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Can Food Poisoning Cause Your Kidneys to Hurt?

author image Peter Mitchell
Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.
Can Food Poisoning Cause Your Kidneys to Hurt?
Your kidneys sit alongside your spine, near your back. Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Food poisoning often stems from a bacterial infection, but it can be fungal in origin or can relate to food contaminants such as heavy metals. Mild food poisoning, such as from food that triggers gastroenteritis or diarrhea with no further symptoms, usually doesn't cause kidney pain. Speak to a doctor as soon as you can if you experience extended pain in your kidneys.

Kidney Pain

When kidney pain strikes, you feel it between the rib cage and the hips slightly to the side of the spine. It's an uncommon pain, according to experts at the Netwellness website. However, inflammation or damage to the kidneys can trigger a dull ache, sometimes with waves of sharper pain. Serious food poisoning is one potential cause of such damage, though a more common reason tends to be kidney stones or kidney infection.


Kidneys fail and start to hurt when little tubes inside the organs called nephrons get damaged, according to the National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Food poisoning can contribute to this damage. If food poisoning is due to a harmful toxin in the food, such as arsenic, kidneys can fail suddenly and completely. This is likely to cause severe pain and can lead to death if left untreated. However, kidney pain usually isn't the sole symptom of food poisoning. With serious poisoning you'll likely experience nausea, headaches, diarrhea, cramps or similar symptoms alongside kidney pain.

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E. Coli

The Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacteria, grows in poorly stored ground meats and some dairy. It also occurs in food tainted with sewage or food touched by people who haven't washed their hands. The bacteria can harm kidneys in affected people, triggering pain. In particular, E. coli is associated with kidney failure in children because of a serious urinary tract infection it can cause, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.


Mycotoxins are a form of poison produced by molds growing on food, particularly grains, beans and nuts left in humid conditions. It triggers a condition called mycotoxicosis. The Virginia DACS says that kidney disease or liver damage are potential risks of contracting mycotoxicosis. While this may not trigger immediate kidney pain, it can create a dull ache that grows in strength over time. Avoiding foods with mold growing on the surface helps prevent mycotoxicosis.

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