Stomach flu causes uncomfortable stomach symptoms. It can be difficult to keep foods down or even have an appetite. However, consuming bland foods, boiled starches, and certain drinks can help a person recover.
Doctors refer to stomach flu as viral gastroenteritis. Norovirus is the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis.
Here are 33 foods and drinks that a person can consume to help their recovery if they have stomach flu. Read on to learn more about some other ways to feel better and when to contact a doctor.
They recommend following a bland diet for or following stomach flu and several other conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract.
A bland diet can include:
- low fat dairy products
- fruit juices
- cream of wheat
- lean meats, such as skinless chicken or fish
- bland, cooked vegetables, such as:
If cooking these foods, a person should be careful when frying them in fats such as butter or oil, as this can worsen stomach flu symptoms. An alternative way to cook them is by boiling them.
The BRAT diet is a type of bland diet. The letters in the term “BRAT” stand for what a person can eat on this diet, namely:
A person can ease into a bland diet as they feel ready for food. Generally, with the BRAT diet, a person can incorporate additional foods back into their diet as they feel better.
A person can eat boiled starches when they have diarrhea. Boiled starches can include foods such as:
Both diarrhea and vomiting can cause a person to lose a lot of liquids. Drinking fluids that contain electrolytes can help prevent dehydration.
To help prevent dehydration, older children and adults can drink sports drinks such as Gatorade.
However, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommend avoiding drinks that have a lot of added sugar, such as certain fruit juices and sodas. These can make diarrhea symptoms worse.
A person can read the label of the food or drink product to understand its sugar content.
In terms of food, saltine crackers can be a good way to replace electrolytes.
Oral rehydration solutions, which contain glucose and electrolytes, are another good way of rehydrating the body if it has lost liquids due to stomach flu.
The World Health Organization (WHO) state that this method is most effective at preventing or delaying diarrhea caused by dehydration but that people should not use it as their sole method of treating it.
A great way to include liquids in the diet that give more flavor is to consume healthy teas.
Certain types of tea may also provide extra benefits to a person with stomach flu.
Although they described this as encouraging, the reviewers did mention that they cannot draw definitive conclusions until they have more evidence from further trials.
A healthy way to introduce non-refined sugar into the diet, as well as rehydrating, is by eating fruits. Fruits contain high percentages of water, and some have a higher percentage than most, including:
- Yellow peaches: Raw yellow peaches are
- Melons: Raw cantaloupe melons are
- Strawberries: Raw strawberries are
- Watermelon: Raw watermelons are
The above list includes only raw fruits as solid food. People should be careful when choosing fruit juices to ensure that they do not contain excessive amounts of sugar.
Sometimes, a doctor may advise a person to consume probiotics. These contain bacteria that are healthy for the stomach and can help treat diarrhea.
Examples of probiotics include:
- non-dairy yogurt
However, a person should always contact a doctor before taking probiotics.
According to the NIDDK, there are several foods and beverages that a person should avoid to help prevent additional or worsening symptoms of stomach flu.
Some items they suggest avoiding include:
- caffeinated beverages, such as black tea and coffee
- drinks with large amounts of simple sugars, such as soda
- high fat foods
A person should also avoid:
To help treat stomach flu, a person should try to concentrate on consuming fluids to avoid dehydration. However, there are some other methods that may help.
The sections below will look at these in more detail.
Dehydration, along with the illness itself, can cause fatigue. A person with stomach flu should get plenty of rest.
Taking diarrhea or nausea mediations can also help.
Doctors may prescribe antiemetics to ease nausea or sickness. Examples of antiemetics include:
Caring for a child with stomach flu can be worrying for parents and caregivers. Children should have a slightly different treatment plan than adults.
Children should eat similar bland foods when they are ready for them. Parents and caregivers should avoid forcing food and take cues from the child based on how they are feeling.
As with adults, dehydration is the primary concern for children with stomach flu.
For children, the NIDDK recommend the following oral rehydration solutions as alternatives:
However, some doctors suggest that giving a child diluted juice can have equal if not more positive results in terms of treating stomach flu.
A person should always contact a doctor before giving children OTC medication, as some medications can be unsafe for children or infants.
A person often does not need to see a doctor for stomach flu, as it is self-limiting and will typically go away within a few days.
The main concern is dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. According to the National Cancer Institute, a person should watch for symptoms of dehydration, such as:
A person needs emergency medical care if they experience more severe symptoms of dehydration, such as:
Stomach flu can make eating and drinking less appealing.
However, it is most important for a person to keep drinking fluids to help prevent dehydration.
When ready for food, a person should eat bland foods such as bread, bananas, applesauce, and cooked starches. They should avoid fatty foods, spicy foods, alcohol, and sugary beverages.
A person should contact a doctor if they experience symptoms such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, or rapid breathing.