Many of my family members returned home from our Christmas festivities with an unwelcome gift – the stomach flu. Luckily, as the nausea began to grow I knew just what to do for natural relief from the nasty bug (also known as gastroenteritis).
What Is the Stomach Flu / Gastroenteritis?
Although referred to as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis is not actually a member of the influenza family. In fact, contrary to popular belief, true flu does not include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Those nasty symptoms are instead the telltale signs of gastroenteritis, which simply means inflammation of the digestive tract (stomach and intestines). A virus, bacteria, or a parasite can cause this inflammation, and these bad bugs are easily transferred person-to-person or via food or drink. When gastroenteritis takes hold it progresses rapidly. In my case, two days after Christmas what began as a gnawing pain in my stomach progressed within hours to my feeling so weak, feverish and nauseous that I could barely lift myself off the bathroom floor. Still, as I mentioned, I did have some tricks up my sleeve and I was able to try them all, allowing me to beat the bug in less than 24 hours.
Homeopathy for Nausea
When my nausea first took hold, I quickly blamed my last meal. I thought for sure the chicken and bean sprout dish I had for lunch was the culprit, since both ingredients are known to harbor E.coli and Salmonella, common causes of food poisoning. As a result, I reached for Arsenicum album, a homeopathic remedy that my friend and teacher, Lori Grossman had taught me is a go-to for food poisoning. With homeopathic remedies, when you select the right one the symptoms subside quickly. But, in my case the symptoms seemed to worsen. I clearly had the wrong remedy. As another attempt at relief, I took the remedy Nux vomica, which is generally used for indigestion and nausea. I slowly started to feel better.
At that point, I had been losing a lot of fluids, and although the thought of ingesting anything was a struggle, I knew I had to replenish those lost liquids. When the body temperature increases with fever, a natural consequence of the immune system working overtime to fight the invading germs, the metabolism increases and consuming more water is important. Add to that the losses from the toilet time, and replacing fluids becomes a primary goal in fighting gastroenteritis. I asked (more like begged) my husband to make me ginger and peppermint tea. It was not easy to take the first few sips, but once I did I felt much better. Herbal teas made from peppermint, ginger, turmeric, licorice or fennel possess anti-inflammatory properties which can be especially helpful in relieving stomach discomfort.
Ginger for Stomach Relief
Ginger in all its forms – natural (as a root), dried, candied or in tea – is one of the best stomach aids I have ever found. For years I have struggled with motion sickness and a weak stomach, so I always have candied ginger on hand. Since the tea had helped to settle my stomach, I was able to nibble a small piece of ginger. This further added to my relief and assured me I was not going to die (as I had come to believe in all my agony). [Note, ginger is a warming spice and can be quite strong, so a little goes a long way when you are in the midst of tummy troubles.]
Your Stomach Flu Relief Kit
With a little support (ample fluids and rest), the body is generally able to recover from stomach flu within a day or two. But, that doesn’t mean that your poor intestinal tract won’t be hurting from all that it endured. In addition to remedies I have already mentioned, the following natural goodies help to get things back to normal:
- Probiotics – these good bacteria will help to repopulate your body’s natural defenses that have likely been in serious battle with the bad bacteria.
- DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) – licorice in this form aids the stomach and lining of the intestinal tract.
- Glutamine – an amino acid that is available as a powder, glutamine helps to heal the gut.
A Bland Diet
After a bout of any digestive distress, it is wise to follow a bland diet to let the GI tract repair and replenish. By eating plain, easy-to-digest foods that tend to be high in simple carbohydrates and low in fiber, your body doesn’t need to expend much effort to get the nutrients and energy it needs. Some suggestions include:
- Banana – one of the best choices because it naturally aids in stomach relief and provides much-needed potassium
- Unsweetened yogurt of kefir – they contain natural probiotics
- Baby food (rice cereal) – it’s easy to digest and is often fortified with B-vitamins
- Vegetable juice or broth
- Canned fruit sweetened with juice – peaches and pears are particularly helpful
- Applesauce – new styles that blend in banana are great
- Plain pasta or rice
- Rice crackers or saltines
- Mashed potato
The stomach flu is never a gift, so if you or someone in your family is sick with symptoms, please stay home. Even though you are now armed with natural treatments for gastroenteritis, the best defense for the stomach flu is to avoid it all together by keeping your distance from anyone who has been sick, washing your hands often, and not touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
[UPDATE 3/22/17 – Just came across this wonderful resource on Reflexology Points for Stomach Flu. Holly does a great job explaining the points.]