Food poisoning and gastroenteritis are commonly confused conditions because both conditions cause the same symptoms: vomiting, nausea and diarrhea after eating contaminated food or water. The main difference between the two conditions is that food poisoning is obtained from eating a food that's contaminated with a bacteria, toxin or virus while gastroenteritis is primarily a viral infection that can be obtained by both food and human contact. If you have the symptoms of these conditions, call your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Food poisoning is caused by infectious organisms, such as toxins, bacteria or parasites that are in a food or beverage. The contamination typically occurs during the food handling process, and can result from incorrectly cooking food or leaving it out for too long, according to MayoClinic.com. Most symptoms of food poisoning develop within a few hours, but they can take up to an entire day to develop. Food poisoning symptoms occur suddenly and aggressively. Even after the food or beverage is out of your system, you may have the side effects of the condition for up to 10 days.
Gastroenteritis, also referred to as the stomach flu, is a viral infection that causes inflammation in your intestines. This condition is caused by catching one of four viruses: rotavirus, astrovirus, enteric adenovirus or norovirus, according to MedlinePlus. Gastroenteritis is always caused by a viral infection and is not the result of bacteria, toxins or parasites. Symptoms for this condition appear days after contamination and last one to three days. The symptoms of food poisoning and gastroenteritis are the same.
Both conditions are treated with diet modification to prevent dehydration and promote solid stools. Because both conditions cause vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, eating foods that are bland and low in fiber will help alleviate and shorten the duration of diarrhea and nausea. Eat bland foods in small portions, such as potatoes, bananas, rice, apples, toast, cooked carrots, skinless chicken and crackers, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Increase your liquid intake to prevent dehydration. Drink clear liquids that don't contain caffeine or alcohol.
Both conditions can cause dehydration, which can cause serious complications if not treated, such as brain damage and death. If you become dizzy, faint, lightheaded, very thirsty, have not urinated and have dry mouth, call your doctor for further evaluation. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization to restore your normal functionality.