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Listeria - What you need to know

Immune, Diarrhoea | March 6, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, bacteria

Listeria - What you need to know

You may have heard in recent news about rockmelon contaminated with listeria.  At least 15 people  around Australia have now been affected, across Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.

Listeria is a bacterium that is commonly found in contaminated processed deli meats, soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk products and raw vegetables. It can be a fatal infection and prove deadly in susceptible people such as those who are immune comprised, pregnant, children and the elderly.

To prevent listeriosis (an infection with listeria) you can follow some simple food safety guidelines. There are also supplements such as garlic and probiotics which can reduce infection rates and used as a treatment in conjunction with conventional medicines.

Symptoms of listeria infection

If you develop listeriosis you may experience:Symptoms of listeria infection

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue

After coming into contact with listeria, symptoms may develop after a few days or take up to a month. If the infection has spread to your nervous system, signs and symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.


Most listeria infections are mild and often go away by themselves. However, in some cases it can lead to serious, life-threatening complications such as a septicaemia and meningitis.
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Even though a listeria infection during pregnancy may have mild symptoms it can have more dire consequences for the baby and lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or infection after birth.

What foods contain listeria

Listeria is present in soil, water and animal faeces. Foods which are typically found to have higher levels of listeria include:

  • Contaminated animal meat
  • Unpasteurized milk products
  • Soft cheeses and paté
  • Hot dogs and deli meats
  • Raw vegetables and fruit grown in contaminated soil
  • Raw and uncooked smoked seafood
  • Sprouted seeds
  • Pre-packaged salads and cut up fruit
  • Raw mushrooms


To prevent a listeria infection, you can follow these simple food hygiene guidelines:

Keep things clean

Before and after preparing food make sure all surfaces are clean including your hands, cutting boards and utensils. Warm soapy water is the best way to remove harmful pathogens from these areas. It’s a good idea to use a separate cutting board for meats and fruits/vegetables.

In particular, wash your hands after handling animals.

Clean raw foodsClean raw foods

It’s always a good habit to clean your raw fruits and vegies before consumption.

Not only will this help remove listeria from the surface area of foods but other possible harmful microbes. 

Use clean running water and a small scrub brush.

Cook foods properly

Cooking foods, particularly meat and eggs assists in removing listeria. If the meat is undercooked this puts you at higher risk of infection. It is also advisable to eat prepared and cooked foods immediately. If there are any left-overs refrigerate within one hour.

Store food with care

Store foods in sealed containers and perishable items below 5°C. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If reheating a meal make sure the food is piping hot and the temperature is even. Store raw meat products away from fresh items and make sure your fridge is clean. Use foods within their use by date.

Avoid high-risk foods

If you are susceptible to developing listeriosis it is best to avoid foods that contain higher levels of listeria. This includes people who have a weakened immune system due an underlying condition such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS and cancer. Children, the elderly and pregnant women should be extra vigilant too.

Natural therapies for prevention and treatment

If listeria infection is severe this requires medical treatment—usually with antibiotics and IV fluids. A mild infection may be managed with anti-bacterial herbs, probiotics and digestive support. These can be taken to prevent infection in the first place and as a treatment for more mild cases.


PreventionNature’s natural antibiotic—garlic has specific properties which make it very effective in treating bacterial infections. As a preventative you could aim to have more garlic in your diet by adding to cooking or dicing a clove and swallowing after a meal. During acute illness if there is nausea and vomiting garlic may not be tolerated as well. In this case you could wait until these symptoms subside and take an odourless garlic capsule or a small amount of crushed garlic mixed in manuka honey.
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Other natural antibacterial herbs and spices include cumin, cinnamon, clove, oregano and thyme.

Calming herbs

To reduce nausea and vomiting and settle an upset tummy you could try an herbal tea. Peppermint, chamomile and ginger are all anti-emetic and carminative herbs that can help to give you symptomatic relief. They are also great to keep hydrated…so take small sips throughout the day.


Having low levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut is unfortunately a common problem which can make you more prone to infections such as listeria.

On the other hand, having a diverse range of healthy bacteria can make you more resilient. Ways to achieve this is by eating fresh, healthy foods and taking a good quality probiotic which contains Lactobacillus spp.

It is also possible that Saccharomyces boulardii may be beneficial as it has proven efficacy in other bacterial infections of the gut such as clostridium and h.pylori. What we do know is Saccharomyces boulardii assists in boosting healthy bacteria in the gut after antibiotics and reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
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In addition to probiotics, fermented foods such as kimchi naturally inhibit the growth of bacterial species such as listeria.
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Final note

  • listeria is a bacterium that causes a potentially serious infection called listeriosis
  • symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue
  • probiotics and specific herbs and spices can help eradicate the virus or prevent infection in the first place  Australia’s best online discount chemist


García-Díez J, et al. Influence of Food Characteristics and Food Additives on the Antimicrobial Effect of Garlic and Oregano Essential Oils. Foods. 2017 Jun 10;6(6)

Archambaud C, et al. Impact of lactobacilli on orally acquired listeriosis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 9;109(41):16684-9

Becattini SPamer EG. Multifaceted Defence against Listeria monocytogenes in the Gastro-Intestinal Lumen. Pathogens. 2017 Dec 22;7(1)

Kim YS, et al. Growth inhibitory effects of kimchi (Korean traditional fermented vegetable product) against Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus. J Food Prot. 2008 Feb;71(2):325-32

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