Immune | October 3, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Last month NSW health issued a health alert due to the increase in cases of viral gastroenteritis. They found that in one week there was a 34% increase in hospital admissions compared to the same time last year. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a viral infection of the stomach and intestines that results in vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, fever, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious and can be lethal to small children, the elderly and anyone who has a compromised immune system. Other causes of gastroenteritis include bacteria, parasites, toxins and some non-infectious diseases.
Symptoms usually start one to three days after contact with the virus and last one to two days, sometimes more.
Apart from basic suggestions regarding hygiene, natural therapies can help to prevent infection in the first place. If a person is unwell, certain supplements can aid in rapid resolution of infection and in reducing severity.
This includes washing your hands well with soap and water after visiting the bathroom, changing a nappy and handling food.
If you are infected with gastroenteritis or caring for someone who is unwell this is even more important. In this case it is suggested that surfaces and objects be wiped down with an antiseptic. Diluted eucalyptus or tea tree oil are strong antimicrobial essential oils that kill harmful microbes including viruses that cause infection. They can be used as a natural antiseptic hand wash for a stronger action than just soap and water.
If unwell, it is recommended that you stay home for 24hours after symptoms have gone to prevent transmission to others.
Having healthy populations of good bacteria in the gut prevents harmful viruses in infecting our digestive system. Probiotic organisms include the Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacterium species and Saccharomyces boulardii, a healthy yeast. They can be used as a preventative measure, especially if your child is attending a daycare and are even more effective as a treatment. To date, the vast majority of published trials show the most beneficial strains in the treatment of acute watery diarrhoea (particularly due to rotavirus), include Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG and Saccharomyces boulardii. Similar results have been achieved in adults, where they can reduce the duration of diarrhoea by one day. It doesn’t hurt to have a bottle of good quality probiotics on hand for when gastroenteritis hits your household.
As a preventive strategy, fermented foods can be implemented into the diet. They are not usually strong enough as a treatment but support a healthy balance of good and bad microbes in the gut. Examples of fermented foods include kefir (a sour tasting natural yoghurt), kimchi and sauerkraut.
Ginger is a natural anti-emetic herb, meaning it can help to reduce nausea and settle the stomach. A tablet or capsule can be swallowed but for acute symptoms making a fresh tea is the ideal way to take it. Simply peel a small knob of fresh ginger, grate about a tsp and infuse for a few minutes in a plunger. Mix with some manuka honey and take small sips throughout the day. Herbal teas are a fantastic way to keep hydrated, while at the same time reducing symptoms.
Most people think of chamomile for reducing anxiety and promoting a good night’s sleep. However, it also has a calming effect on the gut by reducing diarrhoea, abdominal pain and nausea. It has mild antimicrobial properties making it effective in killing off some of the gut bugs that are causing the symptoms. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and healing properties, helping to reduce any damage that a viral infection has inflicted on the digestive tract. Chamomile is easily administered in tea form and could be substituted with peppermint.
If supplements can be stomached, try taking a combination of anti-viral herbs to get to the source of the problem. Examples include echinacea, andrographis, garlic, goldenseal and propolis. Try taking a small amount with food and a few hours away from probiotics to maximise benefits.
Slippery elm can assist in reducing inflammation and discomfort in the digestive system. It is a fibre supplement high in mucilage which prevents damage to the gut lining and moves out unwanted microbes in the bowel. It can be used in cases of diarrhoea and to settle an upset stomach. To take, mix in a little natural yoghurt or water and add honey if needed. For best results take 1 tsp twice a day or take in a formula with other soothing digestive nutrients.
Bland and simple foods are the key here. Think steamed veg, boiled potatoes, plain white rice, soup, banana and rice crackers.
It’s important for the body to still receive some nutrients to aid in recovery but it should be foods that are easy to digest.
Processed foods and items high in sugar and fat will worsen symptoms.
Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided also as they can worsen dehydration and caffeine has a stimulatory effect on the bowel.
During infection stay hydrated, adding electrolytes to water may be necessary if a lot of fluids have been lost.
Rest as much as possible to speed up recovery.
Guandalini S. Probiotics for prevention and treatment of diarrhoea. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011 Nov;45 Suppl:S149-53
Giacosa A, et al. Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract? Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Apr;19(7):1291-6
Mehmood MH, et al. Antidiarrhoeal, antisecretory and antispasmodic activities of Matricaria chamomilla are mediated predominantly through K(+)-channels activation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Mar 24;15:75