). Research has shown that beneficial bacteria use SCFAs to kill salmonella in the gut.
Top Tip #2:
To acidify your stomach, add a tbsp of apple cider vinegar or the juice of half a lemon to 100ml of water and drink at the beginning of the meal. You can also take herbal bitters to stimulate gastric acid production. Good herbs for this are Taraxacum officinale radix (Dandelion root), Gentiana lutea (Gentian), Centaurium eryhtraea (Centaury). At a push, you could even drink a Chinotto San Pellegrino or Angostura bitters as an aperitif and it will do the same thing (plus the sugar though).
Top Tip #3:
To acidify your colon and produce lots of SCFAs, eat a high fibre diet. Aim for 50g + of fibre daily. Ideally, you would get your fibre in through a variety of plant-based foods. Best choices are: coloured fruit and veg, multi-coloured whole grains (red and black quinoa, red and black rice, buckwheat, whole spelt, whole wheat, wild rice), onions, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, raw cacao, beans and lentils to name just a few. Cut back on animal protein and saturated fat as these feed E. coli, which is not as beneficial and can turn into a ‘bad guy’.
3) Take a strain-specific probiotic
Certain probiotic strains have been shown to be more effective than others when it comes to preventing gastro. Contrary to common belief, probiotics do NOT recolonise your gut. BUT they do exert beneficial effects on their way through the GI tract such as decreasing colon pH, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing endotoxins (toxins produced by bad bacteria).
Top Tip #4:
Eat 1 Vaalia Yoghurt daily (in Australia) as it contains both Lactobacillus acidophilus La-5 and Bifidobacterium BB-12 – both strains have been highly studied for bacterial gastro prevention.
4) Eat garlic like you mean it
Garlic is one of the best antimicrobials you can find. Plus it’s cheap and it tastes delicious. It is a selective anti-microbial, which means it won’t affect your beneficial bacteria.
Top Tip #5:
Eat 1 freshly crushed garlic clove twice daily. Check with your GP if you’re on blood-thinning medications like Warfarin as garlic may be contra-indicated. The clove must be crushed first to activate the enzymes that turn on the antimicrobial compound in the garlic. Avoid if you are fructose-intolerant or have sulfur issues.
Top Tip #6:
Last but not least, AVOID TAKING ANTIBIOTICS DURING A SALMONELLA OUTBREAK UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Broad spectrum antibiotics have been shown to increase the risk of salmonellosis in human studies.