Fighting The Stomach Flu
Being hit with the flu is no joking matter. This year reports one of the largest flu epidemics the United States has seen in decades. Doctors’ offices have been vaccinating since last June, and hundreds of patients have been left for treatment in tents outside hospitals that are filled to capacity. But it’s worse because a second virus, norovirus, is moving alongside the flu. Some are affected by both influenza virus and norovirus. I just spent a week entertaining norovirus, and it wasn’t fun. While they say it is untreatable, I managed a few remedies to make each day enjoyable.
The Norovirus Identity
Norovirus is actually a term for a group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is commonly referred to as “the stomach flu.” Second to the common cold, norovirus is the second leading cause of illness in the United States. And it is everywhere: offices, homes, schools, stores, hospitals, you name the place. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, most people who think they have food poisoning actually have contracted norovirus from a contagious food handler. Soiled food or bacteria on working surfaces less commonly causes people to get sick. More often, norovirus-infected workers pass on illness. Norovirus is highly contagious.
Causes And Risks
Norovirus spreads rapidly from contaminated food and water; in raw shellfish; on hard surfaces like doorknobs, countertops and chairs; during physical contact with infected persons; and in places like public pools, wells and lakes. Anyone who is actively infected can spread it in public areas or home.
Note: If you or someone you know has norovirus, keep in mind that while symptoms can go away in a few days, a person is still contagious for three days after symptoms disappear. Unfortunately, many people who have norovirus feel better and engage in social functions while still contagious.
While this virus is widespread and contagious, those with a strong immune system who wash their hands and surfaces regularly are at lower risk. However, adults and children are at greater risk than infants or toddlers.
While currently the norovirus is spreading at the same time as the flu, symptoms of these two conditions are not the same. As mentioned above, the norovirus is a virus of the gastrointestinal system, so symptoms of this group of viruses include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping (in the upper part of abdomen). Secondary symptoms include headache, body ache, low fever, chills and fatigue.
Dizziness can be a prominent symptom due to dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea as well as a lack of thirst and upset stomach that limit fluid intake. Dehydration can be a serious problem, so please ensure you are drinking plenty of fluids all day, more so if you are in the vomit/diarrhea stage. Seek medical attention if dizziness persists more than episodically.
Treatment And Prevention
My son got norovirus and passed it on to me. Medically, there are no treatments (antivirals or vaccinations) for norovirus-caused gastroenteritis. And, as in the case of the flu, antibiotics do nothing, since those drugs can attack bacterial infections, not viral illness.
On my personal quest to reduce my symptoms, I worked through several rounds of different foods, beverages and supplements.
I found a few items that worked for me and made my life more bearable.
Food and beverages: A difficulty with food as therapy during a bout of gastroenteritis or norovirus is your aversion to eating. Everything is moving out of the body quickly, in one direction or the other. However, there are measures that help.
For instance, drinking ginger tea is a good way to reduce stomach upset and settle down the nausea and vomiting. You can buy (and have on hand) ginger granules that dissolves in hot water or teabags of green tea with ginger.
I prefer taking a fresh 2-inch piece of ginger root, chopping it up and boiling in 10 ounces of water until the water turns murky. I drain the fluid of particles and pour it into two 4-ounce cups for consumption. I found that taking it twice per day, morning and evening, works well. More than that can cause irritation in the stomach or intestines.
I also kept on hand containers of organic chicken broth and organic vegetable broth. Both are nourishing to the stomach and keep you well hydrated. I heated the broth, poured it into cups and drank as it if were a warm beverage. When you feel a bit better, you can eat chicken or vegetable soup, avoiding the kinds that are tomato based.
Once diarrhea and vomiting subsided and appetite returned, the old BRAT standby worked well: Because your immune system is overworked by the virus, I opted for consuming only organic banana, rice, applesauce and toast. Low fiber and bland is the name of the game for a short while.
For fast relief of stomach upset and heartburn associated with gastroenteritis, fill a teacup with warm (not hot) water and add a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of organic raw honey. If the water is too hot, it kills the live honey, which is good for digestion. The apple cider vinegar helps decrease stomach acid and settles the stomach also.
Supplements: These are essential when the immune system is impaired or overworked and the body is losing nutrition from not eating and the expulsion of food and liquids. I focus on omega-3 fatty acids; a gluten-free, live, whole-food multivitamin; turmeric/curcumin; and a stress formula with the essential B vitamins. Boosting immune function, reducing inflammation and pain, and ingesting live nutrients is essential to lessen symptoms and for faster recovery.
Be On Guard
In the case of norovirus, if someone else is sick, do not touch or kiss him or share food. Be mindful of hard surfaces that contagious people have touched. Wash your hands several times a day, and keep your home and workspace clean and disinfected. Wash all fruits and vegetables before consuming them; you don’t know if anyone at the market or shipping service is ill.
Prevention is always the best cure. Good hygiene, a strong immune system, ample rest and a nutritionally dense diet go a long way to protecting you. And remember, even when symptoms have disappeared, you are still contagious for three days to a week. Be mindful of this when interacting with others.
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