We are talking about a highly contagious infection that affects the stomach and intestines.
Norovirus is the most common viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu.
The main symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
- Stomach cramps
- Abdominal pain.
Fortunately, some diets, foods, and drinks can help calm your stomach, prevent further complications, and help you recover faster.
The following is a list of 16 foods and drinks that you can follow when you have gastroenteritis:
The most common complication of gastroenteritis is dehydration.
It can be not easy to control anything, even water, and other fluids when the virus strikes you.
Although hydration is crucial when dealing with this disease, drinking too much at the same time can make nausea and vomiting worse.
Sucking on ice is an excellent place to start, as it prevents you from consuming fluids too quickly. This can help you keep liquids down and stay better hydrated in the early stages of the stomach flu.
The ice chips help you drink water slowly, which your body can better tolerate in the early stages of gastroenteritis.
Diarrhea and vomiting are the main symptoms of gastroenteritis. These can quickly lead to dehydration if lost fluids are not replaced.
Clear liquids are mostly water and carbohydrates, making them easy to digest.
Some options are:
- Decaffeinated teas.
- Clear fruit juices, such as apple, cranberry, and grape juice.
- Sports drinks.
- Coconut water.
- Oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte.
Keep in mind that fruit juices and sports drinks can be high in sugar, so it is important not to drink too many of these drinks simultaneously.
Also, avoid giving them to babies and young children without professional guidance, as they can worsen diarrhea.
Clear liquids are easily digested and help replace lost fluids due to diarrhea and vomiting.
Electrolytes are a group of electrically charged minerals that help with critical body functions, such as regulating blood pressure and muscle contraction.
Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes is the cornerstone of stomach flu treatment.
Health professionals often recommend oral rehydration solutions at the onset of diarrhea and vomiting, especially for infants and children. These contain water, sugar, and electrolytes in specific proportions easy to digest.
Sports drinks are another option to help replenish fluids and electrolytes, but they are usually higher in sugar.
Researchers suggest that they may be as effective as oral rehydration solutions in treating dehydration in adults.
Electrolyte drinks provide fluids and replenish essential minerals lost during gastroenteritis.
Peppermint tea can help ease symptoms of the stomach flu. Just the smell of peppermint can reduce nausea.
In a study of 26 people who experienced nausea after surgery, smelling peppermint oil while doing deep breathing exercises relieved nausea in 58% of the participants.
Other studies suggest that smelling peppermint oil can help decrease bouts of diarrhea in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
While studies on the benefits of peppermint tea for the stomach flu are lacking, there is little to lose by trying. At the very least, peppermint tea is a potential source of much-needed fluids when you’re sick.
Several studies suggest that smelling peppermint can ease nausea, although more research is needed on peppermint and gastroenteritis specifically.
Ginger is commonly used to relieve nausea, a primary stomach flu symptom.
Although research on ginger for nausea during the stomach flu is lacking, several studies have found that ginger helped reduce nausea due to pregnancy, cancer treatment, and motion sickness.
Ginger is available fresh, as a spice, or as an ingredient in teas, ginger ale, and candy. Meanwhile, concentrated amounts of this spice can be found in syrups, capsules, and tinctures.
However, it may be best to avoid concentrated sources, as ginger can cause diarrhea when taken in high doses.
Instead, try grating freshly grated ginger root into a soup or brewing it into a tea to potentially ease nausea during the stomach flu.
Many studies support the use of ginger to reduce nausea, but more research is needed on the use of this herb to reduce nausea, specifically during the stomach flu.
When you experience diarrhea, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends broth and broth-based soups as the first choice when switching back to eating.
Broth-based soups have a very high water content, which can help with hydration during a stomach flu attack.
They are also an excellent source of sodium, an electrolyte that can quickly deplete with frequent vomiting and diarrhea.
For example, 1 cup (240 ml) of a classic chicken noodle soup is about 90% water and provides about 50% of the Daily Value (DV) for sodium.
During the stomach flu, broth-based soups are an ideal transition to solid foods, as they provide plenty of fluids and electrolytes.
Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast
Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are the foundation of the BRAT diet.
Healthcare professionals often recommend these bland foods for upset stomachs, as they are gentle on the stomach.
Remember that the BRAT diet alone will not provide your body with all the nutrients it needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children return to their usual age-appropriate diets before rehydration.
However, bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are safe options to start with when you’re feeling dizzy from the stomach flu.
Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are safe foods to try while sick with the stomach flu.
Dry cereals and crackers
To avoid causing nausea and vomiting during the stomach flu, dry foods like cereals, plain crackers, and pretzels are safe options.
Since they are free of spices, low in fat, and low in fiber, they are gentle on the belly.
They are also made up of simple carbohydrates, quickly and easily digested.
Plus, these refined grains are often fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, which can help you get closer to meeting your daily nutrient needs when you’re sick.
Dry cereals, crackers, and pretzels may be better tolerated during the stomach flu as they are easy to digest, have no spices, and are low in fat and fiber.
Soft foods like plain potatoes are great options when you have gastroenteritis.
Plain potatoes are soft, low in fat, and made up of easily digestible starches. They are also loaded with potassium, one of the main electrolytes lost during vomiting and diarrhea.
Just one medium potato (167 grams) provides about 12% of the DV for potassium.
Avoid adding high-fat ingredients like butter, cheese, and sour cream, as they can worsen diarrhea. Instead, consider seasoning your potatoes with a pinch of salt, as sodium can be depleted during the stomach flu.
Plain potatoes are easily digested and high in potassium, an important electrolyte that can be depleted during the stomach flu.
Eggs are a nutritious option when you’re sick with the stomach flu.
When made with minimal added fat, dairy, and spices, eggs are easy on the stomach.
They are also an excellent source of protein, with 6 grams per large egg, and they provide other nutrients, such as B vitamins and selenium, a mineral that is important for your immune system.
Avoid frying eggs in oil, butter, or lard, as large amounts of fat can worsen your diarrhea.
Eggs are gentle on the stomach and rich in protein and other nutrients, making them a great option when you’re sick with the stomach flu.
Low-fat poultry and meat
Lean meats and poultry may be better tolerated than high-fat options when you have the stomach flu.
Lean options include:
- White meat, without skin, chicken, and turkey.
- Extra-lean ground beef.
- Low-fat deli meats (lunch meat) include chicken, turkey, and ham.
- Additional lean cuts of meat, such as top sirloin and round steak.
- Pork chops with the fat removed.
Avoid frying the meat, and instead, opt for baking or broiling to help keep the fat content low and avoid aggravating your stomach upset.
Low-fat poultry and meat are recommended over high-fat options, as they can be better tolerated during the stomach flu.
When hit with gastroenteritis, fluid replacement is a priority.
Drinks are not the only option for hydration. Many fruits are 80–90% water. The following are some of the fruits that are highest in water:
Fruits also provide many vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and vitamins A and C.
Eating fruit can help replenish fluids when gastroenteritis, which is a top priority.
Meals and foods to avoid
Some foods and drinks can make nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastroenteritis worse:
- Caffeinated beverages: Caffeine can affect the quality of sleep, which can make a recovery difficult. Also, coffee stimulates your digestion and can make diarrhea worse.
- High-fat and fried foods: High-fat foods are harder to digest and can lead to diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
- Spicy Food: Spicy foods can cause nausea and vomiting in some people.
- Sugary foods and drinks: High amounts of sugar can worsen diarrhea, especially in children.
- Milk and dairy products: When you get sick with the stomach flu, some people have trouble digesting lactose, a protein in milk and dairy products.
Caffeine, dairy products, and delightful, spicy, or fatty foods and drinks can aggravate gastroenteritis symptoms.
Prevention of gastroenteritis
General suggestions on how to reduce the risk of gastroenteritis include:
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing diapers, smoking, using a tissue, or handling animals.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water before preparing food or eating.
- Use disposable paper towels to dry your hands instead of cloth towels, as bacteria can survive for some time on objects.
- Unless they have been thoroughly washed between uses, do not handle raw and cooked food with the same implements (tongs, knives, cutting boards).
- Keep all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean.
- Keep food cold (below 5 ° C) and hot (above 60 ° C) to prevent bacteria growth.
- Make sure food is well cooked.
- Clean the toilet and bathroom regularly, especially the toilet seat, door handles, and faucets.
- Clean changing tables regularly.
- Only drink bottled water when traveling abroad to countries where sanitation is suspect. Don’t forget to brush your teeth with bottled water as well. Avoid food buffets, raw foods or peeled fruits and vegetables, and ice in drinks.
The bottom line
It can be challenging to keep food and drink low when dealing with the stomach flu.
Ice chips, clear liquids, and electrolyte drinks are good places to start as they can help replenish fluids and electrolytes.
To tolerate your regular diet, mild options like soups, refined grains, and plain potatoes are safe. Low-fat eggs, fruits, and poultry may also be easier to digest.