Nearly all of us have fallen victim to the “stomach flu;” it starts out innocently enough when you realize you feel a little run-down, but soon it rears its ugly head as you scramble (repeatedly) to the bathroom hoping to make it before your insides explode. Unfortunately, for many patients, the Lucas County Health Center & Medical Clinics have seen an upswing in cases of this malady recently.
The medical term for the stomach flu is “gastroenteritis” and is often caused by a viral infection of the stomach and intestines. Norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, and sapovirus are common offenders. People get infected by touching an infected person or a surface with the virus on it and then either touch their own mouth or their food before washing their hands. Common symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include the expected nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Victims may also report fevers, stomach cramping, decreased appetite, and headaches and muscle aches from dehydration. In fact, the dehydration can become severe and life-threatening in young children and elderly people.
Fortunately, most people with viral gastroenteritis do not need specific treatment as the virus will run its course and you will recover. The most important thing to do is maintain hydration. Water and sports drinks, particularly those lower in sugar, are a great way to replenish both your fluids and electrolytes. Oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte or Ceralyte contain additional electrolytes for young children but are less palatable. I always tell my pregnant patients your urine should be “lighter in color than lemonade” and, if not, you need more water.
It’s also best to alter your diet a little, if you can keep foods down. Cereals and lean meats, bland foods, and whole grains are good choices. Avoid juices and colas -they can make the diarrhea worse. Protein is also important to healing your gut – peanut butter and lean meats are a good source. Once you are up to it, yogurts containing lactobacillus may help restore the normal bacteria to your bowels. You should also avoid taking any anti-diarrhea medications – it oftentimes just prolongs the illness. Your body is working to expel the virus by any means it can, and slowing your bowels with anti-diarrhea medication prevents your body from doing so.
Dr. Matt Bogard, M.D. is a medical doctor at Lucas County Health Center & Medical Clinics. He
specializes in Family Medicine and advanced Obstetrics. Dr. Bogard sees patients of all ages with all