Isn`t it amazing how small little creatures can get us completely down in no time at all? Whether you call it stomach flu, a tummy bug, gastro or gastroenteritis, it is mostly one and the same thing showing itself as diarrhoea (or watery/runny stool) and/or vomiting for one up to a few days. Often stomach cramps, nausea and sometimes fever accompany this fast and furious thing that hits most people several times at various points in their lives.
Have you ever noticed how some people get tummy bugs often, while others get them very rarely? You often hear this one has a “weak stomach” and that one has a “strong stomach”. Yet, at the same time, when someone gets a really bad episode of vomiting or diarrhoea lasting quite long and weakening them very much, you hear how “this bug going around is a very mean one”. The same “mean bug” seems to affect one person very severely and others only mildly or not at all! How is this possible?
The secret lies in the defences. The bug is only one part of actually getting ill. There are so many lines of defence it needs to get past, that the strength of the defence systems are often more significant in determining whether someone gets sick at all or how severely they will get sick than the bug itself. The bug is still significant, but the defences even more so!
Here are some of the built-in defence systems:
- Protective substances and good bacteria in saliva.
- Stomach acid: a powerful disinfectant
- Antibodies in the intestines
- Good gut flora
- White blood cells
- Fever – which speeds up the good army and slows down the bad guys.
What can you do to prevent tummy bugs:
- Wash your hands often and ALWAYS before you eat
- Wash/cook/peel your food
- Filter or boil your water
- Chew your food properly
- Do not take in too much fluid with your meals – this could dilute thestomach acid too much. (Drink water between meals and only very littlewith your meals).
- Do not overfill your stomach.
- Protect your stomach acid production:
a. Breathe deeply
c. Do not use antacids unless absolutely necessary and then only for as long as prescribed
d. Take supportive supplements if necessary, such as vitamin B12 and Zinc.
- Look after your immune system
- Boost your gut flora
- For added prevention when there are “tummy bugs” around you, you could take any of the following:
- AIM Herbal Fiber Blend
- Naturefresh Parasite cleanse
- Naturefresh Olive leaf extract
(Please note: Just because the mentioned substances are natural does not mean they are all safe to take during pregnancy. Please consult with a health care practitioner if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.)
Sometimes, even in those with strong immune systems, the bug still gets past the defences. The result is mostly felt fast with unpleasant diarrhoea and/or vomiting. The danger of a tummy bug is not the unpleasantness of diarrhoea and vomiting itself, but the fact that it causes dehydration. Dehydration can become dangerous very quickly if not recognised and not managed well. That is why it is of utmost importance to take a rehydrate solution, or at the very least a sugar and salt solution if you do have a tummy bug. Symptoms of dehydration to look out for include:
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness, sluggishness, fainting
- Decreased urination(Very important note: Dehydration can be very dangerous in babies and people who are weak. Take small babies to the doctor or clinic sister immediately if they have a tummy bug.
Pregnant women and anybody who is weak also needs special care. Do not hesitate going to or taking someone to your doctor or nearest clinic sister in case of a tummy bug in any such person.)Comments on taking an electrolyte solution/rehydrate when vomiting:
If vomiting continues and it seems impossible to retain any fluids you take in, consider taking only a teaspoon or tablespoon full of rehydrate at first, wait 20 minutes and take it again. If the vomiting has stopped, you can then start slowly sipping a little more at a time. Rather take in small amounts regularly than a lot at once. At the same time it is extremely important to take in at least some electrolyte solution all the time. Do not avoid it completely in fear of vomiting again.Comments on taking an electrolyte solution/rehydrate when you have diarrhoea: If you have diarrhoea only and no vomiting, you can much more freely take in sufficient amounts of rehydrate and fluids. Do not take ice water/cold fluids, but rather at room temperature or even warm teas (no milk).
First foods after a tummy bug:
Once the appetite starts returning and vomiting seems to have stopped, you can peel and grate some apple, let it brown and have a little bit of that. Another option is some peeled and cooked apple or even a bouillon or watery soup, such as Miso soup. (Get the solids out of the soup first by putting it through a tea sieve/strainer.)
If that meal has gone well you can move on to a simple meal such as boiled potato with salt or some rice noodles in a salty soup (such as miso soup). Increase your food intake very gradually and have simple foods only for the first day or 2. Stay away from whole grains, raw foods such as salads and fats/oils (including dairy) until your stomach has settled.
Some tips for getting your strength back:
- Take an electrolyte solution/rehydrate for a few days after your stomachhas settled.
- For at least one week take the following:
Those with a “weak stomach” can consider continuing for 2-3 months with this recovery phase. You might find yourself on a new level of health if you do that and become someone with a “strong stomach”!