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After food poisoning, how to get over aversion?

Since I got sick within a reasonable time frame of eating tuna tartare, I been reflexively averse to anything raw, especially since I cannot take time off for my job. I miss sushi, but I just can't stomach it (and I'll be damned if I join my friends for sushi and order chicken teryaki or such nonsense!). Am I doomed to a life in its absence? Anyone with any advice that might help me become more reasonable?

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  1. Although I like sushi, I have had a bad case of food poisoning from it. Needless to say, I tend to eat other types of food more often.

    If a specific restaurant is where I got the food poisoning, I will not go back.

    1. Doesn't sound to me like you're being unreasonable. You've got an aversion for a totally understandable reason. I'd say start with something cooked and something not tuna. Shrimp, eel, etc. Maybe some vegetable sushi. See if you start actually craving fish. And go from there.

      1. Yikes. I still can't eat Waldorf Salad after an incident in college in '91 or so. I'm just sorry you were 'flicted by such a damn tasty item.

        1. Tuna is actually one of the fish LEAST likely to cause any illness, which is why it is often served raw or rare. I would do some research. I know that sounds placating, but the fact is that the more you know the easier it will be for you to eat what you like. Most illness is not due to the most recent meal or even what was eaten that day. It is more likely something ingested days beforehand, or not foodborne at all.

          1. Oh do I sympathize with this. When I was in 5th grade or so I went on a trip with my family and got violently ill at a Greek restaurant. I never even got to eat the food because I had to go run to the bathroom almost the second my roast lamb was set before me. It took me about 10 years before i would eat Greek again. Even though it wasn't the food that made me sick, I still associated the aroma of roast lamb (and the restaurant in general) with puking my guts out.

            All I can say is give it time. I have to admit that I haven't actually ever ordered roast lamb since that incident, but I've eaten many OTHER lamb dishes and dined at many Greek restaurants. I'm so thankful that incident didn't scare me off all varieties of lamb - that would be a very sad existence, indeed! :D

            1. i really believe that you can tackle this with your mind. i once got really sick after eating at my favorite hotdog place growing up and i couldn't even smell the shop without feeling bad. i seriously love this place though (for sentimental reasons) so i just convinced myself that it wasn't because of that place it was something else, and i tried to think about the 100s of times i ate there and didn't get sick. eventually i talked myself away from the aversion. just think of all the great experiences you have had eating sushi and other raw foods, and try to make positive associations in your head. maybe try to work back in with fish that is very different from tuna, something white and firm. also, try something that has very different flavors from the tartare that you had. just tell yourself that it would be a shame to let one bad experience overshadow all the good experiences you've had with raw food and persevere. good luck! i'm sure you can do it :)

              1. As a teenager I got sick from a takeout order of bbq ribs. Needless to say, my family never ate in that restaurant again. It still took between 10 and 15 years before I could even abide the smell of barbecue sauce on anything. It literally nauseated me. Eventually, though, the aversion just stopped. I no longer have a problem with ribs or sauce and, thankfully, that restaurant is long out of business.

                It may take a while, but with any luck you'll be back enjoying fishbait with your friends again soon.

                1. Second the recommendation for research. Read up on food poisoning and the course of symptoms. A lot of times we associate the most recent meal with the food poisoning, when it is totally innocent. My understanding is that lead time for food poisoning is 6-24 hours (you will find varying opinions on this) so it was probably *not* the tuna but one of the previous couple of meals.

                  Other than that it is difficult to give advice without knowing whether you prefer easing into something (give yourself time and then nibble a small order) or taking the bull by the horns (not eating for a day til you're starving, then ordering a big plate and wolfing it down).

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                  1. re: Louise

                    Actually it depends on the bug itself. You can get poisoned either by the bug multiplying in your innards (which takes long-- a day or two) or by a preformed toxin released by the bug while it's sitting around in your food (almost immediate onset). For example, staph aureus and bacillus cereus (famously in reheated rice, because the heat isn't strong enough to destroy the toxin) have almost immediate onset-- vomiting within 2-4 hours. Others, like E.coli can take longer. Unfortunately I'm a med student so I have the added "benefits" of learning everything that might be in my food and what it will do to me. :)

                    I like the nibbling idea. I forgot that there are a number of things other than california rolls that I can order (not that I dislike california rolls, but I have something of a chowish image to maintain ;) ) It's more the texture of the fish as sushi that bothers me... I will try starting with rolls and see how far I can go.

                  2. Soft-shell crab used to make me violently sick to my stomach, but I loved it so much that every year come the season I'd give it one more try. Finally, after about ten years of the things making me ill, I was over it. I can now eat them with impunity. Good luck! By the way, myunderstanding of the raw tuna safety issue is that you're not likely to get parasites from consuming it (unlike many other raw fish, such as salmon). As far as food poisoning goes, though, just as with any other fish if tuna isn't processed and stored with care it can harbor nasty bacteria, such as salmonella.

                    1. You are doing battle with a very primal instinct. You ate a food, it made you sick. Now every sense in your body has been trained to avoid that food. It is a survival mechanism. It takes a lot to re-write that programming. Try small steps. Can you face any kind of seafood? Maybe shrimp or crab or a very different kind of fish. Get used to that, and then maybe move to a Tuna Steak, cooked medium (yeah, I know). But then you can move from that to rare, and from that to blackened. From that it is a small jump back to raw. Give it time.

                      I got sick once in Mexico from Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (of all things), and it was years before I could even look at the stuff without feeling queezy. Then one day my Aunt saw me scarfing down a potato casserole, and she reminded me that it was the same basic ingredients as the mac&cheese, except for the starch. Still took some effort, but after that the mac & cheese became palatable, and now I can enjoy it again.

                      1. I find that our sense of smell affects our ability to stomach something more than the actual taste. Try a tuna roll and while you chew it keep a slice of lemon or something non-sushi related, but pungent, under your nose. Don't look at the roll, just try to get a piece down. And maybe get takeout. That way you won't have to deal with sushi smells wafting around the restaurant.

                        1. You have to just take the next bite.
                          One of the few times I've gotten sick was from sushi at one of our local places. My wife and I shared the same dishes but she didn't get sick. I have never been so sick. Without going into details the smell of nori was just something that I could not stomach at least for a while. I refused to eat sushi for a short while and have never been back to the restaurant in question. I still eat sushi, nori, ceviche and other raw fish without worry. The risks are low so why worry about it. You could get sick from a host of things. Just get back on the bike and go.

                          1. As they say, fall off a horse, get right back on it.

                            1996 - Mrs jfood and jfood having the last dinner in Versaille at the Trianon Palace, unbelievable place. Jfood has eaten oyster every night, and they were great. OK you know where this is going. Try sitting on a transatlantic flight with food poisoning from Paris to NY. Thank heavens for aisle seats. Fast forward. First time jfood has a chance for oysters and yup, he stares at them feels that Darwinian instinct and SLURP, AH!! Back in the saddle. Ten years later rerun of Versaille at a local resto. Up all night. Following weekend, don't you think jfood is ordering oysters over the objections of Mrs jfood. You betcha. But the deal was if jfood gets sick, he's on his own this time. :-)))

                            1. Had you eaten it previously without the ill effects? If so, probably it was a one-time thing. 30 years ago I had back-to-back violent sickness from steamed clams and I thought I had developed an allergy, because I had enjoyed them in the past. 20 years later, I tried again, with success. I think I just hit the bad quinella that summer. Still enjoying them.
                              You need one successful experience to get back in the groove, but when you will make that attempt will be your personal challenge.

                              1. i had a similar experience with fried calamari. i was turned off of it for a long time. then one random day i started craving it- and now i like it again.

                                1. Same thing happened to me about a year and a half ago. Unfortunately for me, the food in question was a Langer's pastrami sandwich(if you've had it, you know what I'm talking about). And I know for a fact there was nothing wrong with the sandwich but still that is what my body associates the incident with. The smell of their pastrami still turns me off which is weird because I'm constantly thinking about going there and eating it. I think I was more bummed about not being able to eat that sandwich than the actual barfing. I've still got my fingers crossed, hoping I'll be able to go back there.

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                                  1. re: baloney

                                    I came down with a roaring case of stomach flu one year after having been out to lunch with the church ladies. Looking back, I think it was coming on before I went--it wasn't the food, because several other people at the table had the same things I did and one other woman and I split a dessert--but it was about three years before I could bring myself to go back to that place, even though I know full well nothing at that restaurant caused the illness.

                                    But as a child, probably three or four years old, I got sick after eating zucchini and still, more than thirty years later, I can't eat zucchini.

                                  2. I think these sorts of things just require time to get over. If you think about it too much, it's not really gonna help things. You're just going to keep bringing yourself back to thinking about this unpleasant experience.

                                    Push it out of your mind. The craving to eat raw food will hopefully come back.

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                                    1. re: HannahEats

                                      I agree. Give yourself some time, don't harp on the experience. It has helped me get over aversion to baked crab cakes AND duck.

                                    2. Many years ago it happened to me after eating cold shrimp at a buffet. I have to admit, it took me years before I could eat any cold fish except tuna out of a can. But -- once I did, it all disappeared from memory. Just keep asking yourself how you can go on without oysters on the half shell, sushi, and cold crab and lobster salad? Cooked or raw doesn't make a difference -- it's the temperature that allows the bacteris to live on. Give yourself some time. Or else, try it with a strong alcoholic drink to kill some of the germs:) Maybe it will help get your nerve up. Oh, and BTW -- you can get food poisoning from badly handled hot food too.

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                                      1. re: RGC1982

                                        In college I got really sick from drinking too much rum. Seven years later and I'm finally able to drink SOME drinks with rum in them. But the culprit was Rum and Coke and I still to this day won't drink one. You may be doomed for life, sorry, but just speaking from experience.

                                      2. I totally sympathize. I got sick on duck in college and cannot face it, even years later. I don't think you're doomed, but I would swear off it for a few months. Food poisoning can lead to much worse afflictions -- h. pylori bacteria is sometimes a cause, and that can result in an ulcer. So be very careful. As for going to Japanese restaurants and ordering other dishes, that's perfectly acceptable in Japanese culture. In Japan, you generally order sushi or sashimi as just part of the meal, not the entire meal. I am a huge fan of dishes like soba, shumai and chicken katsu, which Japanese diners regularly enjoy. Don't feel socially required to eat sushi before you can stomach it -- so to speak.

                                        1. IO've been told that the aversion reaction is very deeply ingrained in the human animal. Short of intensive thehat time may provide the only real cure.

                                          1. Amandine, Twice a month I frequent my local Taquria and consume a giant bowl of Menudo with corn tortillas. The Menudo is excellent, but the by-product of the visits has made me impervious to food poisoning (I'm talking Anthony Bourdain impervious) making travel seamless anywhere in the world I go. Pre-load your Chowhound digestive track and expand your Chowhounding adventures without the consequences Olive Garden diners experience.

                                            1. Well, one way to look at is is that unless tuna was the absolute only thing you ate there, it could have come from any number of things. I have heard that people actually get sick from rice in sushi places more often than the fish itself. In fact, one time my dh and I went and got sushi and he ate nothing raw (maybe had some cooked seafood dish or teriyaki or something) and I ate the standard sashimi, etc. He got violently ill -- missed two days of work, and I was totally fine. You never know.

                                              1. My mom got sick at a restaurant 40 years ago. Today, mention the name, and we all say, "oh, my mom got food poisoning there 40 years ago...." She never went back. I've never tried it. I got sick on creamed herring 40 years ago and haven't eaten since. My husband and I got sick at a very good restaurant on chicken. Took us two years to go back. Don't force yourself is my advice. Just let some time pass. And be particular: if something doesn't look or smell right, don't take a chance. I've returned smelly raw chicken from the butcher at the market a few times -- just don't take a chance. Perhaps in time, you'll be able to go back to tuna tartare.

                                                1. Do I ever know what you mean! When I was a small child, I used to be able to eat foods like scrambled eggs and macaroni and cheese with impunity. That is, until one day I felt sick and didn't want to eat my dinner, so my mother tried to MAKE me eat it, which happened to be good 'ol Kraft mac & cheese. To make a long story short, 30 years later the mere smell of cheesy, creamy or buttery foods triggers makes my throat close up and I start to gag. I'm not actually allergic (I think), it's just that the food aversion is so overwhelming. I wish I could break the aversion, because I'm terrified that I'll be over someone's house for dinner and something cream-sauced or au gratin will be placed in front of me and I'll embarrass myself and offend my host/hostess. It's really that bad!

                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                      My worst food posioning episode occured in colledge (which meant I was basically all on my own to deal with it nobody around, to give me comfort or take care of me) I'm still not sure what it was that casued it (I've narrowed it down to either a bad sadwitch from the campus sandwitch place or bad Chinese from a certain local resturaunt) but it was the kind where I literally could keep nothing down, including water for two weeks (and bear in mind I still had to keep my full schedule up which this being my freshman year, started at 8:00 am and ended at well after midnight). Im my case what finally got me to at least try and eat was the arrival of one of the weeks in the year when a professional 5 star resturaunt took over the dining halls for a week; missing out on that was just too much for me to bear cotempalting. I worked more or less (though I am glas I decied to test the food a the dining hall just above my dorm i.e. the only one where the bathrooms were inside the actual hall.
                                                      I've also gone through the aversion phase. For a long time I would not eat scallops, since the first two times I got throw up sick (getting sick enough to vomit is pretty rare for me) involve scallops I had eaten in resturants. Eventually I did sort of get over that one, though I do not order scallops in an of themselves, and if I have a dish that involves scallops as part of it (seafood dishes from the local chinese place, for example) I tend to pick them out. (I no longer fear them, but I still usally don't like them much) But at least I no longer refuse to eat dishes that contained scallops in the fear that thier juices had contaminated everything. Similarly, my mother is violently allergic to mussels (I know allergies are really food poisoning, but as the symptoms she suffers from them (severe vomiting and nausea) are more or less the same as those of food poisoning, I think the analogy is alright) so for most of my life my and my sister were forbidden to even touch them, for fear we had inherated the allergy. I'd still think I had had there not been that night that I ordered a seafood deligh from one of our chinese resturaunts that we had gone to fequently and it came containing mussels (evideitn they though they were, upgrading the dish as mussels were not mentioned in the description) I got through the dish with no ill effects so it's pretty safe that I don't have the allergy.
                                                      Ultimatly what will get you eating again is sheer bloody mindedness, your desire for good food will, if you let it, evetually conquer your painful memories. A few months ago I had a toxin based food poisoning (the kind where your sick 2 hrs after eating the offending object) involving a wheel of Livarot. Put me off my feed for a day or two. Did I become fearful of Livarot or of all washed rind cheeses, No I just got sore that I had bough three wheels of the stuff and they now all had to go in the trash (I did however stop buying cheese from that particualr place, as it became obvios once I smelled the other two, that the seller had purposely chilled the cheeses to cover the fact the smell had turned, and that, had he kept the cheese at the approprite temp for Livarot, it would have been obvios to anyone that they had spoiled.

                                                    2. Having consumed peanut butter my entire life, I thought it strange when in 2007 I started feeling ill every time I ate Peter Pan peanut butter. After a few times I stopped eating it once I discovered that it was the peanut butter that was making me sick. I didn't try any other brands. I figured I had just developed some allergy or anomaly to peanut butter. It was only after the salmonella contamination hit the news that I discovered that the jar I had was from the contaminated lot.

                                                      I tried other brands and found I could eat it without any problems. I think it helps when you can pinpoint the source of the problem and take corrective measures. The unknown factor is much harder to come to grips with especially since you don't want to risk your health being a human guinea pig.

                                                      1. I think it is time. I got sick about 10 years ago and related it to strawberries from shortcake. It was a summer family reunion and almost all the females (but no males - odd) got sick that night. I do not know exactly what caused it, but to this day I cannot eat strawberries, which is a damn shame. I used to adore them.
                                                        If you really want to eat the food again, try baby steps to desensitize yourself. It may seem silly, but those aversions are really hard to overcome.

                                                        1. I got a bad case of food poisoning after eating tainted clams, and for years I couldn't eat clams, mussels or oysters. I absolutely loved them, but I couldn't eat them. I would be really specific at a restaurant while ordering, and I'd ask if any of the above was in a specific dish. I could have one mouthful of a dish and I would feel like my lips were curling up to my forehead! I would start swelling and getting nauseous.

                                                          I somehow reintroduced myself to really fresh and wonderful shellfish and now my body accepts it once again. A friend would buy a gross (yes, 12 dozen) oysters from a farm in Carlsbad, CA and I started with just eating one and I didn't have a reaction. The next time I ate a few more, and still was good. I also experimented with fresh clams and mussels that i knew were alive when I bought them.

                                                          I think that my body finally got back to accepting shellfish even though my mind was never the problem.

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                                                          1. re: Barbara76137

                                                            My aversion was to the taste of tequila after getting sick on it when I was 16 years old. I'd sniff someone else's marguerita every few years to see if I was interested, but it took 25 years before I got over it. Now I have no problem and could even see getting into some of the specialty tequilas and mezcals. It might take way longer than you think, but if you test yourself occasionally, your mind and body will tell you when they're ready.