What to Eat After the Stomach Flu or Food Poisoning
What to Eat After the Stomach Flu
You've been there: A nasty case of the stomach flu or a random bout of food poisoning hit you, and you feel weak and shaky...but finally ready to eat something. What to try? Here, registered dietitians share their tips for how to rehydrate and what to eat when you have the stomach flu so you can start feeling like a functional human again. (P.S. Here's how to figure out if you have the stomach flu or food poisoning.)
But before you explore what to eat after the stomach flu, you might want to take notes on what to avoid when battling a stomach bug so you don't exacerbate the pain. Sheri Kasper, registered dietitian and co-founder of Fresh Communications, suggests steering clear of caffeine, as it can be irritating to the stomach and may make certain symptoms (like diarrhea) worse. "It's also important to avoid alcohol because the goal right after the stomach flu is to replace fluids and alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes fluid loss," she adds. "Highly acidic (tomatoes, for example) or spicy/boldly spiced foods can also trigger nausea or stomach pain, so they should be approached with caution."
If you're struggling to figure out what to eat when you have the stomach flu, 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, adds Jessica Spiro, R.D. "The worst thing that generally happens after the stomach flu 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."
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."
Wait, isn't that for kids? Actually, many doctors and dietitians recommend Pedialyte for preventing or treating dehydration in adults too, especially for those who don't know what to eat after stomach flu. "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. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Sports Drinks)
Once you're feeling up to it, "try kefir and yogurt to replenish beneficial gut bacteria after a bout of GI distress," recommends Bonanni. It's also helpful for introducing more protein, adds Asche, 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 Greek yogurt alternative, which offers up 6 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 irritants you'll want to avoid when planning what to eat when you have the stomach flu.
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.)
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 as a great thing to eat after the stomach flu. "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
Once you're ready to graduate to solid food after the stomach flu, 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 when you don't know what to eat when you have the stomach flu. "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.
When figuring out what to eat after stomach flu, it's important to prioritize foods that will help you regain your strength—specifically, sources of lean protein (aka protein-rich foods that are low in calories, cholesterol, and total fat—particularly saturated fat), says Kasper. "Eggs are a great choice because they contain protein and a wide array of nutrients to help restore any nutritional imbalances," she explains.
If eggs aren't really your thing, Kasper also suggests mildly spiced lean meats, such as baked chicken or turkey breast. "Bone broth is also a good idea," she adds. "It contains much more protein than traditional broth, and it can help replenish fluids at the same time."