Schedule your free consultation today.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

All fields are required



(833) 330-3663

Links Between Food Poisoning and Autoimmune Disease May Surprise You

Posted in Guillain-Barre Syndrome,Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome,Irritable Bowel Syndrome,Our Blog,Reactive Arthritis on May 8, 2024

Links between food poisoning and autoimmune disease may surprise you.

Food poisoning is a common ailment across the United States, presenting significant public health challenges across the country and around the world. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 47.8 million cases of foodborne illness happen in the United States each year. This causes around 128,000 hospitalizations and results in 3,030 deaths. This racks up a price tag of $78 billion annually in costs, medical expenses, and loss of productivity.

Common Foodborne Pathogens

According to historical data, seven microorganisms make up ninety percent of all foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States.

These include:

  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Escherichia coli O157:H7
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Salmonella (non-typhoidal)
  • Norovirus
  • Toxoplasma gondii

The most common foodborne pathogen of the seven is norovirus. However, Salmonella ranks higher in principal cause of hospitalization and death.

Long-term Effects of Foodborne Illness

Typical symptoms of foodborne illness include diarrhea and vomiting. Maybe a fever. Throw in some dehydration for good measure. All bad things, but most eventually come to an end.

But sometimes, not everything returns to normal. Unfortunately, some bouts of foodborne illness lead to complications that result in long-term effects.

“Every year more than 200,000 Americans develop long-term sequalae – a condition that is the consequence of a previous illness – from a single bout of foodborne illness.”

In fact, around 200,000 Americans each year develop a long-term effect from foodborne illness.

Some of the more common long-term complications include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reactive arthritis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome to name a few.

Unfortunately, these long-term effects do not always appear right away. I could take week, months, or even years for these long-term effects to appear. This makes it challenging to diagnose and treat these effects.

Food Poisoning and Autoimmune Disease

Food poisoning and autoimmune disease have been linked to many long-term complications.

But what exactly is an autoimmune disease.

An autoimmune disease is an illness in which the body’s immune system inappropriately responds to stimuli. It is essentially an overreaction to a perceived threat, whether real or anticipated.

Common autoimmune diseases include inflammatory bowel disease (a collective term for Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis), rheumatoid disease, autoimmune thyroid disease, renal disease, heart and vascular diseases, and neural and neuromuscular disorders to name a few.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowl disease is often used interchangeably with ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease. Both are chronic inflammatory diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract.

Common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

One suffering with inflammatory bowel disease often has a constant flux of neutrophils into inflamed mucosa. This disease often has many relapses resulting in abdominal abscesses or a restricted colon. Both Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis often have a genetic predisposition.

Common foodborne infections associated with inflammatory bowel diseases includes:

  • E. coli
  • Pseudomonas
  • Mycobacterium
  • Enterococcus fecalis
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Streptococcus

Autoimmune Rheumatoid Disease

Rheumatoid disease involves chronic inflammation of the synovial space. Reactive arthritis is the most common rheumatoid disease associated with foodborne infection.

Food poisoning and autoimmune disease presents as rheumatoid disease when bacteria infect the joints.

Common symptoms of rheumatoid disease include:

  • Joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Pain during urination

The presence of the bacteria in those joint fluids creates an immune response, often lasting much longer than the microbe is in the body.

Common foodborne infections associated with rheumatoid disease include:

  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Escherichia coli
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella dysenteriae
  • Shigella flexneri
  • Yersinia enterocolitica
  • Yersinia pseudotuberculosis

Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

A common autoimmune thyroid disease is Graves disease. This autoimmune disease is mediated by autoantibodies that affect the thyrotropin receptor. Certain Yersinia bacterial serotypes mimic that receptor.

This results in severe hypothyroidism.

Common foodborne infections associated with autoimmune thyroid disease include:

  • Giardia lamblia
  • Yersinia pestis
  • Yersinia pseudotuberculosis
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

Autoimmune Renal Disease

One of the more common renal diseases associated with foodborne illness is hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS. HUS is a type of kidney failure often associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli or other types of toxin-producing bacteria.

Common symptoms of renal disease include:

  • Acute renal failure
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet levels)
  • Microangiopathic hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells)

Acute renal failure is the leading cause of death in children. Thrombocytopenia is the leading cause of death in adults.

Common foodborne infections associated with autoimmune thyroid disease include:

  • Shiga toxin-producing coli
  • Citrobacter
  • Campylobacter
  • Shigella
  • Salmonella
  • Yersinia

Autoimmune Heart and Vascular Diseases

Several foodborne pathogens have shown to be either indirectly or directly associated with heart damage. This heart damage appears to be permanent.

This happens when the bacteria enter the heart through the lymphoid system. Endotoxins from degrading bacteria cause inflammation in the endothelium and smooth muscle cells of the heart.

Common symptoms of heart and vascular diseases include:

  • Cardiac conduction abnormalities
  • Endocarditis (life-threatening inflammation of the inner lining of the heart’s chambers and valves)
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)

Studies show that oxidative stress in response to the presence of the pathogens is the primary cause of inflammation.

Common foodborne infections associated with autoimmune heart and vascular diseases

  • E. coli
  • Salmonella tyhimurium

Autoimmune Neural and Neuromuscular Disorders

One of the more common foodborne associated autoimmune neural and neuromuscular disorders is Guillain-Barré syndrome.

This syndrome involves inflammatory demyelination, affecting axon degeneration.

Common symptoms of neural and neuromuscular disorders include:

  • Alexia (inability to see words or read due to a brain defect)
  • Motor paralysis with mild sensory disturbances
  • Acellular increase in total protein content in the cerebrospinal fluid

Campylobacter jejuni is the most common infection associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome, however, other enteric pathogens can trigger the syndrome.

Prevention is Key When It Comes to Food Poisoning and Autoimmune Disease

Nobody plans to get sick. But if these potentially life-threatening autoimmune diseases associated with food poisoning aren’t enough to scare you into taking steps to reduce foodborne illness, I’m not sure what will.


  • Eat fully cooked food (using a food thermometer to measure accurate internal temperature)
  • Frequently washing your hands and observe proper hand hygiene
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
  • Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat-foods
  • Follow for the latest in food safety information

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like Links Between Food Poisoning and Autoimmune Disease May Surprise You, check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)