As a kid, every time I was sick in bed with the stomach flu, I remember sipping ice-cold ginger ale or juice through a straw or slurping on brightly colored popsicles. Unfortunately (and despite my mother's best intentions – thanks, Mom!) these common stomach flu remedies can actually make things worse.
Stomach flu remedies – what to avoid
For starters, it's important to avoid icy drinks and raw foods when your digestive system is compromised. According to the wisdom of Chinese medicine, these foods will further weaken digestive function.
Besides the obvious problems with conventional sodas – high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives – drinks or foods that are high in sugar and too low in sodium will not properly replace electrolytes lost during the diarrhea and vomiting that may be associated with stomach flu.
Your body will try to dilute the sugar and get rid of it, which means it will draw water out of your system to accomplish this, leaving you even further dehydrated.
How to recover: stomach flu remedies that work
Once you've come down with the stomach flu, there's really not much you can do other than let it run its course while supporting your body's recovery with proper hydration, beneficial bacteria, and remedies for strengthening your digestive function.
Here’s what you want to do to recover from stomach flu:
If the contents of your stomach have been evacuated one way or another, fast for at least three hours before eating or drinking anything, including water.
Vomiting and/or diarrhea causes violent stomach muscle contractions. Those muscles need to recover by allowing them to rest fully in order to avoid a repeat performance.
Rehydrate with electrolyte drinks
After three hours have passed without vomiting or diarrhea, small amounts of a mild electrolyte solution can be sipped slowly. If you tolerate that, then you can gradually increase.
Just about anything can become an electrolyte solution adding some salt and sugar to the mix. Water with a pinch of sea salt is usually the best way to start. Here are some other fluids that will help:
Bone broth is a true super food with deep roots in folk medicine. The notion that chicken soup is good for you is true – but it's best to avoid store-bought broth that’s loaded up with all sorts of additional ingredients you don’t want and devoid of many of the healing properties you need.
Learn more about the benefits and how-to's of chicken bone broth in this post. If making your own bone broth simply isn’t an option, make sure you buy really high-quality broth, such as this one you can buy online.
Fresh ginger tea is another go-to beverage that revives and warms the digestion.
Slice about 1 inch of fresh ginger. Steep the slices in boiling water, letting it simmer for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes if you prefer it stronger. Squeeze in some fresh lemon, add a pinch of salt, and drizzle in some good raw honey.
Easy and free of all the artificial flavors and neon colors in the store-bought variety. Get this super simple electrolyte drink recipe here.
Heal your tummy
Once you've addressed hydration, continue to do so as you heal your digestive system with probiotics and simple, cooked foods that are easily digested.
If you happen to have a homemade probiotic soda made with a ginger bug, great! You can start sipping that.
Otherwise and probably in addition to the probiotic drink, try a single dose of probiotic supplement (I'm loving this one right now) and if you tolerate it, then you can start working up to higher doses.
Take the probiotics every 30 to 60 minutes, until you start feeling better, which should be in just a few hours.
Find out more about the importance of probiotics and why you can no longer make excuses for not making them an essential part of your daily routine in this post.
Easy to digest, cooked foods
In the days that follow a bout of the stomach flu, you want to focus on foods that are cooked and very easy to digest – remembering that raw and cold foods take the strength out of your digestive energy.
Soups are a great choice, as is congee, a broth or porridge made from rice that the Chinese have sworn by for millennia.
To make congee, simply cook a handful of rice in a porridge texture using 5-10 times the amount of liquid. Cook on the lowest heat for at least an hour – the longer it's cooked, the more powerful the healing properties. Make congee with chicken stock, ginger, carrots, and leeks for a perfect restorative food.
To prevent stomach flu in the future
I am not a fan of the flu shot, and you can read 5 good reasons why to skip it here. Instead, to avoid future bouts of stomach flu, follow my two step plan:
- Fortify your diet on a daily basis with the right foods. Read my post 6 Immune Boosting Foods You May Be Missing
- Get comfortable with immune boosting supplements that really work. This is my immune boosting protocol.
With this simple approach, hopefully you can dodge the bullet the next time a stomach flu rolls through your school, work, or neighborhood. If not, ditch your gingerale and popsicles in favor of the smarter stomach flu remedies that will put you on a fast road to recovery.
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