It’s that time of the year. Everyone is getting the stomach flu. You know—nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, headache, and sometimes fever. Unlike true influenza, there’s no flu shot to prevent the stomach flu (also know by professionals as viral gastroenteritis). All you can do is practice serious hand washing and food safety… and avoid people with it. Well, with a two-year-old, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, my little guy brought it home twice in the past month, and obviously you can’t leave a child to fend for himself when a virus comes knocking on your door. Which means, this mama got her fair share of days hovering over the toilet, too.
So to celebrate saying farewell to our home’s stomach bug (for now), I’ve compiled info for the best remedies to help your household fight this winter nuisance.
When the symptoms arrive…
When the stomach bug attacks your digestive system, all the symptoms you get (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) are your body’s response to drive out the virus. So while as horrible as these symptoms are, the real risk comes from dehydration—especially in babies, young children, and the elderly. The primary goal of nutrition therapy with the stomach flu is to prevent dehydration while your body recovers from the symptoms.
Please note: I am not a medical doctor nor any of this information should replace advice from your doctor. If you are concerned that either you or your child is at risk from dehydration, seek medical attention immediately. See a certified medical professional for individual diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
What dehydration looks like adults (minor to severe signs/symptoms):
Check for these signs/symptoms of dehydration in kids:
With any of these severe dehydration symptoms in children, call 911 immediately:
So without further ado, here are the best remedies (besides any medications recommended by your doctor) to survive the stomach bug:
1. Stay hydrated drinking the right stuff.
Once you think the vomiting has passed, start taking small sips of clear liquids at regular intervals. Try sipping fluid every 10 minutes and gradually shorten the interval between sips as tolerated. You may even want to begin by just chewing on ice.
What to drink (for adults):
What to drink (infants & young children):
2. Nourish eating the right stuff.
As digestive symptoms improve along with your appetite, try adding solid, bland foods back into the diet. (This is where I made the mistake of having spicy Spanish paella a little too soon after my last bout of the stomach bug... although it was super delicious!)
The BRAT Diet?
In the past, the stomach bug go-to diet has been the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) as it’s easy to digest, full of carbohydrates for energy, and replenishes select nutrients lost through diarrhea and vomiting. However, the BRAT diet is low in fat, protein and many micronutrients (i.e. vitamin A, B12, and calcium) and is too restrictive for children, unless the foods are part of the child’s regular diet according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Therefore, children should return to a regular diet as tolerated as soon as they are rehydrated to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Adults may benefit from adding these foods to their diet as they transition into a regular diet.
Other foods to try when returning to regular diet:
Proteins: Eggs and silken tofu are full of protein and seem to be well-tolerated post stomach bug. Just avoid cooking them in a lot of butter or oil as high fat foods can irritate the stomach. Other proteins to try are poultry, fish, pork, or smooth nut butters (if tolerated).
Soups: The cooked vegetables in chicken noodle soup or puréed soups may be easier to tolerate than their raw counterparts. Just avoid adding extra black pepper to the soups.
Probiotics: Some studies (1, 2) have found that the addition of select probiotics, like L. casei found in some yogurts and the supplemental yeast S. boulardii, shorten symptoms of diarrhea by restoring the normal microbiota in the colon. Talk with your doctor first before you or your child start any supplement.
Foods to avoid:
I probably don’t have to tell you this one, but rest up as much as possible and avoid screen-time if it makes you dizzy or nauseated. Also, keep you or your sick children isolated while having active symptoms to avoid spreading the bug to other family members. And, you may want to have healthy family members use another bathroom if possible. It’s also a good time to refresh everyone on the basics of good hand washing.
Now it's your turn! How do you fight the stomach bug? Share your tips and tricks below!
Hello, I'm Erin – a follower of Christ, wife, mama of two, and registered dietitian. Welcome to my blog where I write about intentional motherhood, intuitive eating, inspired discipleship, and whatever else I feel like!
Follow Erin on Instagram