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Food Poisoning: What People with Diabetes Need to Know

In honor of World Diabetes Day, learn from an expert about food safety risks for people with diabetes. 

Food poisoning is a serious concern for everyone. As a registered dietitian nutritionist with diabetes, I know food poisoning can be especially serious for people with diabetes.

Five Food Poisoning Concerns for Those with Diabetes

People with diabetes are considered at high risk for food poisoning. Simply stated, we are not as heavily armed for battle against infection. Why is that?

  1. Our immune system may not be as quick to respond or recognize harmful bacteria or other pathogens, and this delay places us at higher risk for infection.
  2. Our gastrointestinal tract may not be as strong because diabetes may have damaged the cells that produce stomach acid or damaged the nerves that help move food through our digestive system. If the food doesn’t pass through at a normal pace, there may be more opportunity for harmful bacteria to grow.
  3. Our kidneys also may not be working to full capacity as a result of uncontrolled diabetes. The kidneys are important for detoxifying our body, therefore harmful toxins may stay around longer instead of getting flushed out of our system.
  4. There are many variables involved in keeping our blood glucose (sugar) levels in balance. Infection or illness can send blood glucose levels on a roller coaster ride.
  5. Contracting food poisoning puts stress on the body. Stressors may include dehydration, inability to eat according to your regular eating plan, cardiovascular stress and kidney failure.

Kitchen Safety Guide: What To Do

To prevent food poisoning, we need to pay special attention to keep food safe to eat. It’s actually fairly simple with these food safety tips and list of wise food choices for those at increased risk for food poisoning. In addition, follow the four simple steps: wash, separate, cook and refrigerate.

Contact your medical provider if you believe you may have food poisoning, and check with a registered dietitian nutritionist about sick day eating guidelines to help maintain stability in your blood glucose readings.

More tips on Diabetes and Food Poisoning. 


Toby Smithson
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Toby Smithson

Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Smithson is a Diabetes Lifestyle Expert with Livongo Health, and the founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com, an online guidance and support resource for people with diabetes. She is the co-author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies by Wiley Publishing released October 2013.
Toby Smithson
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