Stomach Flu: What to Eat and What to Avoid?

July 27, 2023 ,

Scientifically, the stomach flu is known as viral gastroenteritis, a very common inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines caused by certain bacteria or viruses. It is spread through contaminated food or water, or through contact with an infected person. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and is sometimes accompanied by fever. These manifestations usually last a few days and, in most cases, disappear completely without the need for treatment.


Stomach flu: what you can eat

The first rule is to hydrate as much as possible, especially in the case of vomiting or diarrhea, which leads to an excessive loss of minerals and fluids which are very important to replenish immediately. In addition to water, black tea and herbal teas can be added, as well as vegetable, chicken or meat broth.

If you can tolerate fluids without discomfort, you can gradually start eating light foods again:

  • rice and pasta with oil and Parmesan cheese or pasta in a broth
  • steamed or baked fish and chicken, or soft boiled eggs
  • vegetables that do not irritate the stomach and intestines, such as steamed carrots, zucchini, potatoes and squash. Raw vegetables should be avoided at first because they can increase intestinal transit due to their high fiber content
  • fruits, such as grated or cooked apples, small bananas that are not too ripe, or filtered citrus juice
  • dry goods and biscuits, such as biscotti, crackers, toast
  • lactose-free yogurt

Stomach flu: what to avoid

Foods that are not recommended include:

  • highly processed foods from the food industry (pre-packaged and ready-to-use products)
  • whole products (because they contain too much fiber)
  • fatty foods, spices and sauces (they are difficult to digest)
  • soft drinks (carbon dioxide bubbles can cause bloating)
  • alcohol (has a diuretic effect)
  • caffeine (increases intestinal motility)
  • milk (in the case of gastroenteritis, lactase enzymes, which help digest lactose, decrease, so its consumption can aggravate diarrhea)

Stomach flu: how to prevent it?

Prevention is essentially based on the usual practices of personal and food hygiene:

  • Avoid undercooked food, as cooking eliminates any germs that may be present. For example, eating raw fish or meat can be risky if these foods are not ultra-fresh or if you have digestive disorders.
  • Never interrupt the cold chain, i.e. do not leave food outside the refrigerator for too long, as this increases the risk of developing microorganisms.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before eating.

To learn more about how to properly handle and prepare food, especially in the summer, read the Summer Food Safety Tips.


Antonella Giordano
Antonella has 2 professional titles in nutrition because she graduated in Food Sciences (University of Genoa) and holds a master's degree in Nutrition (University of Bologna). She is also a biologist (University of Florence). She is a member of the Order of Biologists (ONB) since 2013 and a SINU member. Passionate about psycho-nutrition issues, her goal is to help her clients find a balance and a healthy and correct relationship with food and with their body.

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