Fighting Stomach Viruses: What to Eat, What to Avoid

Flu isn’t the only virus making its rounds. There are hundreds of viruses (and bacteria) that infect our bodies, many of which affect the gastrointestinal system. If you have a “stomach bug,” you need to stay hydrated and nourished, but what’s safe to eat?

Don’t Force Food

If you have come down with a stomach virus, chances are for the first day or two, you may not feel like eating much of anything. If the thought of food makes your stomach turn, listen to your body. Do not force yourself to eat.

However, it is important that you stay hydrated. If you have a fever, water or mild tea is best. But if your stomach virus causes diarrhea and/or vomiting, you may need fluids that help you restore and maintain electrolyte balance, such as:

  • Electrolyte drinks, even those formulated for children like Pedialyte®
  • Sports drinks (although these are very high in sugar, so drink these in moderation)

Avoid any drink that dehydrates, such as sodas, coffee and alcohol. Milk often tends to upset sensitive stomachs, so you may want to pass on it, too.

Bland is Better

When you do start to feel like eating again, go easy on amount, fat content and flavor. Eat small quantities to avoid upsetting your stomach by making it too full too fast. Heavy foods—those high in fat and creamy foods (milk-based) also tend to be upsetting. Try mild comfort foods, like:

  • Toast (light on the butter and jam)
  • Mashed or baked potatoes (again, light on the toppings)
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Bananas

Ginger and papaya are both known for stomach-calming, too.

Full Nutrition for Full Recovery

When you feel on the mend from any stomach virus and can tolerate nearly any food, it is important to maintain proper nutrition. Your body is still in recovery when you feel better, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables (and supplementing with vitamins and minerals if recommended) can help stave off other viruses.