Dr. Clayton Lawrence, CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on overall wellness in an otherwise toxic world. (Always consult with your own physician before beginning any new diet/exercise routine).
We’re rapidly approaching the peak of cold and flu season. The months of December through February will bring with them an increased chance of developing “more than just a cold.” Think fever, chills, body aches, cough and sore throat. To sum it up in one word: misery.
But there’s another highly contagious illness that rapidly spreads through schools and later families at home – the stomach bug. Viral gastroenteritis, often mistakenly called the stomach flu (although its symptoms are quite different from the actual flu) could be caused by a number of factors. But regardless of whether it has been picked up by an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water, it can be an incredibly unwelcome visitor.
Cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can last for days and there is nothing that can be done to stop it – in fact, in most cases, it’s better to “get the bug out.” Even so, there are a few steps that can – and should – be taken to deal with the illness from start to finish to ensure 1. You get back to optimal health and 2. You won’t be sharing with others.
Get plenty of rest
As with any illness, it is incredibly important to get the rest your mind and body need to make a full recovery as quickly as possible. Our bodies need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep per night to run at 100 percent when we aren’t sick. When we are hit with a cold, flu or stomach bug, we need even more of those precious Zzzzs. When we’re sick, our immune systems are weakened and our bodies need even more time to repair. Listen to your body. Take time off from work and school, and sleep and rest as much as possible.
Understand that there isn’t much that can kill the germs that come along with a stomach bug (except for a bucket of bleach). Although an infected person is more likely to spread the illness through contaminated surfaces, close contact, such as sharing food or eating utensils can also cause others to become ill. Do your family and friends a favor and quarantine yourself until you no longer have symptoms and even then, take extra precautions to prevent the bug from reaching others. And remember to clean surfaces with a bleach-based household cleaner.
Drink plenty of water or drinks that contain electrolytes
Gastroenteritis can quickly deplete the body of hydration since fluids are rapidly exiting the body. It can be hard to keep fluids down, but it is important to take small sips every half-hour to prevent dehydration, which can quickly become a serious complication. Drinks like Smartwater and Gatorade contain electrolytes that help the body quickly restore essential vitamins and minerals.
It may be tempting after days of not eating to go for that cheesesteak, bowl of spaghetti or slice of pizza, but our best advice? Don’t do it. Start slowly when adding solids back to your diet. Consider the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet, which allows the gut to continue to rest, while beginning to adjust to solid foods. These foods are gentle on the tummy and less likely to cause an upset stomach after a bout with gastroenteritis.