Stomach flu: What to eat and drink if you have viral gastroenteritis


  • Experts say the best way to treat viral gastroenteritis — aka the stomach flu — is to focus on staying hydrated by eating ice chips, low-sugar fruits, and drinking plenty of water.
  • Once you feel ready to eat solid food, start with items that are simple to digest like toast, crackers, white rice, and steamed potatoes. After that, you can try adding more complex carbs and protein from foods like oatmeal and hard-boiled eggs.
  • When you’re recovering from the stomach flu, spicy, high-fat, sugary, acidic foods and drinks, coffee, and alcoholic beverages should be avoided.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Viral gastroenteritis — commonly known as the stomach flu — is an infection of the intestines that involves inflammation of the lining of the stomach, and can cause such unpleasant symptoms as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain, cramping in the abdomen, and sometimes fever.

You can contract this illness in several different ways: By having direct contact with another infected person, by eating foods or drinking liquids that are contaminated, or by touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated before touching your mouth.

Like other viral infections, the stomach flu can’t be treated with antibiotics, but most people with healthy immune systems will get better on their own within one to three days. Experts say the best way to treat viral gastroenteritis is to focus on hydration, but it can be difficult to get enough fluids or keep food down when you’re feeling nauseous, experiencing bouts of vomiting, or dealing with stomach pain. 

Here are some foods and fluids that experts say are easier on the stomach and may help with nausea that you can eat with the stomach flu. 

What to eat when you have the stomach flu

When you feel ready to introduce solid foods back into your diet, Sashini Seeni, MBBS, a general practitioner at DoctorOnCall, recommends starting slowly with small portions of easy-to-digest foods. 

The BRAT diet 

rice

White rice consist of simple carbs that are easy to digest and gentle on the gut.

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BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) has long been a popular strategy for managing gastrointestinal symptoms of the stomach flu, especially in children. However, the diet lacks many key nutrients like protein, fat, and vitamins A and B12 so it doesn’t offer optimal nutrition for your recovering gut and should not be followed for more than a few days, says Sashini Seeni, MBBS, a general practitioner of medicine at…



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