They’re calling it a SuperBug.
This year’s stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis, is having a wide impact this year, affecting most families – even Queen Elizabeth caught the norovirus in early March.
Sometimes, the stomach cramps and pain are the worst part about the stomach flu.
Is there anything you can do to ease this symptom of the norovirus that’s hitting so hard this year?
Stomach Flu Symptoms: Cramps and Nausea
Stomach flu causes inflammation of the lining of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious and affects millions of people around the world every year with vomiting, watery diarrhea, headache, fever, chills, and abdominal pain and cramping. This year’s strain is from Australia, and is a new strain, so no one has immunity built up – this is why so many people are getting so very sick.
When a virus infects our bodies, our immune system works to get rid of the virus. In the case of the stomach flu, the body works to get rid of the virus via diarrhea and/or vomiting. When the stomach, small intestine, and/or the large intestine become inflamed, this causes the pain we feel in our abdomens when we are sick. Stomach cramps can be painful; everything from a mild ache to a sharp, stabbing pain.
Note: When you have the stomach flu, you generally feel pain in more than half of your stomach. If your pain is only in one part of the abdomen (localized pain) it could be a sign of problem with another organ such as your gallbladder or appendix.
Stomach Cramps: How Long Will They Last?
So how long will you feel bad with the stomach flu and cramps? According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, symptoms appear within 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus and you can expect to feel better within one to three days. While waiting it out, is there anything you can do to help ease the cramps? Ginger and peppermint are two herbs that might be able to help.
- Ginger: In China, the people have used ginger to treat diarrhea and nausea for over 2,000 years. Ginger comes in different forms, from the actual ginger root to capsules, oils, and food and drinks that contain ginger. Researchers have studied the use of ginger, finding that it can help with nausea and vomiting that come with everything from pregnancy to chemotherapy. For those with the stomach flu, science affirmed in 2005 that ginger calms stomach cramps and spasms.
- Peppermint: You can use peppermint to provide a numbing and calming effect. Peppermint comes in a variety of forms such as teas, dried or fresh leaves from the plant, and capsules. Research has found that peppermint can reduce gastric spasms as well.
Stomach Flu Recovery
The stomach flu has hit hard this year; norovirus symptoms are causing some real problems for people, since we haven’t acquired immunity to this new strain of ‘GII.4 Sydney’ viral gastroenteritis, but the good news is that you will feel better in a few days. Ginger and peppermint can help ease the stomach pains and nausea, but consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement, as some can interfere with your current medications or illnesses/diseases – and ask your pediatrician before using home remedies on your kids.
Once you start feeling better, it’s best not to eat anything until you have stopped vomiting for six hours, according to Medline Plus. When you do begin eating again, start with the classic B.R.A.T. diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are bland and easy to digest, and unlikely to start you on another round of painful stomach cramps.
Medline Plus. Abdominal Pain. (2011). Accessed March 19, 2013.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Viral Gastroenteritis. (2012). Accessed March 19, 2013.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Ginger. (2010). Accessed March 19, 2013.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Peppermint. (2011). Accessed March 19, 2013.
Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of ginger in gastrointestinal disorders. (2005). Digestive Disease and Sciences. Accessed March 19, 2013.
Kingham JG. Peppermint oil and colon spasm. (1995) Lancet. Accessed March 19, 2013.
*This article is for informational purposes only, and is no substitute for the one-on-one medical advice of your doctor. Please seek medical care if you’re in need of treatment.*© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science