Gastroenteritis Diet

(Rotavirus Diet; Stomach Flu Diet; Viral Gastroenteritis Diet)

What Is a Gastroenteritis Diet?

A gastroenteritis diet includes foods that should be eaten or given to a person who has gastroenteritis. This is an infection of the intestines and stomach. Symptoms usually last 1 to 2 days and include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Belly cramps
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache

Why Should Use This Diet?

This diet can help ease symptoms and prevent dehydration. In the past, gastroenteritis diets have included withholding food for 24 hours and the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). Some organizations now do not advise these methods. Most people of all ages should eat a normal diet with changes like limiting sugars and fatty or spicy foods.

Eating Guide

The goal of this diet is to help with hydration, balance minerals in the body, and provide nutrition.

Eat These Foods Foods to Avoid (Adults) Foods to Avoid (Infants and Children)
For young infants—Breast milk or normal infant formula
For older children or adults—Normal food is best, such as:
  • Bananas
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken or other lean meats
  • Whole grains
  • Potatoes
  • Applesauce (unsweetened and limited amounts)
  • Vegetables
  • Oral rehydration solutions (ORS)
  • Caffeine
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods or highly seasoned foods
  • Sugary foods (like soft drinks or fruit juices)
  • Citrus fruits
Some adults and older children find it hard to take in milk products after an episode of gastroenteritis.
  • Caffeine
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods or highly seasoned foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Juices and juice drinks (All juices are high in sugar. They should be avoided or limited.)
  • Gelatin
  • Sports drinks
  • Citrus fruits

Adults should also avoid alcohol and smoking

Special Steps for Infants

Follow these special steps for infants:

  • Do not withhold food.
  • Breastfed infants should continue to be fed this way. Try feeding the infant more often for shorter periods of time.
  • Offer a formula-fed infant small amounts more often. Infants should get at least as much fluid and nutrition as usual.
  • Do not water down formula. This can take it longer for the infant to recover. It also does not have enough nutrition.
  • Infants should not be fed salty foods or drinks.
  • Infants may be given an oral rehydration solution (ORS) at the start of diarrhea. Regular feedings should still be given with the ORS.

Talk to a doctor, nurse, or the emergency room about any infant that seems ill or is not getting enough nutrition.

Special Steps for Children

Children should eat normally to maintain nutrition. Follow these steps:

  • Do not withhold food.
  • Give small amounts of fluid often.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, like fruit juices, fruit drinks, soft drinks, or sports drinks.
  • Offer foods a child normally eats. Avoid foods make symptoms worse.
  • Give smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Children may be given an ORS. It may help prevent dehydration

Special Steps for Adults

Adults should follow these steps:

  • A person who is vomiting should let their stomach settle before eating.
  • Drinking too much at once can make vomiting worse. Good options are:
    • Sucking on ice chips
    • Taking small sips of water
    • ORS
    • Clear broth
  • Slowly go back to a normal diet. Start with soft, bland foods before moving on to solids.
  • Eat small meals more often.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
https://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca

References:

Bányai K, Estes MK, et al. Viral gastroenteritis. Lancet. 2018 Jul 14;392(10142):175-186.
Gastroenteritis. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 20, 2020.
Rotavirus gastroenteritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/rotavirus-gastroenteritis. Accessed August 20, 2020.
Stomach flu (gastroenteritis). Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 20, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 8/20/2020

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