Stomach flu or intestinal flu is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing irritation to the stomach and the small intestine. In most cases, it is a viral infection, although it can be caused by bacteria, parasites and biotoxins as well.
Viruses that can cause stomach virus include norovirus, adenovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus. Most of the cases of stomach flu in adults are caused by norovirus, while rotavirus causes about 20% of infections in children.
As for the bacterial causes of stomach virus, the most common culprits include E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus and Clostridium.
The infection is usually spread through food and beverages contaminated with microorganisms. It is highly contagious and spreads easily from one person to another.
Symptoms of stomach flu
The symptoms of this gastrointestinal infection depend on the microorganism that caused it, but diarrhea is present in almost all cases.
Viral stomach flu is characterized by frequent loose or watery stools, while bacterial stomach flu can include blood in the stool. Diarrhea may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, headache, fatigue, muscle ache, fever, weight loss, cramps and inflammation of the colon. In children, the symptoms also include dark circles around the eyes, irritation, paleness and dehydration.
The best way to diagnose stomach flu and to determine its causes is to examine a stool sample in the lab, checking for the presence of microorganisms, toxins and white blood cells.
Remedies for stomach flu
Stomach flu generally lasts from two to four days. There is no specific cure for it and the best thing is to wait until it goes away. Bed rest is very important because the body needs all the energy to fight the cause of the infection.
It is also important to prevent dehydration which can occur due to diarrhea and vomiting. It is best to take small sips of plain water, herbal tea, especially mint or chamomile, lime juice, ginger ale and similar carbonated drinks. Coffee is not recommended.
In case of vomiting, it is best to stick to the liquid foods and beverages. Even after the vomiting stops, it is recommended to eat bland semi-liquid foods.
Apples are very beneficial for the process of regeneration of the stomach lining. They can be consumed in form of applesauce, baked or fresh. Bananas are also very beneficial.
Because of the diarrhea, a great number of the beneficial bacteria from the digestive tract is lost. It is important to replenish them by taking probiotic supplements or yogurt with live bacterial cultures.