Shaking off a stomach bug and ready to re-enter the world? Here's what to eat and drink to restore your energy.
What to Eat After a Stomach Bug
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We've all been there: You've just been through a nasty stomach bug or bout of food poisoning and feel weak and shaky...but finally ready to eat something. What to try? Here, registered dietitians share their tips for what to eat and drink to restore your energy and rehydrate so you can start feeling like a functional human again. (P.S. Here's how to figure out if you have a stomach bug or food poisoning.)
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Many health experts recommend the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) at first. The key is to start with bland foods. Once your symptoms are resolved, slowly bring back other foods that you love, says Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, R.D.
"These early forays back into solid-food territory are also when you want to start incorporating more fluids to rebalance electrolytes and ease digestion gently, Jessica Spiro, R.D. adds. "The worst thing that generally happens after a stomach bug or food poisoning is dehydration, so replenishing fluids is incredibly important. Soups, smoothies, and water-rich fruits and veggies (think cucumbers and watermelon) are excellent ways to rehydrate."
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Dietitian Thérèse Bonanni, R.D., recommends coconut water as an alternative to sugary sports drinks. Loaded with potassium and a good source of other key nutrients like sodium, magnesium, and phosphorous, it's her go-to sip for "a natural source of electrolytes without added sugar to replenish and hydrate."
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Wait, isn't that for kids? Actually, many doctors and dietitians recommend Pedialyte for preventing or treating dehydration in adults too. "I usually recommend Pedialyte to help clients replenish their electrolytes since it's easy on the stomach, especially the unflavored version," says Angie Asche, R.D., of Eleat Sports Nutrition. Find it online or at your local drugstore either as a solution or as powder packets you can add to water.
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Once you're feeling up to it, "try kefir and yogurt to replenish beneficial gut bacteria after a bout of GI distress," Bonanni recommends. It's also helpful for introducing more protein, Asche adds, which will help stabilize your blood sugar to stave off energy-sucking crashes—and help you feel stronger.
Steering clear of lactose? Try a non-dairy yogurt like Daiya's new Greek yogurt alternative, which offers up 8 grams of protein and the beneficial bacteria you need. Plain is your best option, but even the fruit flavors are lower in sugar and don't have any artificial sweeteners—two sneaky stomach irritants.
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Once you're able to tolerate liquids and bland foods, Gabriella Vetere, R.D.N., recommends introducing probiotic-rich foods at least once a day. Aside from yogurt and kefir, you can also try sauerkraut, kimchee, or miso. Edwina Clark, R.D., loves kombucha, a fermented tea beverage. Her pick? Ginger kombucha "to restore gut bacteria, ease nausea, and replace fluids."
Not into the whole fermented thing? Try a probiotic supplement. Since each specific type of bacteria does something slightly different, look for a supplement with multiple types in it to help repopulate the GI tract. (P.S. Here are some surprising new ways to eat more probiotics.)
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If you're not quite ready for a full meal, can't stand the thought of yogurt, or are experiencing lactose intolerance as your system gets back on track (a potential but often temporary issue after a GI bug), dietitian Charlene Pors, R.D., of Euphoria Nutrition, recommends dairy-free smoothies. "Smoothies made with soy milk, fruit, and nut butters can be a great high-protein and nutritious meal to begin with since they're low in fiber and lactose, making them easy to digest." (Try these eight fresh smoothie recipes for spring.)
Chicken Noodle Soup
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Once you're ready to graduate to solid food, Long Island–based dietitian Linzy Ziegelbaum, R.D., recommends starting with chicken noodle soup and toast. Turns out this home remedy is great for recalibrating after a stomach bug. "You get fluids from the broth, protein from the chicken, and carbohydrates from the pasta and toast," she says. It's also usually pretty bland, making it easy for a sensitive stomach to tolerate, she adds.