It hits everyone now and then… that queasy, rolling pain and the mad dash to the bathroom. A stomach virus can be sneaky. Sometimes it strikes like a sledgehammer, at other times you might not even realize that is what you have for a day or so. Things just won’t be ‘quite right’, with occasional pains and gas, sour stomach and mild constipation or diarrhea. Sounds like a Pink Goo moment, right? Not necessarily! Since it, and other OTC remedies like it, treat only the symptoms and leave the ’cause’ intact, this might make you less miserable at the moment while prolonging actual recovery… sometimes for several days…!
Old time folk treatments shine in cases like this! They not only sooth that icky feeling, but work to treat any underlying causes right from the beginning. Not a flu at all, this condition can be caused by the same virus that causes the common cold! When something as common as an ill co-worker sneezing around you or using your phone can be a source of this type of infection, incorporating herbal and dietary preventatives into the daily routine just makes good sense.
Below is a list of the beneficial herbs and foods I use when we get sick with the stomach flu. I am not going to go into the details of treatment here… Most of us already know to quit eating heavy foods, drink plenty of fluids and get rest. You should realize that dehydration is a dangerous possibility with any purging illness. If it lingers more than a few days or there is unusual pain or symptoms, do not put off seeing your doctor. As with any medicine, use wisely. Alternate herbal teas with diluted fruit juices and plain water. Consume food items in small amounts over the course of the day. The idea is to replace essential nutrients and minerals being flushed from the body while reducing the demands placed on the digestive system. Once vomiting and diarrhea stop, follow a lighter diet of reduced fat and meat for 3 or 4 days to give your stomach and digestive tract a chance to recover.
- Chamomile is one of the medicines I grow and keep around as much for the pleasure of it, as the power. This tasty, wonderfully aromatic little herb makes a delightful hot or iced tea all by itself! German Chamomile (the kind usually found in the grocery store or health food shop) has been found to be an effective anti-inflammatory, a nervine or smooth muscle relaxer, antimicrobial, mildly sedative and carminative (helps with gas and bloating). It might be good to note that some folks might have allergic reactions to chamomile. If you are allergic to ragweed, use caution.
- Mint: There are many types of mint and although most have medicinal value with stomach ailments, I usually have and use catnip because it is native to the Americas and quite easy to grow. As far as I know, all of the more common mints (peppermint, wintergreen, catnip, spearmint and lemon balm) may be used with good results. Mint has shown antimicrobial activity against fungi and gram-positive bacteria as well as being a smooth muscle relaxer. It is considered antispasmodic, mildly sedative, carminative and generally beneficial to digestion when taken in small doses such as a mild tea.
- Lemon: Acidic fruits are not normally recommended, but used sparingly, lemon juice can help kill off the pathogens causing diarrhea. Up to a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice (or a squeezed slice) in a large glass of water or added to your herbal tea is beneficial. It is at its very best as a preventative though. One to two tablespoons before meals when a stomach virus is making the rounds can keep you out of the loop. This could be due to the vitamin C in lemons as well as the antimicrobial properties of the volatile oils.
- Banana: Studies have proven that green bananas help stop diarrhea. Ripe or green, they are easy to digest and provide both potassium and magnesium. These minerals are two of the electrolytes critical to bodily function. Without them the heart will go into arrhythmia and can fail entirely.
- Salt: Sodium is another electrolyte that is rapidly depleted with vomiting and diarrhea. Broths and soups are an excellent and nutritious way to replenish the loss, along with their added benefit of replacing lost fluids. If you can’t handle broth because of nausea, add a tiny pinch of salt to your juice or tea. You won’t notice the added flavor as you sip it, but your body will thank you!
- Rice: One of the best all time aids for lingering diarrhea is rice water. Cook a handful of rice in a pan of water until nearly soft. Strain out the rice, allow water to cool and drink a small cup full every hour or so. Make a tasty drink by adding a bit of honey and cinnamon, which are also good for this condition. Leave off the cinnamon and add a little powdered ginger or mint to sooth nausea and sour stomach. Cooked rice is always recommended in the ‘recovery diet’ for a few days and usually well tolerated during the illness.
- Applesauce: Fresh apples can cause diarrhea in some folks while applesauce seems to have the opposite effect on most people. Apples contain pectin, a water soluble fiber that helps retain water and add bulk to the stool, slowing diarrhea.
- Toast and Crackers: Dry toast or saltine crackers have often been the one thing that could initially get past the nausea to help settle a cranky stomach, paving the way for healing teas and foods.
- Turmeric: Though not a spice you would want to use in large amounts for a stomach virus, small pinches added to rice or soup provides a good antibacterial boost.
- Garlic: This is something I usually use as a preventative more than a treatment during a stomach virus. Although it does wonders as an antibacterial and antimicrobial, I find it too strong on the stomach when vomiting has been an issue. If you can tolerate it, whether taken fresh chopped in honey or in tablet form, it can speed recovery almost miraculously. It is said that it will sooth the lining of stomach and bowel, calming the rawness and cramping.
- Yogurt: Diarrhea flushes most of the good bacteria and other natural flora that are essential to proper digestion out of your gut. Yogurt helps replace these and balance the inner ecosystem. Combining bananas, yogurt, blueberries, applesauce and honey in a blender as a smoothie is a wonderful tonic for recovery!
- Blueberries: Dried blueberries have been used for centuries as a cure for diarrhea in young children. They are high in fiber and antioxidants as well as being a bacterial inhibitor. They contain anthocyanosides, a substance thought to be lethal to E. Coli (a bacteria often linked to these infections.) Blueberries are also high in fiber, which aids in water retention and adds bulk to the stool.
Please note, as it bears repeating…
If any illness lingers more than a few days or there is unusual pain or symptoms, do not put off seeing your doctor! If you are on Any prescribed medications, it is advisable to consult with your doctor PRIOR to using most traditional or historic home remedies (as well as some common food items!) as there can be interactions with certain prescribed medicines.
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