Let's differentiate between the different types of flus that can affect someone.
The stomach flu should not be confused with the respiratory flu (influenza virus). The stomach flu often refers to an episode of gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is a swelling of the stomach lining that can result from a variety of factors. These can include the consumption of tainted water or food, the sharing of food or drink with someone else who has the stomach flu, consuming raw fruits and vegetables, or even touching something that someone else with the stomach virus has touched and then transporting the virus or bacteria back into your own mouth (1). This is very common behaviour in children as you can imagine.
Some populations are more susceptible to contracting the stomach flu. These include the elderly, those that are immunocompromised and children. These groups are at the greatest risk.
Food Poisoning and the Stomach Flu: What's the difference?
Food poisoning is often caused by the norovirus (1). Norovirus is a contagious bug that has the power to take down an entire military platoon, a cruise ship of passengers or a classroom of children if no precaution is taken to get it under control. The virus can survive for upwards of 14 days, and thus, it's no wonder it seems that an outbreak may seem sudden.
Norovirus is called food poisoning because it most commonly travels by way of food that is tainted by the virus. It is estimated that more than 19 million cases of stomach flu can be attributed to this virus each year. Norovirus typically causes stomach and intestinal woes for its host for a period of 1-3 days.
Common Symptoms of the stomach flu
The stomach flu can be an unforgiving yet temporary condition that can wreak havoc by way of uncomfortable symptoms on your body. Common symptoms may include some or all of the following (2):
- Stomach cramping or pain
- A loss of Appetite
- Muscle aches
Some of these side effects may take place as a secondary reaction to having the stomach flu. For example, it is not uncommon to become dehydrated as a result of losing excess body fluids via vomiting or diarrhea. Vomiting or diarrhea can worsen when electrolytes are imbalanced, triggering a relentless, even damaging cycle of circumstances.
Additionally, one may develop a headache or fever in response to not being able to stay adequately hydrated under these conditions.
Natural remedies: How to treat the stomach flu
There are several effective measures one can take to survive and treat the stomach flu. If you are someone who prefers more of a natural approach, without the side effects to address your ailments, it will please you to know that there are a few effective natural solutions to help you gain control of your episode of gastroenteritis.
Get Some Rest
This first tip may seem like a "no-brainer" for some, but for others, it will be a challenge to their system. You will need to rest your body around the time of an episode or attack as much as possible. You must give this virus the time it needs to find its way out of your body. By relaxing and getting some shut-eye, you will provide your immune system the time it needs to fight off the invaders, heal and become replenished.
Conventional treatment options for the stomach flu can be scarce and limited. Don't hesitate to add herbals to the mix. Herbal teas are fantastic for helping to cure an upset belly. Peppermint, ginger, chamomile and mint are all useful plants for calming an upset stomach (3. 4).
Echinacea has been clinically proven to be extremely effective for its ability to elevate immune system health as well as digestive health. We know that 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive tracts and so when we boost one, we boost the other as they are intricately interconnected. Our Echinaforce, boasting over 20 proprietary clinical research studies, is made of fresh (not dried) plant material and so it has a deeper and wider therapeutic action on the body. It has proven to be remarkable for immune system recovery.
The BRAT Diet
Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast seem to go in and out of favor with the experts, but there's no mistaking the power of this best practice for an angry belly. When your stomach seems to be in a battle, consuming one or each of these foods can help to bestow a bit of calm where it may not seem to exist.
The BRAT diet is particularly useful for children but can also work well for adults. These foods are easy on your gut and can help to get your urgent stool runs under control (1).
Finally, as you evaluate what you can and cannot eat during an episode, you will want to avoid foods and drinks that might matters worse such as:
- Spicy or fried foods
It's critical to replace your fluid loss! With an episode of the stomach flu, you must ensure that you replace the fluid you lose from your body throughout this time. It may seem counterintuitive given that it will undoubtedly trigger a few gnarly trips to the bathroom, but the goal is to avoid dehydration.
Sipping on a mug full of home-made bone broth is an excellent choice during this time because it can help to stabilize your electrolyte levels and keep you well balanced and hydrated. Drinking it in a mug can be very convenient and it makes it easier to drink.
When it comes to children contracting gastro and becoming dehydrated, ensure you have a solution like Pedialyte on hand to replenish their electrolytes.
How to Stop the Spread of Stomach Flu and Save Yourself in advance
The greatest thing you can do to protect yourself while caring for someone with the stomach flu or to stop the spread of the stomach flu is wash your hands. I like to put a few drops of tea tree oil into my hand soap dispenser in order to kill off pesky germs. The stomach flu is highly contagious and is most frequently spread by someone who touches a contaminated object.
If you're living in the same home as someone with gastroenteritis, ensure that you clean surfaces with a disinfectant or other solution that will kill viruses and bacteria on contact. Certain essential oils (made into a blend in a spray bottle) provide an effective solution for helping to get rid of this pesky bug.
Be purposeful about the foods you eat and when possible, be aware of preparation practices.
Throw away all contaminated items to reduce the chance of spreading this illness to others and whatever you do, avoid eating foods prepared by someone who has the condition. If you are the carrier, do not prepare meals for others for at least two or three days until stomach flu passes.
Notify others so that they can take precautions to avoid contact with the person or people dealing with the virus.
When Should You Contact the Doctor?
Unfortunately, there is a risk that your stomach flu might linger beyond the standard three-day stretch or may more severe than you initially thought. If you are unable to keep any food or fluids down in your body for over 24 hours or any of the symptoms noted in this blog post become unbearable, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The stomach flu can be dangerous if not treated properly and may even land you in the hospital if you are not careful. It is highly contagious, and you must be purposeful in your efforts to prevent the spread of this virus to others. To minimize the effects of the bug, stay vigilant in your self-care and the care of others. With proper hydration, rest, diet, and a select number of effective natural remedies, you can reverse the effects of gastroenteritis on your body.
1. Gastroenteritis. MedlinePlus. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
2. BRAT Diet: Recovering from an upset stomach. Familydoctor.org. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
3. Is ginger beneficial for nausea and vomiting? An update of the literature. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2015 Jun;9(2):189-95. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000135.
4. Peppermint. WebMD. Retrieved June 18, 2019.