Most cases of gastroenteritis (gastric flu, stomach flu, tummy bug) is due to infectious causes – viral, bacterial or protozoal. It is often self limiting and will resolve spontaneously with no need for treatment although proper oral rehydration is essential for the duration of the infection. The focus on gastroenteritis should be on management and the appropriate nutrition during this period is therefore essential.
Foods to Eat During Gastroenteritis
Eating solid foods is not practical due to the severe nausea and vomiting. Ideally the stomach should be ‘empty’ as the regurgitation of food can result in aspiration into the lungs thereby leading to respiratory complications. However, the lack of sufficient nutrition can impair the body’s ability to overcome the infection. If the nausea is not severe, the BRAT diet may be commenced.
An oral rehydration solutions (ORS) should be started immediately. Soda and sports drinks are not suitable and a suitable ORS can be purchased from a drug store. This will prevent dehydration by replenishing fluid loss due to vomiting, diarrhea and sweating while limiting the irritation to the already inflamed stomach and intestinal lining.
- Oral Rehydration Therapy
- Types of oral rehydration solutions
- Quantity of oral rehydration solutions
Foods to Eat After Nausea and Vomiting
The focus should be on restoring a normal but bland diet as soon as possible. The foods that comprise the BRAT diet are usually better tolerated after a bout of nausea and vomiting.
- BRAT Diet
- Bananas, mashed
- Rice, soft
- Applesauce. grated apples, mashed boiled apples
- Toast, plain
Tea (black, decaffeinated) and yogurt may also be considered, however, it should be discontinued if it appears to aggravate the diarrhea.
Foods to Eat After the BRAT Diet
If the BRAT diet is well tolerated with no episodes of vomiting following consumption, a bland diet should be commenced as possible. This should include meat and vegetables as the body requires a good source of protein, fat and fiber to replenish its stores and nourish the system to help overcome the infection. It is advisable to use low-fat methods of cooking at the outset. Diarrhea may persist for a short period and an oral rehydration solution should therefore be continued.
Foods to Avoid During and Immediately After Gastroenteritis
Certain foods may irritate the gastrointestinal lining and could result in loose stool or prolong the diarrhea. These foods should be avoided and introduced in small quantities once the vomiting and diarrhea eases and the abdominal pain subsides.
- Fruits – citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit)
- Hard legumes and grains – corn
- Drinks – caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, cola) and alcohol
- Oily foods
- Spicy foods
Other foods that could trigger or aggravate diarrhea are mentioned in Inappropriate Diet and Diarrhea.