Food For The Stomach Flu


The intention of this blog is to provide easy, healthy food for stomach flu. I have been working in a food service industry for the last 5 years and have made countless recipes for customers who are sick with this devastating illness. A lot of people don’t know how to handle it so they get takeout or eat through their fever. With this blog I hope that you will come back here looking for some help when you or your loved one has contracted the virus or when you just want to make something that can help your body recover faster.

Food For The Stomach Flu

Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting and sometimes fever. It often is called a stomach “bug” or the stomach “flu,” but it’s not actually the flu or influenza, which is a respiratory illness. This infection often develops though contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water.

An upset stomach is a common symptom of a stomach bug, and this can make eating sound unappealing, even though you may be hungry. Knowing what to eat is difficult because you don’t always know what’s going to agree with your stomach.

I recommend these tips for fueling your body when you have viral gastroenteritis:

  • Let your stomach settle.
    Avoid solid foods for a few hours, and stick with liquids.
  • Hydrate.
    Try drinking clear soda or broths, or noncaffeinated sports drinks in small, but frequent, amounts to stay hydrated.
  • Ease back into eating.
    Gradually incorporate bland, easy-to-digest foods into your system, but be sure to back off if your nausea returns. Foods to eat include clear broths, crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice and chicken.
  • Avoid certain foods until you feel better.
    These foods include dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, processed foods, and fatty, spicy or highly seasoned foods.
  • Be cautious with medications.
    It’s best to use medications, such as ibuprofen, with food and sparingly, if at all, as they can cause an upset stomach. As always, discuss your medications with your health care provider to avoid any potential side effects.

The main complication of a stomach bug is dehydration ― a severe loss of water, and essential salts and minerals. If you’re healthy and drink enough to replace fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldn’t be a problem.

What to Eat, Drink and Avoid When You Have the Stomach Flu

Struggling to keep anything down — or in? If you’ve been hit by the stomach flu — otherwise known as viral gastroenteritis (and an entirely different beast from the common flu, or influenza)  — you probably won’t feel like eating or drinking much.

But if you’re looking to find out what you can try to stomach with a stomach flu, you certainly know it’s not the best idea to toss back a plate of chili-cheese nachos. 

For some clearer direction family physician Laura Lipold, MD, sorts out a few less obvious do’s and don’ts to get you through until you’re back on your feet again. 

Avoid these when you have the flu

  • Skip your daily coffee: Avoid your cup of joe and favorite caffeinated soda (this includes cola beverages) for a one week. Caffeine contracts your intestines, which can make diarrhea worse, Dr. Lipold notes.
  • Avoid alcohol altogether: Alcoholic beverages act as a diuretic and can aggravate your stomach even more.
  • Don’t eat hard-to-digest foods: When you have the stomach flu steer clear of fatty, greasy, spicy and acidic foods. Dairy and tomato-based dishes are also tough on a sick gut.
  • Never force yourself to eat: If you don’t feel like eating, don’t push your body. “Try to focus on recovering, rest and staying hydrated,” Dr. Lipold says.
  • Avoid juices: Apple, orange, or any other juices won’t do you much good.

Eat, drink and do these with the flu

Drink plenty of clear liquids

Wait until 2 hours have passed since your last episode of vomiting. Start with small frequent sips. Water, clear soda (stir it well to release more carbonation), herbal decaffeinated tea, broth or over-the-counter electrolyte replacements are great ways to avoid dehydration when you have a stomach flu with frequent diarrhea or vomiting.

“Severe dehydration could mean a trip to the hospital to receive IV fluids, so it’s important to try to stay hydrated if you can,” Dr. Lipold says. “You may turn to the common ginger ale fix but again, stir or let it sit on the counter in an open container until the carbonation evaporates.”

Eat complex carbohydrates

Potatoes and whole grains (think rice and toast) are your best choices to help replace nutrients you may have lost while vomiting or too many trips to the bathroom. Try lean meats without too much spice or condiments, which can upset your stomach more (think chicken and fish).

Suck on ice chips

If you can’t keep anything else down, ice chips will help give you the hydration you likely need little by little over a longer time, but it may be better tolerated by your stomach, Dr. Lipold says.

See your physician

“If you haven’t been able to keep liquids down for 24 hours, show signs of dehydration, are vomiting blood, have abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea or a fever above 102 F — it’s time to visit your doctor,” Dr. Lipold says.

“You may have another illness which may need to be treated right away,” she adds. “And since some symptoms like diarrhea could potentially be a sign of COVID-19, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.”

13 Stomach Flu Natural and Home Remedies

What is the stomach flu?

Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)

Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)

  • The stomach flu (gastroenteritis) is an infection of the stomach and intestines. Though it is referred to as the “flu” it is not the same as influenza. Influenza does not always affect the gastrointestinal tract, and most influenza symptoms involve the respiratory tract.
  • Infection of the stomach and intestines is referred to as gastroenteritis.
  • Stomach flu is usually caused by viruses, but it also can be caused by bacteria or parasites.

Is the Stomach Flu Contagious?

There are a variety of causes of the stomach flu (gastroenteritis). Unfortunately, the most common causes are contagious, for example:

  • Bacteria, for example, E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella
  • Viruses, for example, norovirus and adenovirus
  • Parasites, for example, Giardia lambia and Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”)

Are the stomach flu and food poisoning the same thing?

Food poisoning and the stomach flu are not the same thing. There are many types of food poisoning that are not infectious. Food poisoning and the stomach flu share many of the same symptoms, including

  • diarrhea,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal pain, and
  • sometimes fever.

However, food poisoning comes on pretty quickly after eating contaminated food, and usually it goes away within a few hours to days. Gastroenteritis can last for up to 10 days.

What are the signs and symptoms of the stomach flu?

Signs and symptoms of the stomach flu include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Loss of appetite

What should you eat or drink if you have the stomach flu?

  1. Fluids: Diarrhea and vomiting can be dehydrating. Make sure you take in plenty of water, sports drinks, or other clear liquids. Take small sips. Infants should get plenty of breast milk, and toddlers can drink electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte.
  2. Ice chips: If you are having trouble keeping fluids down, try sucking on ice chips to help rehydrate. Don’t give ice chips to small children, as they can be a choking hazard.
  3. BRAT diet: BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. These foods are bland and binding, which can make your stools more firm. Bananas also contain potassium which can help replace nutrients lost from vomiting and diarrhea.
  4. Tea: Caffeine-free teas can help replenish lost fluids, and some varieties, such as peppermint, may calm the stomach, and ginger, may help ease nausea. Add lemon to get a little extra vitamin C. (Avoid caffeine as this can act as a diuretic, making you urinate and lose fluids you need to hydrate.)
  5. Apple cider vinegar: Some people report this helps ease nausea and stomach upset.
  6. Cinnamon and turmeric: Both these spices are reported to help relieve symptoms of gastroenteritis.

What natural or home remedies or over-the-counter (OTC) help soothe and cure the stomach flu?

When you have a stomach bug, there are several things you can do to help relieve symptoms.

  1. Rest: Most people need to rest for a few days to let the illness work its course.
  2. Heating pad: A heating pad may help relieve abdominal cramping.
  3. Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Take for pain or fever. This is recommended over aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can upset the stomach.
  4. Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-diarrheal medications: Loperamide hydrochloride (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can help relieve diarrhea.
  5. Probiotics: Lactobacillus casei GG and S boulardii may be helpful in some cases of viral gastroenteritis, and can help with watery diarrhea. Yogurt often contains these probiotics. Choose low fat or fat free yogurt, if you can tolerate dairy products.
  6. Zinc supplements: These may reduce the severity and duration of stomach flu.
  7. Acupressure: Finger pressure is used to stimulate trigger points on the body that may help relieve nausea and vomiting; specifically, pressure point P-6 (also called Neiguan) is a point on the inner wrist that may be massaged.

What foods should be avoided when you have the stomach flu?

As described previously, when you have the stomach flu, you want to eat bland and binding foods such as the BRAT diet. Avoid foods that will contribute to symptoms, including:

  • Dairy products: Many people are lactose intolerant, which can cause diarrhea. If you have gastroenteritis, you may temporarily have a hard time digesting the lactose in milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
  • Fatty foods: Greasy, fatty foods can be hard on the stomach even when you feel well. Fatty meats, creamy foods, and even nuts can all contribute to feeling full which may aggravate an upset stomach, and they can stimulate the digestive tract, causing loose stools.
  • Spicy foods: Foods with heavy, hot spices such as chili, hot pepper, and garlic, may aggravate your symptoms and upset your stomach even more. In addition, many spicy foods are cooked in oil, making them fatty as well.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which will cause you to urinate and lose fluids, and you could become dehydrated. When you are already dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea, you want to stay hydrated. Caffeine can also cause loose stools.
  • Fiber: Usually, fruits, vegetables, and beans are good for you. But when you have diarrhea, fiber can aggravate already loose bowels, especially in people who are not used to eating fiber regularly. Stick to the binding foods suggested in the BRAT diet.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can cause irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) and the digestive tract, and can stimulate the production of gastric acid, which you want to avoid when you already feel nauseated.
  • Sugar: Consuming sugar in foods or drinks can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. In some people, this can cause nausea. Sugary foods are also often fatty, adding a double-whammy to aggravate symptoms.
  • Soda: Colas contain a lot of caffeine, which acts as a diuretic. However, non-caffeinated sodas contain chemicals and are acidic, which can also irritate the stomach. The carbonation may also cause you to feel more full and to belch, which can aggravate nausea.
  • Acidic foods: Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, etc.), citrus juices, pineapple, and tomato products have a lot of acid that can irritate the stomach and cause acid reflux and further upset the stomach.
  • Processed foods: Many pre-packaged and processed foods are high in fat, sugar, preservatives, and artificial colorings. All of these can aggravate an already upset stomach or worsen diarrhea, especially in individuals sensitive to these ingredients.
  • Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, and oats. Some people are sensitive to this protein, and it can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, and bloating, so these people may find avoiding products with gluten will help ease symptoms.
  • Artificial sweeteners: The sweetener that often causes digestive problems, even in healthy people, is called sorbitol. It is often used in diet foods and sugarless gum, and can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)


Your doctor will likely diagnose viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) based on symptoms, a physical exam and sometimes on the presence of similar cases in your community. A rapid stool test can detect rotavirus or norovirus, but there are no quick tests for other viruses that cause gastroenteritis. In some cases, your doctor may have you submit a stool sample to rule out a possible bacterial or parasitic infection.


There’s often no specific medical treatment for viral gastroenteritis. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses. Treatment first involves self-care measures, such as staying hydrated.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To help keep yourself more comfortable and prevent dehydration while you recover, try the following:

  • Let your stomach settle. Stop eating solid foods for a few hours.
  • Try sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water often. You might also try drinking clear soda, clear broths or noncaffeinated sports drinks. In some cases you can try oral rehydration solutions. Drink plenty of liquid every day, taking small, frequent sips.
  • Ease back into eating. As you’re able, you can return to eating your normal diet. You might find that you can eat bland, easy-to-digest foods at first, such as soda crackers, soup, oats, noodles, bananas and rice. Stop eating if your nausea returns.
  • Avoid certain foods and substances until you feel better. These include caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
  • Get plenty of rest. The illness and dehydration may have made you weak and tired.
  • Try anti-diarrhea medications. Some adults may find it helpful to take loperamide (Imodium A-D) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, others) to manage their symptoms. However, avoid these if you have bloody diarrhea or fever, which could be signs of another condition.

For infants and children

When your child has an intestinal infection, the most important goal is to replace lost fluids and salts. These suggestions may help:

  • Help your child rehydrate. Give your child an oral rehydration solution, available at pharmacies without a prescription. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how to use it.Don’t give your child plain water — in children with gastroenteritis, water isn’t absorbed well and won’t adequately replace lost electrolytes. Avoid giving your child apple juice for rehydration — it can make diarrhea worse.
  • Get your child back to a normal diet once hydrated. Once your child is rehydrated, introduce him or her to his or her normal diet. This might include toast, yogurt, fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid certain foods. Don’t give your child sugary foods, such as ice cream, sodas and candy. These can make diarrhea worse.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. The illness and dehydration may have made your child weak and tired.
  • Avoid giving your child store-bought anti-diarrheal medications, unless advised by your doctor. They can make it harder for your child’s body to get rid of the virus.

If you have a sick infant, let your baby’s stomach rest for 15-20 minutes after vomiting or a bout of diarrhea, then offer small amounts of liquid. If you’re breast-feeding, let your baby nurse. If your baby is bottle-fed, offer a small amount of an oral rehydration solution or regular formula. Don’t dilute your baby’s already-prepared formula.

Preparing for your appointment

If you or your child needs to see a doctor, you’ll likely see your doctor first. If there are questions about the diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to an infectious disease specialist.

What you can do

Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. Some questions you might want to ask your or your child’s doctor include:

  • What’s the likely cause of the symptoms? Are there other possible causes?
  • Is there a need for tests?
  • What’s the best treatment approach? Are there any alternatives?
  • Is there a need to take medicine?
  • What can I do at home to ease the symptoms?

What to expect from your doctor

Some questions the doctor may ask include:

  • When did symptoms begin?
  • Have the symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
  • How severe are the symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen symptoms?
  • Have you been in contact with anyone with similar symptoms?

What you can do in the meantime

Drink plenty of fluids. As you’re able, you can return to eating your normal diet. You might find you can eat bland, easy-to-digest foods at first. If your child is sick, follow the same approach — offer plenty of fluids. When possible, start having your child eat his or her normal diet. If you’re breastfeeding or using formula, continue to feed your child as usual. Ask your child’s doctor if giving your child an oral rehydration solution, available without a prescription at pharmacies, would help.

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