This post is a follow-up to an earlier article that I recently wrote about how to recover from traveler’s diarrhea with natural remedies. In previous writings I covered the use of herbal medicine and nutritional supplements to enhance recovery from intestinal infections.
Read more >>> Travelers Diarrhea: How to Recover With Natural Remedies
Today I want to focus on the best foods to eat when you are getting over food poisoning, stomach flu or travelers diarrhea.
Food Poisoning, Traveler’s Diarrhea and Stomach Flu
Food poisoning generally occurs as a result of eating contaminated food and is usually much more severe than traveler’s diarrhea. More often than not, food poisoning is related to eating meats that have not been cooked, stored or handled properly – however this is not always the case. As I’ve mentioned previously I experienced a pretty serious episode after eating rice and vegetables while traveling in Nepal.
With food poisoning there is usually severe vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills and dizziness. In some cases the condition can be life threatening. Travelers diarrhea tends to be a milder condition caused by ingestion of less-virulent bacteria. Stomach flu is the result of a viral infection and can be spread from person-to-person by physical contact as well as through food and water. Regardless of the condition, the recommended diet for recovery is very similar.
Caution: If you suspect you may have food poisoning from eating mushrooms or seafood, seek medical assistance immediately. Otherwise, most people recover from food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea or stomach flu within a few days.
Ensure Adequate Hydration
In the early stages of all of these health challenges you probably won’t have much of an appetite. This is natural and you should listen to your body. However, it is most essential to avoid dehydration that occurs as a result of vomiting and diarrhea.
If you are having trouble keeping anything down it is fine to wait two or three hours and avoid food and drinks altogether. As soon as your stomach settles focus on clear liquids. I find fresh young coconut water is the ideal choice in this situation as it is extremely hydrating and so easy to drink.
Warm herbal teas are another option. Ginger and peppermint can work to alleviate nausea and chamomile has a soothing effect on the stomach and nerves. You can also add some manuka honey to your tea – but let it cool down a little before doing so.
For the best results I recommend the highest possible grade – at least with an MGO rating of 200+, or a UMF of 10+. The best one on the market seems to be this Manuka Honey MGO 400+ (UMF 20+).
You can add a tablespoon, three times daily, to lukewarm (not hot) beverages. Heat deactivates the medicinal components of manuka honey that are responsible for its potent anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects.
I don’t recommend consuming any sweeteners other than manuka honey – including fruit juices – because these can trigger nausea as well as provide fuel for the toxic bacteria, which can worsen diarrhea.
Clear vegetable broth can help replenish sodium and may be much easier to tolerate than sweetened beverages, especially in the early stages.
Next Steps: Once Appetite Returns
When you feel ready to eat again it is important to choose foods that are gentle on the stomach and intestines while continuing to hydrate yourself. For the majority of people this is not the time to worry about eating a one hundred percent raw food diet. In particular salads and raw vegetables are best avoided until you achieve a full recovery because too much roughage can irritate a sensitive gastrointestinal tract.
In my experience in the beginning stages I develop an aversion to anything sweet – including fruit. If you feel the same it is best to follow your natural inclinations and especially stay away from acidic fruits like pineapple and oranges.
Bananas are the ideal fruit to begin with as they have a soothing effect and can alleviate diarrhea. You might try a simple banana smoothie made with fresh ripe bananas and water (or coconut water). If you feel able to tolerate different fruits you can start with papaya or cooked applesauce.
If you don’t feel able to eat fruit or if it aggravates your symptoms then you may do better with bland foods like plain white rice, congee (a thin rice porridge), rice noodles, potatoes, oatmeal, gluten-free toast, pasta or crackers. Most people find these foods help to settle the stomach and restore energy.
For those who want to season their meals it is best to keep things really simple in the beginning. I suggest Himalayan salt, ginger, lemon or lime juice and perhaps a sprinkling of fresh herbs.
It is probably best to avoid gluten-containing foods due to the potential negative effects of gluten on the digestive system.
This advice is very different to what I generally would suggest as a healthy approach to eating. Normally if you were going to eat rice or other grains I would recommend wholegrain varieties. However, in this situation low-fiber foods are more easily tolerated when you have a very sensitive digestive system.
Nevertheless it is best to try to keep your diet as alkaline as possible during this process because alkalinity promotes optimal lymphatic cleansing and healing. As such I am not proposing that you eat rice all day – as grains are acid-forming – but one or two light cooked meals a day should be fine. In order to maintain a more ideal acid/alkaline balance try to also include foods like young coconut water and bananas in your diet if you do choose to eat cooked grains. A little Himalayan salt can also enhance alkalinity.
To be quite honest, theoretically this may not be the most optimal nutritional approach. However, getting over an intestinal bug is a pretty miserable experience, so I am more interested in a way of eating that can help you feel a little more comfortable in the short-term for these first few days. Then once you begin feeling better again you can cleanse your body and easily eliminate any acidic residues. That’s just my approach and while it may not be perfect I have found it is the easiest way to cope with this situation with the least amount of discomfort.
Experienced raw foodists who have been following a one hundred percent raw protocol are likely to do better on a pure and simple raw diet of coconut water, low-sugar juice, bananas and other fruits if tolerated.
Foods To Avoid When You Are Getting Over Food Poisoning or Traveler’s Diarrhea
To ensure a speedy recovery stay away from the following foods and beverages, which either promote dehydration or irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
- Coffee, tea and other caffeine-containing beverages
- Dairy products
- Fatty foods
- Spicy food
- Raw vegetables
- Acidic or unripe fruits
- Dried fruit
- Beans or lentils
- Nuts and seeds
Gradual Reintroduction of Foods
It is very important to take things slowly and gradually reintroduce foods. Bacterial toxins damage the cells of the small intestine, which has a negative impact on your ability to produce the digestive enzymes required for breaking down complex foods. This causes a temporary incapacity to digest meals high in fat and protein.
I’ve personally experienced that trying to eat normally too soon can cause a major set-back in recovery, bringing back symptoms and extending the healing process. For most people it takes at least three or four days before being able to return to their habitual diet. So even though you may start feeling better try to resist the urge to eat a “normal” meal for at least a few days.
If you feel ready to eat vegetables it is usually best to start with those that are soft and well-cooked. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, peas or zucchini may work for you. You may now also try including a small amount of extra-virgin coconut oil with your meals.
Remember, now is not the time to experiment with kale salad! For those raw foodies who are beginning to miss their raw veggies I recommend you go with a green juice instead.
When you are ready to eat salad again, I suggest starting with a simple combination of tender lettuce, tomato, cucumber and avocado before progressing to higher-fiber vegetables.
The Final Stages
Continue with a low-fat and relatively low-fiber diet and monitor your response whenever you eat something until you feel fully recovered. It is essential to give your gastrointestinal tract time to heal before attempting to eat heavier foods or complicated meals – whether raw or cooked.
If you are still experiencing diarrhea, fever or other symptoms after a few days then it is probably a good idea to seek assistance from a qualified health professional. Hopefully you will be feeling well in no time and can get back to eating the healthy foods you enjoy.