6 Signs of Gastroenteritis (and How to Relieve It)

6 Signs of Gastroenteritis (and How to Relieve It)

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When you develop an infection in your gut caused by bacteria, it is called gastroenteritis. It happens when there is inflammation in your stomach and intestines.

Sometimes this gastrointestinal infection is referred to as food poisoning or the stomach flu, as well.

Viruses are the most common cause of gastrointestinal infections, but bacterial infections can cause them, too. Gastroenteritis can infect you in different ways, as it can be airborne or live on surfaces. You can develop it even when you are careful to sanitize, although sanitizing does decrease your risk.

Six Signs of Gastroenteritis

The gastroenteritis symptoms vary, but there are a handful of common signs that you can watch for. Since the signs are uncomfortable and can last for a few days, you should know a few ways to fix it, too.

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1. Decreased Appetite

If you find yourself not wanting to eat, it is a sign of a gastrointestinal infection. You might not feel hungry even when you should be, or the thought of food might make you nauseous.

2. Nausea and Vomiting

Feeling queasy and like you might vomit are signs that you are suffering from a gastrointestinal infection. If you are already vomiting, then you can be sure you have something going on. These two signs generally go together, with nausea worsening until you begin vomiting.

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3. Diarrhea

Loose or watery stool is known as diarrhea. If you are experiencing it, then you might have an infection. You may also notice that you have to use the restroom more often when you are experiencing diarrhea.

This sign shouldn’t last more than a few days, luckily, but it is uncomfortable. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, as well, so make sure you stay hydrated.

4. Blood in Your Stool

Blood in your stool is a sign that bleeding is occurring somewhere in your digestive system. When the blood is due to gastroenteritis, it is likely because of your stomach and intestines’ inflammation.

5. Fever

When you have a fever, it is a good indication that something is wrong. A fever signifies that your body is fighting something off. You shouldn’t be worried about a fever unless it reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and it may last a few days.

6. Abdominal Pains or Cramps

If you experience pain between your chest and pelvis, it is considered abdominal pain. Abdominal pains and cramps can be a sign of many things. If you experience it and any other symptoms, though it is a good indicator that you have gastroenteritis.

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How to Relieve Gastroenteritis

The most important thing you can do to remedy gastrointestinal infections is to stay hydrated. You also must keep salt in your body so that it continues to function properly. There are ways you can do this, helping you to get better sooner and prevent complications.

1. Drink Fluids Often

Even when you don’t feel like it, you must drink fluids regularly. If you experience diarrhea or vomiting, it is even more essential that you replenish your fluids.

2. Eat Often, but Only Eat a Little at a Time

It is essential that you eat to keep your nutrients up, but avoid large meals. Overdoing it can cause your symptoms to worsen, and it can become hard to keep anything down. Instead, opt for smaller meals, especially salty snacks.

3. Drink Tea to Ease Nausea

Certain types of tea can help relieve nausea quickly, but be sure to avoid caffeinated tea. Tea not only eases nausea, but it can help with reducing inflammation too. The types that help ease the symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Ginger tea
  • Licorice tea
  • Peppermint tea
  • Fennel tea
  • Chamomile tea
  • Raspberry leaf tea
  • Lemon tea
  • Green tea
  • Spearmint tea

4. Increase Your Potassium Intake

When you are choosing your small snacks, look for foods that are high in potassium. Many kinds of juice contain potassium, as do bananas. The potassium will help you keep your electrolytes replenished, helping you to stay hydrated and feel better.

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5. Consume Broth and Soup

Eating solids is hard when you are sick, but broths and soups tend to stay down better. It can help replenish some of your lost fluids, and it will give you a little nourishment. Add salt to the soup or broth to help replenish your electrolytes, too.

6. Try Ginger or Basil

Ginger can help you fight infection, giving you the chance to get better quicker. Plus, it lessens abdominal pain, helping you to feel a little more comfortable as you recover. Basil helps to soothe your stomach and can prevent future gastrointestinal infections, too.

7. Consume Apple Cider Vinegar

Similar to the effects of basil, apple cider vinegar soothes your stomach. It also works to strengthen your stomach to fight off infections in the future.

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You won’t want to drink the vinegar by itself, so add two teaspoons to a glass of water. This way, it will be easier to drink, and it won’t make you feel nauseated. Once you have drunk the full glass, you can expect to feel better pretty quickly.

8. Avoid Acidic Fruits and Vegetables

This tip isn’t intended to suggest fruits and vegetables aren’t good for you. When you aren’t ill, you should consume enough to get plenty of vitamins and nutrients. On the other hand, if you suffer from a gastrointestinal infection, you will want to avoid anything acidic.

Acidic fruits and vegetables can exacerbate the problem, making it worse and slowing your recovery process. Pay attention to what makes your symptoms worse, and be sure to avoid the culprits. Oftentimes, tomatoes are the culprit, but you may notice that some others cause it, too.

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Causes of Gastroenteritis

Here are the things that cause this painful stomach condition.

Bacterial Gastroenteritis

Several things cause gastrointestinal infections. Contaminants found in food products are a leading cause, with at-risk foods including:

  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • poultry
  • salad
  • ground beef
  • pork

Undercooked food, food that isn’t stored at the proper temperature, or food that isn’t reheated properly can cause the infection. Make sure you are handling food properly and following the proper guidelines to prevent getting sick.

You can also come down with a gastrointestinal infection from consuming water. While purified water is safe, other water may not be. Accidentally drinking water from a swimming pool causes this infection, too.

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Gastrointestinal infection can also occur when the bacteria passes from one person to another. Transmitting happens by transferring the bacteria on their hands. Everything they touch can become contaminated, possibly infecting the next person that touches it.

Wash your hands often to prevent contracting the bacteria. Ensure that you do a thorough job, especially after using the restroom.

Another cause of gastroenteritis that many people don’t know is acidic foods. Citrus fruits such as oranges and limes can cause this inflammation, as well as tomatoes.

Those that have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of developing the infection. So, if you have a weak immune system, be especially careful and sanitize often.

Viral Gastroenteritis

This type is caused by coming into contact with the stool or vomit of an infected person. You may not realize that you come in contact with their bodily fluids, but it is more common than you think. Entering a restroom is one way you can come into contact, as there are invisible particles on the surfaces.

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Once you touch them, you have come into contact with the virus. From there, you may accidentally touch your face, mouth, or even your cell phone. So, even if you wash your hands, you are still being exposed to the infection as it is on other surfaces, too.

You can also come into contact with the invisible particles if you shake someone’s hand. Plus, you never know if a sick person has touched your shopping cart at the grocery store or the door handle at the post office.

The virus can even transmit through the air. When a sick person vomits, the invisible particles become airborne. Then, you risk breathing them in or touching a surface that they landed on.

How to Prevent Gastroenteritis

Some ways to prevent this infection were mentioned before, such as washing your hands often and handling food properly. There are many other ways, though, including:

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  • avoid unpasteurized milk
  • don’t eat raw or undercooked meat
  • avoid raw shellfish
  • don’t use the same cutting board for raw and cooked meat or shellfish
  • wash all fruits and vegetables
  • store food at the proper temperature
  • follow directions when reheating food
  • keep your kitchen clean and sanitized
  • wash your hands after touching animals
  • drink bottled water if you are unsure of the local water source

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Final Thoughts on Signs of Gastroenteritis and How to Fix It

Gastroenteritis is uncomfortable and hard to deal with. If you don’t work to get better, complications could set in, making the illness even worse.

You will need plenty of fluids and rest to help your body overcome the infection. If you notice any of the signs of gastrointestinal inflammation, do what you can to fix it. You won’t heal overnight, but with self-care, you will get through it.

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Sarah Barkley is a lifestyle blogger and freelance writer with a Bachelor's Degree in Literature from Baker College. She is experienced in all things related to parenting, marriage, and life as a millennial parent, but loves to learn new things. She enjoys the research that goes into a strong article, and no topic is off-limits to Sarah. When she isn't writing, she is immersed in a book or watching Gilmore Girls. Sarah loves reading classic novels but also enjoys a good thriller.

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