What is viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, how is it spread, its symptoms and how is it treated. And what can you eat when you have gastroenteritis? Meet him.

If there is a very common digestive pathology, which affects millions of people around the world every year, gastroenteritis is undoubtedly among the first. It is also known medically by the names of stomach flu or simply as viral gastroenteritis.

According to recently exposed data, in Spain it occupies one of the first positions -especially in children-, as they are the most likely to catch this type of disease. This disease is spread through spoiled food, contaminated water or contact with an infected person.

What is gastroenteritis or viral gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is swelling or inflammation of both the stomach and intestines due to a virus. It is one of the most common causes of diarrhea and vomiting, which is why it is also popularly known as stomach flu.

That is, it is a gastrointestinal infection that causes inflammation of the intestinal tract, mainly due to an infection. Although the truth is that it is not a single cause, since it can also be caused by consuming spoiled food, or even by stress and nervous tension.

However, a number of major viruses that cause gastrointestinal infections have been identified. They are the following: nor virus, rotavirus, astrovirus, coronavirus and adenovirus.

Main symptoms of gastroenteritis

The symptoms of gastroenteritis appear between 4 to 48 hours after coming into contact with the virus, so it can take up to two days for symptoms to appear.

There are a number of common symptoms, among which we can especially highlight the following:

  • Loss of appetite and fatigue.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

In addition, there are also other related symptoms, such as:

  • Bloated feeling
  • Chills and sweating.
  • Fever.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Weightless.

The usual thing is that these symptoms disappear within a maximum period of 3 days and thus show an improvement of this very frequent disease.

How is viral gastroenteritis spread?

The main cause is the spread of gastroenteritis from one person to another, especially through what is medically known as contact infection, especially through the hands. In this sense, pathogens tend to first pass into the mouth of another person, until they reach their stomach and intestine.

These pathogens are eliminated through the vomiting and stool of the patient, passing into the environment, for example on objects, utensils and surfaces. It can also be transmitted to other people through small viral-containing droplets.

Treatment of gastroenteritis

It is essential to ensure that the body has enough water and fluids, since both diarrhea and vomiting can lose a large amount of fluids and electrolytes. Therefore, the administration of additional fluids is very important.

It is advisable to use fluid and electrolyte replacement solutions in older children and adults, drinking small amounts of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes.

There is no specific treatment for gastroenteritis, since the infection will disappear as the body is able to fight the virus that caused it, and recovers. However, depending on whether you have a high amount of diarrhea or vomiting, and are unable to retain fluids or consume them, you may need to administer intravenous fluids.

How to cut gastroenteritis? It’s appropriate?

Contrary to what we think, when we are sick to the stomach -or something has made us sick- we could say that diarrhea is positive because it helps us to eliminate the virus or what has made us sick. For this reason, it is not so appropriate to stop diarrhea, as long as it does not become serious and dangerous for the person because it is causing dehydration.

The diarrheal process is, therefore, a defense or cleansing mechanism of our body, which helps to eliminate from our digestive tract the different microorganisms, toxins or viruses that have caused gastroenteritis.

For this reason it is not appropriate to stop gastroenteritis, since in reality  antidiarrheal do not tend to help. The most appropriate thing is to maintain adequate hydration, try to give the digestive tract some “rest” by maintaining a soft and smooth diet, and be patient. The gastroenteritis process will end up healing in a few days.

How long does gastroenteritis last and when do its symptoms begin?

Depending on the severity of the condition, the duration of gastroenteritis can vary somewhat. In fact, it will also depend on whether we are facing a mild or strong gastroenteritis, whose duration will obviously increase much more.

In any case, gastroenteritis normally lasts between 1 to 3 days, which is the time in which our body is “capable” of fighting the infection and expelling the virus. But nevertheless, it can take up to 2 weeks for our bowel habits to return to normal.

On the other hand, since a healthy person has contact with the virus until the symptoms begin, it can take from hours to 3 days.

What eat when you have stomach flu:

When we are sick with gastroenteritis we must pay special attention to the diet that we must maintain for a few days, especially during the first days when symptoms and discomfort begin to appear.

Basically, from a dietary point of view, you should take into account the following basic recommendations:

  • Liquid diet: It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids, which will help to eliminate germs from the body and prevent and avoid dehydration. Digestive infusions, fruit juices without pulp, isotonic drinks and water with lemon stand out.
  • Yogurt with bifid bacteria: it is ideal when diarrhea or vomiting have stopped. It is advisable to consume them during the first 12-24 hours.
  • Astringent diet without fiber: especially when the evolution is favorable, after the pause of digestive rest. Toasted bread or biscuits, rice cakes, white rice, cooked potatoes and carrots, cooked ham, grilled or boiled chicken breast and white fish (such as rooster, hake or perch) are recommended.

In addition, those simple foods and recipes that do not overload the stomach are recommended. Therefore, the following recipes or dishes stand out:

  • Rice broths.
  • Lentil or carrot soup.
  • Fresh fruit juices.
  • Calming infusions of chamomile and anise.
  • Ginger decoction.

On the one hand, rice broth and lentil or carrot soup provide interesting calming properties in case of gastroenteritis, while fruit juices provide liquids, vitamins and minerals that the body has been able to lose with diarrhea or vomiting.

On the other hand, both chamomile and anise infusions provide calming benefits, while ginger decoction helps reduce nausea and vomiting.

What foods should we avoid when we have gastroenteritis?

There are also other foods and drinks whose consumption is not recommended at all when we are sick with gastroenteritis. They are the following:

  • Cheeses.
  • Acidic foods.
  • Dairy products.
  • Caffeine.
  • Chocolate.

In short, the consumption of any food or drink that can affect our stomach even more is not recommended, always opting for soft and easily digestible foods.

Some useful natural remedies

The procedure to follow in curing gastroenteritis is above all to eat healthy foods such as rice broths, lentil or carrot soups, fresh fruit juices and infusions of anise or chamomile.

Of course in every disease there are foods that help our improvement but there are others that aggravate our state of health.

Calming infusions, good for the digestive system, may be suitable, such as:

  • Anise infusion: It is a natural drink with digestive qualities. But in addition to being made with a digestive medicinal plant, it also helps us calm the stomach, relieving the spasms and cramps that we may suffer with gastroenteritis.
  • Chamomile infusion: In addition to being a digestive infusion, it is also calming and relaxing, which is why it also helps us relieve the pain that we usually suffer in the stomach and abdomen when we are sick with gastroenteritis.

What is bacterial gastroenteritis?

In addition to viral gastroenteritis, which ultimately becomes one of the most common and common (that is, usually caused by a virus), we must also mention the existence of bacterial gastroenteritis. As its name suggests, it is a bacterial infection; that is, it appears when bacteria are causing the infection of the intestines or stomach.

It is also known by the name of food poisoning, which means that its main cause is the consumption of contaminated food, so that microorganisms enter the person’s digestive system after eating said food.

The main causes of bacterial gastroenteritis

Thus, bacterial gastroenteritis can be caused by:

  • Eating food prepared by people who have not washed their hands properly, or by being prepared with utensils that are not clean.
  • Eating frozen or refrigerated foods that have not been stored correctly (for example, at the right temperature).
  • Eat fish and other raw or raw fruits and vegetables that have not been properly washed.
  • Undercooked eggs or meat.
  • Drink dairy products that have been out of the fridge for a long time.
  • Eat foods with mayonnaise that have been out of the fridge for a long time.

In addition, there are a wide variety of bacteria that can cause bacterial gastroenteritis infection. The most common are: E coli, Campylobacter jejune, Salmonella, Sheila, Yersinia and Staphylococcus.

How is bacterial gastroenteritis treated?

It is essential to drink enough fluids and rest. If you have a lot of diarrhea or are unable to drink fluids (for example because of nausea or vomiting), intravenous fluids will be necessary.

In fact, although antibiotics are not usually needed because the most common types of bacterial gastroenteritis are likely to recover within a couple of days, when diarrhea is severe and the immune system is weak, antibiotics may be prescribed.


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