4 Home Remedies for the Stomach Flu

It’s that time of year again, flu season. My staff is out due to the flu, kids are spreading it throughout the schools, and it runs rampant in the daycares. This time of year, everywhere I go, people want advice on my best home remedies for the flu, so I have decided to share them with you. 

Stomach flu, medically known as gastroenteritis, is a gastroenteritis infection and inflammation of the intestines and the stomach.

A virus, bacteria or parasite causes this digestive disease. However, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis are more frequent. The most notorious stomach flu viruses are norovirus and rotavirus while E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter bacteria often trigger bacterial stomach flu.

Stomach flu is not related to influenza or flu that gives you a cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever. It has nothing to do with the respiratory system. Instead, this infection affects the intestines and stomach conjuring up the following manifestations:

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Flu

  • diarrhea or sometimes blood in the feces
  • nausea or vomiting
  • stomach cramps
  • fever
  • muscle and joint pain
  • headache
  • loss of appetite

Is Stomach Flu Contagious?

Stomach flu is highly contagious. It quickly spreads through contaminated food or water. Mostly, the primary culprit is poor hygiene of food handlers and close contact with infected people.

  One of the recent incidents related to this foodborne disease was an outbreak of E. coli infection in Chipotle Mexican restaurants, which prompted the popular food chain to close 43 branches in Oregon and Washington.

What Are Home Remedies for Stomach Flu?

  1. Drink plenty of fluids:
    Fluid replacement is the number one priority when you are suffering from stomach flu as the infection causes persistent fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea. Intake of water, broth or any clear liquid is highly recommended to replenish your fluids. Ginger tea can be helpful in alleviating nausea.

    In the case that consuming large volume of fluids is not tolerated, taking frequent sips of water or chewing ice chips at regular intervals may also suffice.  Many doctors also recommend over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions (OHS). OHS is ideal for replacing both fluids and electrolytes (essential salts) in stomach flu. Sports drinks or coconut water are good replacements for adults while Pedialyte is the best choice for children.
  1. Rest well:
    Losing too much fluid and loss of appetite can make you feel weak and tired. Thus, a lot of rest is essential. You don’t necessarily need to sleep all day; lounging on the couch works as well.  Resting allows your body to fight off the stomach flu virus or bacteria and repair the cellular damage caused by the bacteria.  
  2. BRAT diet:
    The BRAT diet consists of Banana, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. These bland foods are recommended for conditions that involve a stomach upset and diarrhea, as they won’t irritate your stomach. They have low-fiber content that aids in making your feces firmer. The BRAT diet also consists of foods that are easy to digest and rich in carbohydrates for your energy supplement. Likewise bananas are rich in potassium, an electrolyte that is massively depleted along with fluids due to persistent vomiting and diarrhea.

    However, keep in mind that you should avoid the BRAT diet if you are still actively vomiting; stick to clear liquids instead. Once you can tolerate solid foods without vomiting, introduce the BRAT diet and start with small frequent feedings.
  3. Medication:
    Home medications for stomach flu are mostly for symptom relief, particularly if the causative agent is a virus like norovirus or rotavirus. You may take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever, loperamide for diarrhea and ibuprofen for body pains. However, it is always best to consult your doctor before trying over-the-counter medications to ensure safe and proper dosage.

    If bacteria is the cause your stomach flu, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. Medicine that relieves nausea and vomiting needs a prescription too!

    Although the above remedies may go far to relieve symptoms or even get you through the flu, it is always good to consult your health care professional if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

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