Stomach flu also known as viral gastroenteritis is an infection of the stomach caused by norovirus. Though it is called stomach flu, there is no flu as in influenza which affects the respiratory tract. Stomach flu affects the gastrointestinal tract. It can also be caused by bacteria or parasites, but major contributors are viruses. The condition is difficult to deal with and experience can be horrible. There is no cure for stomach flu but home remedies do help to reduce symptoms and heal it fast. Most cases of stomach flu get resolved in 10 days.
Symptoms of Stomach Flu
Following are most common signs and symptoms of viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle pains
- Loss of appetite
- General weakness and fatigue
What Causes Stomach Flu
Stomach Flu is caused by a number of different viruses. The condition is highly contagious. Occasionally, stomach flu can be caused by bacteria found in contaminated foods and drinks.
Norovirus, sometimes called winter vomiting bug, is one of the main causes of viral gastroenteritis. Cruise ships, nursing homes and day care centers are some of the most common breeding grounds for norovirus.
Difference Between Stomach Flu and Food Poisoning
Though many symptoms of stomach flu and food poisoning are similar, they are two different conditions.
- Food poisoning is a short lived acute condition that gets resolved within few hours
- Stomach Flu takes 1-2 weeks to get settled
- Food poisoning occurs from eating contaminated food
- Stomach flu is a viral condition
- Food poisoning is not contagious but stomach flu is.
Home Remedies for Stomach Flu
Since gastroenteritis is a viral condition, there is no cure for it. All you do is to deal with the symptoms and reduce the inconvenience. Therefore, home remedies do a better job than conventional medicines. Use the following home remedies to get relief from your stomach flu but keep your doctor in the loop to monitor your progress.
1. Stay Hydrated
When you have stomach flu you are rapidly losing body fluids and essential minerals through vomiting, diarrhea and sweating. You need to regain these minerals and fluids.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily
- Drink fruits and vegetables juices
- Drink sports drinks to restore electrolytes lost in diarrhea and vomiting
- Drink ginger tea to reduce nausea
2. Take Rest
Your body is weak. You must take complete rest. Plenty of rest will allow your body to recover fast from stomach flu. It will also reduce the bouts of diarrhea and vomiting.
3. Use Heating Pads
In the stomach flu you will get abdominal cramps. Heating pads will help you to relieve these cramps and pains.
Take 250 grams or more of plain organic yogurt daily to get a good supply of probiotic - the good bacteria to counter bad bacteria in the stomach. Make sure that the yogurt is free of sugar, essence and other additives. You can also take probiotic capsules.
5. Zinc Supplements
Zinc supplements will help you to recover fast from stomach flu.
Foods to Eat and Avoid
Stomach flu makes your digestive system very weak, therefore you have to very selective in what you eat and what you don't eat.
Eat the following foods.
Fluids - increase your water and fluid intakes. Add sports drinks to your diet to regain lost electrolytes due to diarrhea and vomiting caused by stomach flu.
BRAT - BRAT diet is easy on stomach and digestion. It stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast.
Ginger Tea - Replace your caffeine and tea with Ginger tea with lemon.
Apple Cider Vinegar - it helps to reduce nausea and soothes the stomach.
Avoid the following foods
- Fatty foods - avoid all kinds of fatty greasy foods that are hard for your stomach. When you have gastroenteritis, you can't take such foods which promote diarrhea. Fatty foods are difficult even when you are healthy.
- Dairy - Dairy in different degrees can cause diarrhea in people. People with lactose intolerance are more affected. Even if you don't have lactose difficulties avoid milk and milk products such as cheese and butter during the bout of stomach flu.
- Caffeine - caffeine makes you dehydrated. Your aim is to intake and retain fluids in the body during stomach flu. So avoid caffeine.
- Alcohol - Alcohol also makes you dehydrated. It also affect the stomach lining. Avoid alcohol.
- Soda - All carbonated drinks act as diuretics due to presence of caffeine and other chemicals. They can cause belching and nausea in addition to dehydration. Avoid.
- Processed Foods - most processed foods are high in salt, sugar and preservatives. Such ingredients promote indigestion and diarrhea when the digestive system is weak. Give up the urge to consume processed foods when you are going through the ordeal of stomach flu.
Tips and Precautions
Since stomach flu is a viral contagious condition, you need to take precautions to get affected by it.
- Ensure that you're food and water intake if not contaminated. Though home food is generally safe but Street Foods sometime can be very contaminated due to lack of hygiene practices.
- Stay hydrated all the time if you get stomach flu. Loss of water and minerals due to diarrhea and vomiting during stomach flu can make you weak. Dehydration can affect vital organs of your body.
- Stay in touch with your doctor if you keep losing fluids for 24 hours. You may be put on IV fluids to stay strong.
- If someone else in your house has got stomach flu then you must take extra precautions because it is contagious. Keep infected person isolated
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water instead of sanitizer.
- Wash your clothes and bedding to avoid spreading it to others if you are already affected.
There is no real cure for stomach flu. It takes its own time to go. Just take precautions to stay hydrated and healthy and within a week or 2 you will be back to normal life.