Stomach flu, known medically as viral gastroenteritis, occurs when specific viruses attack your gastrointestinal tract. This type of viral infection inflames the lining of your stomach and intestines, resulting in bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. During this assault on your digestive system, you might not only miss out on consuming vital nutrients but also lose essential electrolytes your body needs for survival. Careful selection of the foods you take in while you are sick can help you cope with stomach flu; therefore, follow the nutritional advice of your healthcare provider to optimize your recovery.
Video of the Day
Despite its common name, stomach flu is not caused by the influenza virus but, rather, by any one of a number of other viruses. For example, rotavirus most commonly causes stomach flu in children, while norovirus is a frequent cause of viral gastroenteritis in adults, reports the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Other viruses responsible for stomach flu include adenovirus, astrovirus and sapovirus. In addition to vomiting and diarrhea, you might also experience abdominal cramps, headache and fever for the duration of your illness, which can last between one and 10 days. The greatest danger of stomach flu is dehydration and loss of electrolytes; however, you can mitigate the risk with the choice of liquids and solids you consume at breakfast and throughout the day.
Both vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and it is important to replenish the fluids your body has lost. The liquids you consume at breakfast might be particularly important if you have gone through the night without drinking at all. However, your stomach and intestines need rest in order to recover, and your breakfast can become a balancing act between allowing your digestive tract to recuperate and providing your body with the nutrients you need. If your stomach is still quite upset, you may want to begin breakfast by sucking on ice chips. From there you can move on to clear, bland liquids such as broth, diluted fruit juice or sports drinks, which supply you with both water and electrolytes. As your recovery progresses, your breakfast can include solid foods.
Easily digested solid foods for breakfast are beneficial when you are ill with stomach flu. However, you should include these foods only when you can tolerate clear liquids and have not vomited for several hours. Good choices for breakfast foods include dry toast, crackers, rice, bananas and applesauce. These starchy foods are gentle on your digestive system and provide electrolytes and calories. As your digestion continues to improve, gelatin, cooked egg whites and lean meats supply you with protein to further support your recovery from stomach flu.
Fatty foods, spicy foods, dairy products and foods rich in sugar are best avoided during illness with stomach flu, as these foods can be difficult to digest and might further upset your stomach and intestines. In addition, both alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body and are contraindicated with viral gastroenteritis. If the breakfast foods you eat as you progress through recovery make your digestive symptoms worse, revert to blander foods and liquids until your symptoms improve.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.