Gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu, is a condition that causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines (the gastrointestinal tract).
Gastroenteritis is a horrible experience with only one upside – it does give you a justified reason for a few duvet days. The downside is that you’ll spend most of that time in the loo, having the runs and puking. Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut with microbes, which usually causes a mild tummy upset for a day or two.
However, there is a more severe form that sticks around for several days. Apart from the watery poo and throwing up, you get blood in the poo and tummy pains for no extra charge. Sometimes a high temperature (fever), aching limbs and headache are added extras.
By definition, gastroenteritis affects both the stomach and the intestines, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
Common stomach flu (gastroenteritis) symptoms and symptoms
- Low grade fever, usually less than 100 F (37.7 C)
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Mild-to-moderate diarrhea (Dehydration also can intensify the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.)
- Crampy painful abdominal bloating (The cramps may come in cycles, increasing in severity until a loose bowel movement occurs and the pain re resolves somewhat leaving a dull ache.)
More serious signs and symptoms of stomach flu (gastroenteritis)
- Blood in vomit or stool (this is never normal and the affected individual should seek immediate medical care)
- Vomiting more than 48 hours
- Fever higher than 101 F (40 C)
- Swollen abdomen
- Increasingly severe abdominal pain
- Dehydration – weakness, lightheadedness, decreased urination, dry skin, dry mouth and lack of sweat and tears are characteristic symptoms of dehydration.
If symptoms continue or worsen, call a health-care professional.
Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of infant sickness and death. Worldwide, diarrhea accounts for 3-5 million deaths yearly for all age groups. In general, most adults and children recover after they are appropriately rehydrated.
Because most infectious diarrhea is self-limited, medical care is primarily supportive in nature. Oral rehydration therapy is the cornerstone of diarrhea treatment, especially for small bowel infections that produce a large volume of watery stool output. Studies confirm that early refeeding hastens recovery. Many commercial oral rehydration formulas are available and have been designed to promote optimal absorption of nutrients.
Young infants and neonates are at high risk for secondary complications and require close monitoring, as do older individuals.
Consider intravenous rehydration when oral rehydration is unsuccessful. Particular attention must be paid to repletion of potassium as needed.
Administer maintenance fluids plus replacement of losses to ill children. Administer small amounts of fluid at frequent intervals in order to minimize discomfort and vomiting. A 5 or 10cc syringe without a needle is a very useful tool. The syringe can be used to place small amounts of fluid in the mouth quickly. Once the patient becomes better hydrated, cooperation improves enough for the patient to take small sips from a cup. This method is time intensive and requires dedication. Encouragement from the physician is necessary to promote compliance.
Live Lactobacillus GG and heat-killed Lactobacillus LB reduce the duration of diarrhea in children when they are added to oral rehydration solution. [1, 2]
Antimicrobial therapy is indicated for some bacterial gastroenteritis infections. However, many conditions are self-limited and do not require therapy.
Antimotility agents are not indicated routinely for infectious diarrhea (except for refractory cases of Cryptosporidium infection).
Some of the symptoms of stomach flu are only made worse because people rely solely on medication, when far more should be done for a happy and healthy recovery. In fact, this reliance on a simple medicinal fix could make the symptoms last even longer, whereas natural remedies and behavioral strategies can have you back on your feet and your stomach back to normal in no time. The home remedies outlined in more detail below are some of the most trusted and effective home remedies for gastroenteritis.
As one of the oldest and most trusted remedies for an upset stomach, chamomile tea is also ideal for treating gastroenteritis. The strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile tea can help to settle the stomach and eliminate nausea and vomiting, in addition to boosting the immune system to combat whatever the cause of your stomach flu happens to be.
This ancient cure-all is also quite useful in the area of gastroenteritis. The active components within ginger are powerful and versatile, including its ability to soothe the stomach and protect the inner lining of your stomach from dangerous bacteria. Chewing on ginger has also been known to eliminate nausea, although brewing ginger tea is probably the most common application of ginger for the stomach flu.
Lactobacillus casei GG and S boulardii may be helpful in some cases of viral gastroenteritis, and can help with watery diarrhea. Yogurt often contains these probiotics. Choose low fat or fat free yogurt, if you can tolerate dairy products.
Finger pressure is used to stimulate trigger points on the body that may help relieve nausea and vomiting, specifically, pressure point P-6 (also called Neiguan) is a point on the inner wrist that may be massaged.
What foods should be avoided when you have the stomach flu?
As described previously, when you have the stomach flu, you want to eat bland and binding foods such as the BRAT diet. Avoid foods that will contribute to symptoms, including:
Many people are lactose intolerant, which can cause diarrhea. If you have gastroenteritis, you may temporarily have a hard time digesting the lactose in milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
Greasy, fatty foods can be hard on the stomach even when you feel well. Fatty meats, creamy foods, and even nuts can all contribute to feeling full which may aggravate an upset stomach, and they can stimulate the digestive tract, causing loose stools.
Foods with heavy, hot spices such as chili, hot pepper, and garlic, may aggravate your symptoms and upset your stomach even more. In addition, many spicy foods are cooked in oil, making them fatty as well.
Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which will cause you to urinate and lose fluids and you could become dehydrated. When you are already dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea, you want to stay hydrated. Caffeine can also cause loose stools.
Usually, fruits, vegetables, and beans are good for you. But when you have diarrhea, fiber can aggravate already loose bowels, especially in people who are not used to eating fiber regularly. Stick to the binding foods suggested in the BRAT diet.
Alcohol can cause irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) and the digestive tract, and can stimulate the production of gastric acid, which you want to avoid when you already feel nauseated.
Consuming sugar in foods or drinks can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. In some people, this can cause nausea. Sugary foods are also often fatty, adding a double-whammy to aggravate symptoms.
Colas contain a lot of caffeine, which acts as a diuretic. However, non-caffeinated sodas contain chemicals and are acidic, which can also irritate the stomach. The carbonation may also cause you to feel more full and to belch, which can aggravate nausea.
Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, etc.), citrus juices, pineapple, and tomato products have a lot of acid that can irritate the stomach and cause acid reflux and further upset the stomach.
Many pre-packaged and processed foods are high in fat, sugar, preservatives, and artificial colorings. All of these can aggravate an already upset stomach or worsen diarrhea, especially in individuals sensitive to these ingredients.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, and oats. Some people are sensitive to this protein and it can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating so these people may find avoiding products with gluten will help ease symptoms.
The sweetener that often causes digestive problems, even in healthy people, is called sorbitol. It is often used in diet foods and sugarless gum, and can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.