Diet for gastroenteritis (stomach flu) patients

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Foods for gastroenteritis patients – these foods will keep you healthy while recovering and help eliminate symptoms.

Gastroenteritis often called stomach flu is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever. In most cases, the infection clears over several days but sometimes takes longer. The severity can range from mild tummy upset for a day or two with mild diarrhea to severe diarrhea and be sick for several days or longer. Many germs (viruses, bacteria, and other microbes) can cause gastroenteritis.

The most common way to develop gastroenteritis is through contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. If you are otherwise healthy, you will likely recover without complications.But for infants, older adults, and people with compromised immune system, gastroenteritis can be deadly.

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There is no effective treatment for gastroenteritis, so prevention is key. In addition to avoiding food and water that may be contaminated, thorough and frequent hand washings are your best defence.

Foods for gastroenteritis patients

Symptoms of gastroenteritis

Although it is commonly called stomach flu, gastroenteritis isn’t the same as influenza. Real flu (influenza) affects only your respiratory system – your nose, throat, and lungs. Gastroenteritis, on the other hand, attacks your intestine, causing signs and symptoms such as:

  • Watery, usually unbloody diarrhea – bloody diarrhea usually means you have a different, more severe infection.
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or both
  • Occasional muscle aches or a headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness and general body weakness
  • Loss of control over bowel motions

Depending on the cause, gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within one or three days after you are infected and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually last just a day or two, but occasionally they may persist as long as 10 days. You should see your doctor if the symptoms last more than 5 days and/or increase in severity, the symptoms go away but come back, the stools become bloody, you have constant abdominal pain, or if you develop dehydration. Dehydration can arise from the excessive loss of fluid from the body, which can occur quickly with gastroenteritis. The signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Not having urinated in the past eight hours
  • Urine that is dark in colour and smelly
  • Dry lips and mouth, and a lack of tears
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Sunken cheeks or eyes
  • Dizziness, lethargy, floppiness
  • In infants, dry nappies (for longer than 4-6 hours) and/or a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of a baby’s head)

Signs of dehydration in anyone, especially infants and children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, are reasons to see a doctor immediately.

Causes of gastroenteritis

You are most likely to contract gastroenteritis when you eat or drink contaminated food or water, or if you share utensils, towels, or food with an infected person. A number of viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including:

  • Noroviruses: Both children and adults are affected by noroviruses, the most common cause of foodborne illness worldwide. Norovirus can sweep through families and communities. It’s especially likely to spread among people in confined spaces. In most cases, you pick up the virus from contaminated food or water, although person-to-person transmission also is possible.
  • Rotavirus: worldwide, this is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children, who are usually infected when they put their fingers or other objects contaminated with the virus into their mouths. The infection is most severe in infants and young children. Adults infected with rotavirus may not have symptoms, but can still spread the illness – of particular concern in institutional settings because infected adults unknowingly can pass the virus to others.

Risk factors

  • Young children: children in child care centres or elementary schools may be especially vulnerable because it takes time for a child’s immune system to mature.
  • Older adults: adults immune systems tend to become less efficient later in life. Older adults in nursing homes, in particular, are vulnerable because their immune systems weaken and they live in close contacts with others who may pass along germs.
  • School children,
  • churchgoers, or dormitory residents: anywhere that groups of people come together in close quarters can be an environment for an intestinal infection to get passed.
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system such as people with HIV/AIDS, or receiving chemotherapy.
  • Travellers

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Foods for gastroenteritis patients

  • Fresh fruits and fruit juices with no sugar
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Rice
  • Pastas
  • Lean meats
  • Low-fat cooked fish
  • Eggs
  • Bread
  • Sugar-free cereals

Foods to avoid

  • Very spicy foods
  • Sweet cereals
  • Fruit juices and fruit drinks that contain a lot of sugar
  • Sports drink such as Gatorade
  • Soft or carbonated drinks
  • Canned or packaged soups and broth
  • Fried foods or those high in fat
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Ice cream, jellies, sherbet, or popsicles
  • Dried fruits, fruits canned in syrup
  • Chocolate and candy

While these foods for gastroenteritis patients helps you stay healthy, it does not stop the need for you to see your doctor.

Foods for gastroenteritis patients

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