What To Eat When You Have Gastro

Just remember 'BRAT' and rehydration.

Gastro isn't something we like to talk about -- or experience, for that matter. The common infection can wipe us out for days, making eating, drinking or doing anything other than resting (or sitting by the toilet) a hard task.

Along with diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever, gastroenteritis can result in dehydration, which can be dangerous if not treated.

If you have gastro, follow these steps to help recovery.

"Number one is rehydration," Chloe McLeod, accredited practising dietitian and sports dietitian, told HuffPost Australia.

Rehydrating isn't just about drinking heaps of water, however. It's important to drink specific oral rehydration drinks, which you can buy or make yourself.


"Hydralyte and Gastrolyte are common ones which I regularly recommend because they're easy to find in pharmacies, and some service stations sell them now, too," McLeod said.

"The reason you need these is because when you have gastro, you're not just losing fluids, you're also losing electrolytes when you're going to the bathroom.

"If you're just drinking water, you're not replacing the electrolytes and that can cause an imbalance, which can have quite significant consequences. Having the electrolytes helps to retain or restore that balance, which will help you to recover more quickly."

If we become too dehydrated, what can end up occurring is hyponatremia, which is where there's not enough electrolytes in the blood to allow fluid balance to occur.

"That can then result in feeling even worse," McLeod said. "A lot of the symptoms of hyponatremia are similar to those of dehydration. It can be difficult to pick up, which is why it's so important to have those electrolyte-containing rehydration drinks."

Rest up and rehydrate.
Rest up and rehydrate.
martin-dm via Getty Images

Sports drinks can be another option to help rehydrate, particularly if you're really struggling to eat any food.

"Sports drinks are going to give you some carbohydrates which will help to give you a little more energy, as well," McLeod said.

"You can also make your own electrolyte drink at home by mixing a little bit of honey and salt with water. It doesn't have all the different electrolytes like store-bought products, but if you're stuck at home without anything, most people have got honey and salt in the cupboard."

When it comes to eating, the recommendation is to eat when you feel hungry and stick to bland foods for 1-2 days.

"Keep food quite plain. Water crackers or plain whole grain crackers tend to be most people's go-to food," McLeod explained.

"BRAT can be helpful when you feel like you are able to tolerate food. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce or apples, and toast," McLeod said.

What to eat when you have gastro:

  • Plain toast
  • Plain cooked rice
  • Plain crackers or crispbread
  • Banana
  • Apples or applesauce
  • Clear brothy chicken soup
  • Plain, well-cooked white pasta

"Due to the fibre they contain, the bananas and rice will help stool to become more solid again, so that's part of the reason to include those. The apples or applesauce helps to give you more carbohydrates to help with restoring carbohydrate in the body, and toast will do similar things.

"Chicken soup is another one people often talk about as it can help with rehydration. This comes down to the fluids and the sodium it contains. This might be an option for more towards recovery."

Keep the soup brothy and simple.
Keep the soup brothy and simple.
fortyforks via Getty Images

But don't force it: if you don't feel like eating, stick to crackers and rehydration drinks. And avoid caffeine and alcohol.

"A lot of the time, initially, most people can't tolerate more than water crackers or plain toast," McLeod said.

"I really suggest to avoid caffeine and alcohol for a few days after, just because they can cause some irritation to the stomach lining. When everything has already been irritated, it's a good idea to stay away from these."

Rest up and, if in doubt, contact your GP or healthcare professional.

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