While people often refer to symptoms like nausea, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea as the stomach flu or a stomach bug, the official term is gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines, often caused by different viruses. When the stomach flu strikes, food might be the last thing on your mind. But choosing the right foods and fluids can settle a queasy tummy and help speed your recovery.
Expert and Abbott research scientist Jennifer Williams, MPH, answers your questions about what to eat when you have the stomach flu.
Q: Why is nutrition so important when you have the stomach flu?
JW: Between nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the stomach flu can cause you to lose lots of nutrients and fluids quickly. This can lead to dehydration, making you feel lethargic, or giving you a headache and making you feel even worse. By rehydrating with the right fluids and choosing the best foods for stomach flu recovery, you can replenish those losses and recover faster.
Infographic: How to identify signs of dehydration
Q: Who is most susceptible to dehydration?
JW: Adult bodies are 60 to 65 percent water, so dehydration is an issue for anyone with the stomach flu. But it's an even bigger concern for babies and small children because their bodies contain an even greater percentage of water than adults — about 70 to 75 percent — and they can't always tell you if they're feeling thirsty or dehydrated. Older adults are also more prone to dehydration since they may be taking medicines that are dehydrating, might forget to drink enough or they might limit their fluid intake to cut down on trips to the bathroom.
Q: What is the best strategy to combat flu-related dehydration?
JW: Start with small sips of simple fluids like water, unsweetened hot or iced tea, coconut water or an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte®. When choosing an oral rehydration solution, look for one that contains sodium, potassium, and chloride, which are the main electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Because these electrolytes help the brain send signals to muscles and nerves, replacing them along with lost fluids can help you feel better faster. Pedialyte has an optimal balance of sugar and electrolytes to combat dehydration during the stomach flu.
Q: For people who are wondering what to eat when they have the stomach flu, what are the best foods for recovery?
JW: This can be hard, because when you're feeling sick, sometimes the last thing you want to think about is eating. But eating can help replenish your energy and what you've lost. The best foods for stomach flu recovery are the ones that can provide your body with what it's missing and are easy to digest during recovery.
Q: Are there any foods and drinks to avoid with the stomach flu?
JW: Too much sugar pulls excess water into the gut, which can make diarrhea worse, so avoid sugary foods and drinks like cookies, soda, juice and sports drinks. Foods that are high in fat or fiber can be difficult to digest, and spicy foods can be very irritating to your digestive system, so I'd steer clear of those until you're back on your feet. Because the body loses important calories and nutrients via diarrhea and vomiting, eating healthy foods and rehydrating is key to recovery from the stomach flu.
If you are experiencing symptoms of the stomach flu or have concerns about the flu and dehydration always consult your healthcare provider.*
*Note: This column is for general educational and informational purposes only. The information and the opinions of the author expressed do not constitute medical advice. Speak to a medical professional if you need personal health advice.
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Diabetes Management After a COVID-19 Diagnosis
COVID-19 is uncharted territory for all of us. Even frontline healthcare workers are learning about the disease day by day as they care for others. Although much remains unknown about the novel coronavirus, we do know that it poses a higher risk of complications for those who have diabetes or another underlying health condition. Targeted nutrition may be able to help. Diabetes management and nutritional therapy can help you achieve good glycemic control, a key component to better overall health and improved outcomes after a COVID-19 diagnosis. But first, it's important to understand how the two conditions intersect. How Does COVID-19 Impact People With Diabetes? We know that hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is associated with reduced immunity and poorer COVID-19 outcomes. For people with diabetes who are also in hospital, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a target glucose range of 140–180 mg/dL for most patients. For those not in hospital, the ADA recommends a target A1c of 7%. Research into the relationship between diabetes and COVID-19 is ongoing, but data strongly suggests that glucose control is important following COVID-19 infection. CDC information suggests that about 28% of people in the US who are hospitalized with COVID-19 also have diabetes. The presence of hyperglycemia at admission in COVID-19 patients, not just those with diabetes, may be an indicator or worse outcomes. Practical recommendations for glucose control in COVID-19 suggest an A1c target of 7% or less. Poorly controlled diabetes (A1c > 7%) was associated with a greater risk of death from COVID-19. As we continue to learn more about transmission and prevention of COVID-19, managing blood sugar is key to better health outcomes, particularly for people with diabetes. Targeted nutrition is one way to help support those efforts. Why Is Nutrition Vital in Diabetes Management and COVID-19 Recovery? Regular diabetes management, as recommended by the ADA, includes medical nutritional therapy, which can help you achieve good glycemic control and includes personally optimizing carbohydrate intake and improving diet quality. Balanced nutrition will help manage blood sugar levels and keep blood sugar within normal ranges as well as provide the daily required nutrients, especially when you're ill. Eating smaller, regular meals and focusing on a balance of macro and micronutrients can help you manage your glucose both during times of illness and every single day. If you need additional nutritional support, consider adding a diabetes-specific formula (DSF) to your eating plan. Diabetes specific formulas, like Glucerna can help you manage your blood sugar. They also provide several key nutrients and health benefits, including: "Slow-release carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, which can help minimize the effect on blood sugar levels." "Monounsaturated fatty acids, which are associated with several health benefits." "Prebiotics and dietary fiber, which promote gastrointestinal health." "High-quality protein and other nutrients for immune system support, including antioxidants (selenium and vitamins C and E), vitamin D, vitamin A and zinc." The Look AHEAD study, has shown that meal replacements, including diabetes-specific formula, have improved outcomes versus standard lifestyle interventions. The enhanced weight loss1 was associated with improved glycemic outcomes2, blood pressure3 and reduced healthcare costs over 10 years4. Although there are still many unknowns surrounding COVID-19, one thing is certain: For people with diabetes, good nutrition is a key component of managing blood sugar following any diagnosis. Keeping your glucose in check is important for people with diabetes every day; incorporating DSFs to fill any nutrition gaps, or replace poor meal or snack choices, may help improve your overall health. 1 Look AHEAD Research Group, et al. Diabetes Care. 2007;30(6):1374–1383 2 Look AHEAD Research Group, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(17):1566–1575 3 Wing RR, et al. Diabetes Care 2016;39(8):1345-55 4 Diabetes Care. 2014 Sep; 37(9): 2548–2556. doi: 10.2337/dc14-0093
How Healthcare Workers Can Help Their Immune System with Nutrition and Hydration
As the first line of defense against the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare staffers are putting in long hours to give people the medical attention they need. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including face shields or goggles, face masks, gowns and gloves, throughout their shifts helps them remain safe while tending to others. However, protective gear stays on for long stretches of time, which can make it difficult for essential workers to get enough food and water to safeguard their own health. So, when the action never seems to stop, how do doctors, nurses and other healthcare employees meet their nutrition and hydration needs? Here are the measures these workers are taking to stay healthy and strong, as well as how you can work these nutrition best practices into your daily routine.