I know, it’s not really “the flu”, but people call it the stomach flu. The more proper term is gastroenteritis. It’s not fun to watch your kid puke, and even less fun to clean it up. Fortunately there are natural ways to prevent it, and natural remedies that can help recovery.
(Note: this post is not intended to be medical advice, always defer to your doctor for medical treatment).
Prevention – Probiotics
This is my top pick for preventing the stomach flu. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Probiotic bacteria are “good bacteria” that we WANT to have in our guts. I wrote this post about the different probiotics I have researched and used. Last winter was the first time I skimped on the probiotics. I thought we were probably getting enough good bacteria naturally from fermented foods. Well it turns out I was wrong because my kids got the stomach flu for the first time, which I think may be related to stopping the probiotics. We were getting a large QUANTITY of good bacteria from our fermented foods, but it was not enough. Apparently there are specific species of bacteria and yeast that can prevent the stomach flu. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) seems to be a superstar in the scientific literature with regards to probiotics and gastroenteritis. Here are a few of the references I found …
High Protective Efficacy of Probiotics and Rice Bran against Human Norovirus Infection and Diarrhea in Gnotobiotic Pigs Source
Efficacy of probiotic use in acute rotavirus diarrhea in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Source
Probiotics in Children: What Is the Evidence?
Based on currently available evidence certain probiotic strains (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG [LGG] and Saccharomyces boulardii) have proven effect in the treatment of acute gastroenteritis and prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea. Furthermore, LGG was proven to be effective in prevention of nosocomial diarrhea and respiratory tract infection in day care centers. Source
Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic yeast that might be worth adding to your supplements if your family is susceptible to the stomach flu. I have not tried it yet, but I have read good things about it.
So it seems like my “gut feeling” about probiotics preventing the stomach flu in my family may be correct. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a probiotic strain in Bio-Kult and Culturelle, two of the probiotics I have used. This winter my family will be taking probiotics again, in addition to consuming fermented foods.
Natural Remedies – to help with recovery
What can you do if your family is already dealing with the stomach flu? You can still use probiotics to help with recovery, but there are some other natural remedies that can help.
In case you have not figured this out by now, I am sort of partial to homeopathic remedies. I have not really NEEDED other natural remedies, homeopathy is so effective. But I know many people are scared or skeptical of homeopathy, so I included other natural remedies as well.
Homeopathic remedies are safe and effective. However, the effectiveness of the homeopathic remedy depends on how well you match the symptoms to the remedy. I have been using homeopathy for many years and I still have difficulty finding the best remedy sometimes. So if at first you do not succeed, please try again. I have found that choosing the wrong remedy will often lead me to the correct remedy. Careful observation will often reveal new symptoms that can help you find a good match. So pay attention and take notes, and you will get better at this. 😉
Ipecac 30C – This is the first remedy to consider for nausea. You may recognize Ipecac to be a remedy that is used to induce vomiting. Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of “like cures like”, it takes some getting used to. Homeopathic Ipecac is “ultra-diluted”, so it is not the same as the Ipecac you are familiar with. This is the remedy I would choose if there was puking but not diarrhea.
– sinking sensation in stomach
– horrible nausea, not better from vomiting
– continuous gagging
Arsenicum album 30C – Arsenicum album is the first remedy I would consider for illness from food poisoning, and at the top of my list for the stomach flu. (If there was puking AND diarrhea I would try this remedy first).
– violent vomitting and/or diarrhea with pain in the stomach
– Any digestive symptoms with restlessness and exhaustion
– suspected food poisoning
China officinalis 30C – This was the remedy that helped my family last year with the stomach flu. It is a good remedy to help with dehydrstion and fluid loss. A homeopath recommended I take this remedy in a low potency while breastfeeding to help with fluid loss.
– Vomitting of undigested food
– stools with undigested food
– worse from eating fruit
Gemmotherapy is a gentle and safe plant-based medicine. The gemmotherapy extract recommended for nausea and vomiting is the Common Fig (Ficus carica). From Lauren Hubeles’s website:
“Let’s take a case of an acute virus with vomiting. To settle the digestive tract the Gemmotherapy best applied would be Common Fig (Ficus carica) because of its ability to normalize gastric secretions, heal mucus membranes, and calm spasmodic conditions. While normally Gemmo extracts are diluted in a glass of water this is especially problematic with a vomiting child or adult, so I recommend 12 drops in a teaspoon with a few drops of water every 15 minutes. In most cases the action is immediate and by the second dose the vomiting has subsided. Keeping up with the dosing of Fig every few hours will extend the benefit by utilizing the unique Gemmotherapeutic actions of cleaning and feeding the affected organ tissues, in this case the digestive tract”. Source
To learn more about gemmotherapy I recommend this book – “Gemmotherapy for Everyone, Building Immunity in Babies & Young Children”, by Lauren Hubele.
Activated charcoal is effective at adsorbing toxins and removing them from the digestive tract. (Basically it binds to toxins and removes them). There is some anecdotal evidence that it shortens the duration of the stomach flu, but I have not been able to find a lot of scientific evidence to support this claim.
This study did show activated charcoal can adsorb toxins produced by E. Coli. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11307928
It is definitely worth having some in your first aid kit.
I have dabbled into essential oils, but I have only used them on occasion. Plant Therapy is a company that I like because their oils are good quality and they are reasonably priced. (It is also not part of an MLM program). There is a blend that looks interesting for digestive support called DiGiZen . It might help with nausea. It Contains the Pure Essential Oils of: Peppermint, Anise, Ginger, Tarragon, Fennel and Lemongrass.
Tummy-Aid is another blend that looks interesting. It contains Dill Weed and Sweet Fennel
I do not recommend using Essential Oils in conjunction with homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic remedies are “antidoted” by strong smelling oils, (which means oils will cancel any benefits your body receives from homeopathic remedies).
This is what I prefer to use to prevent dehydration. I am not a fan of Gatorade, it is has a lot of additives in it. Coconut water is a more natural way to restore electrolytes. (My kids love it).
Peppermint and ginger tea is supposed to be good for digestive upset. I prefer ginger tea because peppermint can also antidote homeopathic remedies. This is a great recipe for homemade ginger tea called saenggangcha I used to drink this tea a lot when I lived in South Korea.
I hope this helps you prepare for the upcoming “sick season”. Our family has been pretty blessed so far, we don’t get sick often. I really do think the probiotics are essential for an immune boosting strategy related to stomach ailments. Winter is hard enough, it is good to have natural ways to avoid illness.