Natural Ways to Provide Relief and Help Recovery from a Stomach Bug

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Nobody likes getting sick, and when a stomach bug leaves you lying on the bathroom floor clutching the toilet, it leaves you feeling miserable and a bit helpless.

I recently took a flight and the man behind me was violently ill with a stomach bug and so you know who brought home a little something extra from their trip? Yep. Your girl here.

Since I went through this ordeal, I thought now would be a good time to talk natural ways to provide relief and help recovery from a stomach bug. You know, just in case anyone here reading is struck down with the same unfortunate situation themselves.

Within parts one and two of this blog post, we’ll cover:

  • causes of stomach bugs
  • natural symptom treatments
  • preventative measures
stomach bug

Causes of a Stomach Bug

Stomach bugs (also known as stomach flu and gastroenteritis) is a condition where the intestines are inflamed, usually due to an infection. It is caused by a variety of different viruses (and sometimes bacteria) that attack your gastrointestinal system.

Bacteria can be the cause of a stomach bug, possibly due to contaminated water or food that was poorly prepared or in an unhygienic environment.

Are Stomach Bugs Contagious?

Yes!

More often than not, it’s usually a virus that causes a stomach bug, and since viruses are easily transmitted from person to person, it’s without a doubt going to spread amongst those around you. You can actually also be a carrier of the virus, and although you may not get it, you can give it to someone else.

The virus itself can be spread to you once you come into contact with it, but you may not see any symptoms straight away. They can appear from one to three days after exposure.

Symptoms can range from mild to horrendous. And while it usually lasts only a day or two, they can for the unfortunate few, last as long as 10 days. These symptoms may include chills, fever, nausea and stomach discomfort to start with, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle aches, stomach cramps, headaches and overall weakness.

If you have a stomach bug, know that you are actually contagious before you begin to develop symptoms. And even after you’ve recovered you can remain contagious for a week or more!

To decrease the risk of passing it onto others, try your best to avoid going to work or school with any symptoms.
If you have a fever, it’s best to wait until it’s gone for at least 24 hours before returning to school/work.

Treatment for a Stomach Bug

Since the troublemakers responsible for gastroenteritis are more often than not of a viral, not bacterial, nature, antibiotics are useless. Antibiotics are only of use when bacteria is involved.

The long and the short of it is, it’s awful, and there is no cure. Stomach bugs have to run their course until they’re over.

That being said, there are natural options and remedies to help provide relief from the horrible symptoms and help to recover you once the worst is over.

That’s where these blogs come in.

No. 1 – Drink Lots of Fluids to Stay Hydrated

drink fluids to stay hydrated during and after stomach bug

Since you’ve lost a lot of fluids via vomiting, diarrhoea and sweating, it’s essential that you replenish them. If you’re having trouble keeping any liquids down, try taking small sips at regular intervals or chewing ice chips.

What To Drink

Coconut Water

Packed full of electrolytes and high in potassium, coconut water is a great option (and my favourite liquid) to consume during and after the turmoils of a stomach bug. The electrolytes help to replace those that were lost through vomiting and diarrhoea.

Herbal Teas

These include fennel, caraway, chamomile, ginger and peppermint, all of which can be used to help calm your stomach, ease cramping and help to alleviate nausea.

Carbonated Beverages

Some people find carbonated beverages such as ginger ale and sparkling water useful to help settle an upset stomach and relieve nausea. Personally, I have water kefir that I often add ginger to (thank goodness I flavoured it in advance with ginger!) and so I drank small sips of this.

Water, of course. 

If you’re struggling to keep water down, or simply swallow anything, then try taking teeny tiny sips of water at regular intervals. Or if it’s really hard, try sucking on ice chips.

When your stomach is up to the challenge of more, you can try any of the teas listed above or coconut water, which will add more water to your system.

Clear Broth

Whether bone or veggie, broth is also a good nutritious way of getting in some more liquid, though take it slow. Broth contains nutrients and minerals that aid healing, which is certainly something you’ll be in need of at this point.

Cinnamon Tea

Cinnamon and honey tea is actually a traditional remedy for gastroenteritis and has been a home remedy for centuries. Both honey and cinnamon help to reduce inflammation, support healing and your immune system.

Try Pukka 3 cinnamon with a spoon of honey.

Turmeric Tea

Turmeric is a highly powerful herb with a plethora of amazing health and healing properties. It’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and loaded with nutrients, making it a wonderful tonic for gastroenteritis.

Personally, I took it in a variety of ways. One was via Pukka Turmeric gold tea and the other was Pukka Turmeric gold latte. The latte I consumed day 3 after feeling slightly more alive and I used a very small amount of rice milk as the base.
By day 5 I made a matcha latte with a dash of turmeric powder and a rice milk base.

What Not To Drink

In all honesty, you’re highly unlikely to be in the mood for these during the woes of a stomach bug. That being said, the following should be avoided:

  • alcohol
  • strong caffeinated drinks like coffee and black tea
  • fruit juice
  • sugar-laden sodas
  • energy drinks

All of these things can upset your stomach further, plus they’re a diuretic. With you having lost so much fluid, it’s best to prevent losing any more.

No. 2 – Eat Plain Foods

eat plain foods during and after stomach bug

What To Eat

Trying to keep food down can be difficult with a stomach bug, and I wouldn’t ever encourage you to force yourself to eat anything if the mere idea of food makes you gag or feel in anyway unwell.
When, however, you do eventually feel you could maybe get something down, it’s best to start with plain foods, and slowly.

You don’t want your stomach to have to work too hard to digest food, since it’s not going to be up to much of a challenge. However, you can try eating some simple carbohydrates like toast, crackers, cereal, potatoes, and eventually some fruits and vegetables.

Toast

Since fibre can be difficult on the digestive system, you may find it easier to nibble on some white toasted bread. Often it’s easier for the stomach to digest. This may be the only time I advertise the consumption of white bread..!
Personally, however, I only have rye bread in the house so I nibbled on some toasted rye very slowly and a little later on during the week, I added a tiny slather of honey to another small piece.

Rice

White rice is easy for your body to process and provides energy from carbs. Brown rice is often considered to be too high in fibre during this time.

Potatoes

Boiled or mashed, these were my saviours. I had mashed potatoes for the first two days, and the third I managed some boiled, more solid-looking food. These are easy to digest and help provide a little energy.

Bananas

Bananas are nice and easy to digest, help to replace the potassium lost from vomiting and diarrhoea, and are good binding foods. You know, the ones that help make things in your intestines become a little more… solid.

They’re also pretty useful for when you’re trying to decrease the number of times you need to run to the toilet.

Applesauce

Like bananas, apples are another good binding food, plus they contain pectin, which can help with diarrhoea.
It’s nice and easy to digest and helps to provide a little energy boost, not to mention nutritional push.  

Eat and Drink Probiotics

probiotics during and after stomach bug

Live cultured foods help populate your digestive tract with healthy bacteria. These help your body crowd out the baddies causing your stomach bug woes and speed up your recovery and healing process.

During the early days when you’re still on liquids only, a little bit of water kefir or ginger kombucha could be considered. Once solid foods have started to make an appearance you might consider a probiotic-rich milk kefir beverage (in small amounts) or a live yoghurt. Vegan options are also available, containing vegan live cultures (check Nourish fridges).

Fermented and lacto-fermented foods all contain bacteria that help to promote a healthy immune system and all going well, you’ll be feeling fitter in no time. Learn more about fermented foods here.

What Not To Eat

  • Spicy foods 
  • High-fat foods
  • Chocolate
  • Fibrous foods

Extra fibre could cause loose bowels to become worse and may increase gas. Hold off and introduce it back over time.

Dairy

In general, dairy is pretty hard to digest for most, and can actually aggravate gas and diarrhoea. It’s also an inflammatory so it’s best not to consume it if possible. The only exception is a couple of days later when you’re reintroducing foods that may help, such as live yoghurt or kefir.

To learn more Natural Ways to Provide Relief and Help Recovery from a Stomach Bug, read part two here.

Emily Nöth

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*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.

Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication.