Gastroenteritis – causes and treatment

One of the common diseases caused due to virus infection or eating disorders is Gastroenteretis. Though not a life-threatening disease in any manner, by having better control over what we eat and how we eat, we can avoid this disease and live a healthy life.

What is gastro-enteretis?

Gastroenteretis is a common disease caused primarily as a result of an inflammation on the lower digestive tract in our body. There can be many reasons for this disease to strike us – notable ones being infection with a virus, bacterium, or parasite. Other causes for the disease include ingestion of toxic substances; and allergy or intolerance to food and medications. In addition, people with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia might develop this disease as a result of laxative abuse.

What causes gastro-enteretis?

The common cause for gastroenteretis is a virus infection. Viral infections such as cholera and typhoid fever are now rare in many countries due to better and clean water supply. However, parasites such as giardia and ameobas can be the chief culprit responsible for causing gastroenteretis. These parasites can be transmitted in a variety of ways, such as through unsanitary food handling, contamination of drinking water, and close physical contact with an infected person.

Symptoms and treatment for gastroenteretis

Gastroenteretis caused by common bacteria or viruses is often referred to as “stomach flu”. Provided the infecting organism is a bacterium or virus and not a parasite, symptoms – like those of diarrhea and food poisoning – usually clear up within a few days, without any special treatment. Nausea and vomiting are not much more than a temporary inconvenience to otherwise healthy adults and older children. On the other hand, in vulnerable groups – babies, the elderly, and people with a suppressed immune system – gastroenteretis can be severely debilitating and require medical attention.

When vomiting and diarrhea persist longer than 48 hours, your doctor may prescribe a medication to quell nausea, as well as an antibiotic if it seems advisable. Tests may be warranted to identify and isolate the cause of gastroenteretis, such as food sensitivity or exposure to toxic substances. If diarrhea is bloody, your doctor may investigate the possibility of a parasite infection or bacillary dysentry.

If you have a stomach flu, give your digestive system a rest from solid food, but drink plenty of liquids. Sipping ginger ale can help to calm any surges of nausea. Chicken broth with rice is a palatable rehydration remedy; the broth replaces fluid, as well as sodium and potassium to restore the balance of electrolytes, and the rice has a binding effect on the bowel. Do not drink alcohol or beverages containing caffeine as they stimulate the digestive tract and can actually worsen diarrhea.

Follow up action

As your bowel settles down, try with small portions of diet that includes bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. The bananas provide potassium and carbohydrates; rice is easily digested and provides energy; unsweetened applesauce contains pectin, a soluble fiber that helps add bulk to the stool; and dry toast provides energy in the form of carbohydrates but does not overtax the digestive system with fiber that could be irritating to an inflamed bowel.