Diabetes and Food Poisoning: What You Need to Know


No one wants to get sick from their food. Foodborne illness, commonly known as “food poisoning,” is caused by foods or beverages that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Although it is unpleasant, for most people foodborne illness is more of a nuisance than anything else. However, for people with diabetes, foodborne illness can be very serious. And while food poisoning is not something anyone wants to think or worry about, being aware of the causes and the symptoms can help ensure that you seek treatment as soon as possible.

Causes of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can affect just one person or many people at the same time. You might get ill after going to a picnic, eating in a restaurant, going on a cruise or even eating at an amusement park. You can even get ill after eating at home. Food can become contaminated by:

  • Meat, poultry or fish that comes in contact with bacteria
  • Water that contains animal or human waste
  • Unsafe handling during preparation in a restaurant, a grocery store or at home

Risk Factors

Eating or drinking the following can greatly increase your risk of getting food poisoning:

  • Food prepared by someone who has not washed their hands
  • Food prepared with utensils, pans, cutting boards or other tools that haven’t been properly cleaned
  • Refrigerated foods that have not been stored or cooked at the right temperature
  • Undercooked meat, poultry, fish or eggs
  • Raw fish or shellfish
  • Raw fruit or vegetables that haven’t been washed well
  • Raw (unpasteurized) milk
  • Contaminated water

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary, depending on the cause. However, symptoms generally tend to appear within 2 to 6 hours of consuming the tainted food or beverage, although they can appear days or even weeks later. Typical symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Weakness

Illness from food poisoning can last from a few hours to several days.

Complications of Food Poisoning

For most people, food poisoning is an unpleasant and uncomfortable annoyance that resolves after a few days. However, for some people, such as the elderly, infants or those with chronic disease (like diabetes), food poisoning is more serious, as it can lead to dangerous complications.

  • Dehydration: Losing too many fluids and electrolytes from vomiting and diarrhea can be serious and may require that you go to the hospital.
  • Kidney damage:coli, a type of bacteria, can sometimes cause kidney damage. This is especially a concern if you have diabetic kidney disease.
  • High blood sugar levels: Having any kind of illness can cause blood sugar levels to rise which, in turn, makes it harder for your body to recover.

It’s also important to realize that having diabetes affects your immune system, raising the risk of getting a food borne illness. And it might take longer for you to recover from the illness than it does for people who don’t have diabetes.

Action Steps

  1. Make sure that you practice food safety both at home and when eating away from home.
  2. Call your doctor if you have symptoms of food poisoning so that you can treat the illness promptly.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  4. Check your blood sugar often (at least several times a day) if you’re ill. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about a sick day plan so that you know what to do to help keep your blood sugar levels in a safe range if you’re ill.



(97 Articles)

Amy Campbell MS, RD, LDN, CDE is an experienced health, nutrition and diabetes educator and communicator with more than 25 years of experience within the healthcare sector. Amy has extensive expertise in editing and writing for patients, consumers and healthcare professionals; public speaking, teaching and group facilitation; project and account management; and content and curriculum development.


She is currently the Director for Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures LLC, a Health Professional Advisor at the Egg Nutrition Center, and a blogger/Writer for Madavor Media.

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