Food Poisoning?

Did Oprah Get Food Poisoning? A Gut Expert Explains How To Know + What To Do

Written by: Vincent Pedre M.D. | June 14, 2024 | Time to read 17 min

Recent news has brought Oprah Winfrey's health scare into the spotlight, as she was hospitalized due to what her friend Gayle King described as a "stomach flu." Many fans are concerned and wondering if Oprah's condition was due to food poisoning or another type of gastroenteritis.

Oprah said that five people in her household were also sick with the illness. This very detail makes it more suspect that it was one particular type of gastroenteritis, but if we don’t keep an open and astute Sherlock Holmes mind, oftentimes the true underlying cause can be missed.

In this blog, I’ll delve into what gastroenteritis is, its causes, and how to manage it effectively. We will also explore Oprah's situation, drawing on my expert advice to provide a comprehensive guide on how to handle similar symptoms.

What is Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is commonly known as stomach “flu,” but has nothing to do with the flu. It is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and cramps. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by infections with viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal cramps and pain

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches

  • Headache

  • Dehydration

  • Dizzyness

The severity and duration of symptoms can vary, with most cases resolving within a few days. However, severe cases, such as Oprah’s, may require hospitalization and professional medical treatment.


Causes of Gastroenteritis

Oprah was hospitalized due to what her friend Gayle King described as a "stomach flu," raising questions about whether her condition was due to food poisoning or another type of gastroenteritis. Notably, five people in her household are also experiencing the same illness, making it highly likely that gastroenteritis is the culprit.

When multiple individuals in a household fall ill simultaneously, it strongly suggests a shared source of infection. Gastroenteritis is often caused by viral or bacterial infections that spread rapidly through close contact or contaminated food and water. This rapid transmission fits the pattern seen in Oprah's household.

Gastroenteritis can be caused by various pathogens, each with its own set of characteristics and symptoms:


Viruses are the most common cause of gastroenteritis. Several types of viruses can cause this condition, including:

  • Norovirus: Highly contagious and often responsible for outbreaks on cruise ships and in other confined spaces. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. About 20 million cases occur annually in the United States alone.

  • Rotavirus: Common in infants and young children, but can also affect immunosuppressed individuals as well as the elderly with weakened immunity. It causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, the number of cases has significantly decreased. Currently, rotavirus causes around 200,000 outpatient visits and 20,000 hospitalizations annually in the U.S.

  • Adenovirus: Can cause respiratory illness and gastroenteritis, particularly in children. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Adenoviruses are responsible for about 5-10% of respiratory infections in children and can cause significant outbreaks in close living conditions, like military barracks.

  • Astrovirus: Primarily affects infants, young children, and the elderly. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and mild fever. Astrovirus infections are usually milder than those caused by other viruses and last for about 2 to 4 days. In the United States, astrovirus causes about 2-9% of cases of diarrhea in children, resulting in thousands of cases annually.

Bacterial Pathogens

Bacterial Pathogens

Bacterial infections are another significant cause of gastroenteritis that most commonly result from contaminated food or water. Common bacterial pathogens include:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli): There are many strains of E. coli, but the strain E. coli O157 is particularly dangerous, causing severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), fever and vomiting. E. coli infections are often associated with contaminated food or water, particularly undercooked beef, unpasteurized milk, and improperly processed pasteurized milk. An estimated 70,000 cases occur in the United States each year.

  • Salmonella: This bacterium is found in raw or undercooked poultry, eggs, and other foods. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, typically starting 12 to 72 hours after infection. Salmonella can also cause severe illness in young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. The CDC estimates that over 1 million cases occur annually in the U.S., but because many may present with a milder illness, that number is probably much higher.

  • Campylobacter: Often found in raw or undercooked poultry, Campylobacter can cause diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, and cramps. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 5 days after exposure. Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of gastroenteritis worldwide — commonly referred to as “traveler’s diarrhea.” According to ScienceDirect, Campylobacter cause more than 400–500 million infections worldwide each year.

  • Shigella: This bacterium is spread through contaminated food or water, or through person-to-person contact. Symptoms include diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps, usually starting a day or two after exposure. Shigella can spread quickly in settings with poor hygiene or crowded spaces, like schools, daycare centers, and nursing homes. It is estimated that shigellosis (the infection caused by shigella) causes 600,000–1 million deaths annually. The majority of cases and deaths occur in children, especially those under 10.


Coffee Benefits

Parasitic infections, although less common, can also cause gastroenteritis. Notable parasites include:

  • Giardia lamblia: Transmitted through contaminated water (municipal or outdoor fresh water), Giardia causes giardiasis, characterized by diarrhea, gas, and stomach cramps. Giardiasis is one of the most common waterborne diseases In the United States, affecting over a million people each year. Worldwide, it affects an estimated 200 million people annually. Having experienced it myself, it is pretty horrible. At its worst, I was having to run to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Symptoms may appear 1 to 3 weeks after exposure and can last for several weeks, or even months, if not treated appropriately.

  • Cryptosporidium: Found in contaminated water and food, Cryptosporidium causes cryptosporidiosis, which leads to watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea. This parasite is resistant to chlorine, making it difficult to eliminate from public water supplies. It often happens in outbreaks, and the CDC estimates that 823,000 cases occur each year in the U.S., with the highest rates in young children and people aged 15–44.

  • Entamoeba histolytica: This parasite causes amoebic dysentery, with symptoms ranging from severe diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever to completely asymptomatic. It can also lead to a whole host of food sensitivities. This pathogen can have an acute, as well as a chronic presentation. And just because you’re in the U.S. doesn’t mean you couldn’t be exposed to entamoeba, even though it’s rare. An estimated 50 million people worldwide are infected, but due to its wide presentation, this number could be underestimated.

How to Treat Acute Gastroenteritis or Food Poisoning

Treatment of gastroenteritis focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing complications, particularly dehydration. Here’s a detailed guide on how to manage acute gastroenteritis:

Prevent Dehydration with Electrolytes

Dehydration is a significant risk with gastroenteritis due to the loss of fluids from vomiting and diarrhea. To prevent dehydration, it’s essential to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are specially formulated to provide the right balance of electrolytes and fluids.

Oral Rehydration Solutions: These can be found in most pharmacies and are the best way to replace lost fluids. They contain a balanced mix of salts, sugars, and water to help your body absorb fluids more effectively.

If Dehydration is Severe: Go to the ER and Get IV Fluids

In severe cases of dehydration, oral rehydration may not be sufficient. How do you know? Simply not being able to keep up with the fluid losses orally is one tell-tale sign dehydration is imminent. But, the most common signs are dizziness, weakness, loss of consciousness, mental fog, and even fever.

This was likely the situation with Oprah, leading to her hospitalization. Intravenous (IV) fluids administered in a hospital setting can quickly and effectively rehydrate the body, and they are the best remedy when fluid loss has been severe.

Signs of Severe Dehydration: Include excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urination, dark urine, dry skin, dizziness, and light-headedness. If these symptoms occur, seek emergency medical attention.

How to Treat the Infection: Antibiotics or Antiparasitics

Depending on the cause of gastroenteritis, specific treatments may be necessary to address the underlying infection.

  • Antibiotics: Used to treat bacterial infections. For example, antibiotics like ciprofloxacin or azithromycin may be prescribed for severe bacterial gastroenteritis.

  • Antiparasitics: Used to treat parasitic infections. Medications like metronidazole, nitozanide or tinidazole are effective against Giardia and Entamoeba histolytica.

It’s important to note that antibiotics are not effective against viral infections and should not be used unless a bacterial infection is confirmed. For viral infection, anti-viral remedies like olive leaf extract can be helpful, but the most important things to do are to support the immune system and hydration.

The Best Supplements to Biohack Acute Diarrhea

Supplements can provide additional support in managing acute diarrhea. Here are some of the best options:

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal can help reduce the severity of diarrhea by binding to toxins in the gastrointestinal tract. It works by absorbing harmful substances and preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.


  • Mild: 1 capsule three times a day

  • Moderate: 2 capsules twice a day

  • Severe: 2 capsules three times per day

Saccharomyces Boulardii

Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic yeast that helps restore gut flora and reduce diarrhea. In several studies, it has been shown to be effective in preventing and treating various types of diarrhea, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea.


  • Mild: 1 capsule twice a day

  • Moderate: 2 capsules twice a day

  • Severe: 2 capsules three times per day

RESTORE 50B CFU Probiotic 

The Restore Probiotic boutique probiotic blend consists of 10 of the most highly-researched probiotic strains to target gut health. It contains strains that help with diarrhea, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Restore helps restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which is often disrupted during gastroenteritis.


  • Mild: 1 capsule once daily on an empty stomach

  • Moderate: 2 capsules once daily on an empty stomach

  • Severe: 3 capsules once daily on an empty stomach

The Best Diet for Acute Diarrhea

Diet plays a crucial role in managing symptoms and promoting recovery from gastroenteritis. Here are some of my top dietary recommendations when recovering from acute gastroenteritis, like the one that Oprah had:

Bone Broth 

Bone broth is rich in nutrients and easy to digest, making it an excellent choice for those recovering from gastroenteritis. Other gut-healing nutrients in Bone Broth make it a gut recovery superfood:

1. Collagen, which is an important component of our ligaments, bones, tendons and skin

2. Glutamine, which heals leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability (improving symptoms of IBS)

3. Glycosaminoglycan (GAG), which are complex carbohydrates, essential for many processes in the body.

Here are 3 Brands that I recommend: Bonafide, Kettle & Fire, Brodo

Chicken Bone Broth

From The GutSMART Protocol

Makes 3 to 4 servings


1 whole organic chicken

2 chicken feet (for extra gelatin, optional)

8 cups filtered water, plus more as needed

¼ cup lemon juice

1 bunch scallions, green parts only, chopped

1 medium celery stalk, chopped

1 bay leaf

Celtic sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley


1. In a large stockpot, combine the chicken, chicken feet (if using), water, lemon juice,

scallions, celery, bay leaf, and salt and pepper.

2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.

3. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.

4. Remove from the heat, and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, take the meat off the bones, reserving the bones and setting aside the meat for another use.

5. Return the bones to the pot and simmer over very low heat, uncovered, for an additional 4 to 6 hours, checking from time to time and adding a little more filtered water if necessary.

6. About 10 minutes before removing from heat, add the parsley.

7. Remove the bones with a slotted spoon and all the stock to cool. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and refrigerate until the fat congeals on top.

8. Skim off the fat if desired (although it does add flavor and helps preserve the broth) and store the stock in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Tip: The cooked chicken can be used in other recipes as needed. It can be broken up into pieces and frozen for use at a later time.

Dr. Pedre’s Homemade Chicken Soup 

Chicken soup provides hydration, electrolytes, and nutrients. Here’s a simple recipe to try:


  • 1 whole pasture-raised chicken

  • 2 carrots, chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 8 cups water or chicken bone broth

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, bay leaf)


1. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with water.

2. Add the chopped vegetables and herbs.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours.

4. Remove the chicken and shred the meat.

5. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

6. Serve warm.

White Rice

White rice is bland, easy to digest, and helps bind stools, making it a staple in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) for diarrhea.


Bananas are rich in potassium and help replace lost electrolytes. They are also easy to digest and can help firm up stools.

Gluten-Free Plain Salted Crackers

These crackers are easy on the stomach and provide a simple source of carbohydrates.

Low-Fat Proteins

Opt for easily digestible, low-fat proteins such as pasture-raised chicken, turkey, wild-caught halibut, and branzino.

The Best Tests for Gastroenteritis

When dealing with gastroenteritis, understanding the exact cause of your symptoms is crucial for effective treatment. Here’s how testing can help:

Acute Testing

For immediate and severe symptoms, acute testing is essential to rule out bacterial infections or parasites. This often involves analyzing stool samples to detect the presence of harmful bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli, or parasites such as Giardia.

Blood tests may also be conducted to check for signs of infection or inflammation. Identifying the specific cause quickly can guide appropriate and targeted treatment, ensuring a faster recovery.

Chronic Testing

If symptoms persist beyond the acute phase or if recovery is incomplete, chronic testing becomes necessary. One highly effective method is Stool PCR Testing (Polymerase Chain Reaction). This is a cutting-edge diagnostic tool that uses molecular techniques to amplify and detect the DNA of various pathogens present in your stool. This includes the detection of a wide range of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, that might not show up in standard tests.

Most doctors and gastroenterologists fail to use this type of testing, leaving thousands of people in the U.S. and worldwide suffering from unrecognized chronic infections that cause symptoms of IBS, bloating, and food sensitivities.

The Stool PCR Testing is highly sensitive and can identify even small amounts of pathogens, making it an invaluable tool for diagnosing complex or persistent cases of gastroenteritis. Additionally, it can identify imbalances in gut flora, helping to pinpoint ongoing issues that could be contributing to chronic symptoms. By understanding the underlying problems, you can take targeted steps to restore gut health and prevent future episodes.

One of my preferred gut stool tests is the Gut Zoomer 3.0 Complete. It is one of the most comprehensive stool PCR tests that I know, measuring a variety of inflammatory and functional gut markers that form the cornerstone of my evaluation of chronic gut issues.

Work with a Functional Medicine Gut Expert

Dealing with gastroenteritis or ongoing gut issues can be challenging and downright frustrating, but you don't have to navigate it alone. As a Functional Medicine Gut Expert, I specialize in diagnosing and treating gut-related conditions with a holistic and personalized approach. By addressing the root causes of your symptoms, I can help you achieve lasting relief and optimal gut health.

Why Work with Me? 

  Over 20 years of experience as a doctor

  Treated Over 10,000 Patients

  Board-Certified Medical Doctor (MD)

  Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner

  Trained in Breathwork & Yoga Techniques

Personalized Care: Every individual is unique, and so are their health needs. I tailor my approach to your specific symptoms, lifestyle, and health history to create a customized treatment plan that works for you.

Root Cause Resolution: Instead of merely addressing symptoms, I focus on identifying and treating the underlying causes of your gut issues. This can involve advanced testing, detailed health assessments, and personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations.

Holistic Approach: Functional medicine integrates conventional medical practices with alternative therapies, emphasizing whole-body health. This means looking beyond the gut to understand how other systems in your body might be contributing to your symptoms.

Comprehensive Support: From diagnostic testing to treatment plans and ongoing support, I am with you every step of the way. My goal is to empower you with the knowledge and tools you need to take control of your gut health.

How to Apply to Work with Me Directly

1. Visit My Website: Go to PedreMD to learn more about my approach and services.

2. Complete the Application: Click on the “Work with Me” button and fill out the application form, providing detailed information about your health concerns.

3. Schedule a Consultation: My team will reach out to schedule an initial consultation where we’ll discuss your symptoms, health history, and potential treatment options.

4. Begin Your Journey: Together, we’ll develop a personalized plan to improve your gut health and overall well-being.

Trust Your Gut and Take Quick Action

Oprah’s recent health scare is a wake-up call for all of us to pay attention to our gut health. No matter how healthy you are, we are all susceptible to food and water-born pathogens. Gastroenteritis can be caused by a variety of organisms — viruses, bacteria, or parasites — and knowing the symptoms early is key.

Stay hydrated with electrolyte solutions as soon as symptoms set in to stay ahead of dehydration, use supplements like activated charcoal immediately to bind toxins, and then add Saccharomyces boulardii and Restore Probiotic during the recovery phase. Stick to easy-to-digest foods like bone broth, white rice and bananas to aid recovery. If symptoms persist or worsen, don’t wait — seek professional help immediately.

You don't have to navigate this alone. As a Functional Medicine Gut Expert, I specialize in diagnosing and treating gut-related issues with a holistic, personalized approach. Let’s work together to get to the root of your symptoms and restore your gut health. 

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