If you have gastroenteritis, or the "stomach flu," not many foods sound good. Your churning stomach and bowels just can't tolerate much, but soup for an upset stomach is usually a good choice.
When you start to feel better after a bout of gastroenteritis, broth-based soup is a good first food to introduce. Be sure to let it cool a little before consuming.
Gastroenteritis is Common
Gastroenteritis describes general inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It affects millions of people annually, with symptoms such as nausea, poor appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea, explains StatPearls research updated in June 2019. You may experience a mild fever with gastroenteritis, too.
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In most healthy people, gastroenteritis resolves in 1 to 3 days. The condition isn't usually harmful, but it can be if you develop dehydration, explains the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. In cases of severe dehydration, you may need medical care and hospitalization.
The main treatment for gastroenteritis is to alleviate symptoms as much as possible, and to counter fluid loss and thereby prevent dehydration and electrolyte loss. Broth-based soups are the best soup for stomach flu because they're easy to digest, and help keep your fluid intake up.
Gastroenteritis is caused by a number of different viruses. Novovirus is the leading cause of the condition, causing 19 to 21 million cases annually, explain the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gastroenteritis may also be caused by rotavirus, adenovirus and astroviruses. Bacteria, parasites and chemicals can also cause forms of gastroenteritis, which is usually categorized as food poisoning.
Gastroenteritis is sometimes called the "stomach flu," but it really doesn't have anything to do with influenza, which causes respiratory symptoms, headaches, and aches and pains.
You catch gastroenteritis through unwashed hands, contaminated food and water, or via the air. Coming into contact with an infected person puts you at risk of contracting gastroenteritis, too. Viral gastroenteritis spreads quickly in areas where people gather, such as at schools, on cruise ships and in restaurants, day-care centers or nursing homes.
Best Soup for Stomach Flu
While some foods are decidedly not appealing when you have gastroenteritis, other foods can help you on the road to healing. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends broth and broth-based soups as one of the first soup for upset stomach to choose when you transition back to eating after a bout of diarrhea and gastroenteritis.
Broth-based soups are high in water content and help replace fluids. Examples of easy-to-digest broth-based soup include vegetable, chicken noodle and chicken and rice. Miso soup with ginger can also help. In fact, Food and Function reported in June 2013 that ginger has been found to have gastroprotective properties and can help ease symptoms of dyspepsia, nausea, indigestion and vomiting.
Broth-based soups also don't have the high fat content of creamy soups, such as cream of tomato or cream of chicken. High-fat foods can be hard to digest, especially when your stomach is healing from inflammation.
Broth-based soups also contain a lot of sodium, an electrolyte that quickly depletes through the vomiting and diarrhea that accompany gastroenteritis. One cup of a standard canned version of chicken noodle soup has 691 milligrams of sodium, or almost 30 percent of the recommended daily dose.
Do skip spicy soups when you're healing from gastroenteritis. If it's a homemade recipe, just leave out the chili flakes or other spicy ingredients. You may also want to avoid bean soups, even those that are broth-based, because the legumes are hard to digest.
- Stat Pearls: "Viral Gastroenteritis"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Burden of Novovirus in the U.S."
- American College of Gastroenterology: "Diarrheal Diseases – Acute and Chronic"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms & Causes of Viral Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”)"
- Food and Function: "A Review of the Gastroprotective Effects of Ginger"
- USDA Food Data Central: "Chicken Noodle Soup"