These symptoms are often short-term and can last between a few days to a week. However, research is showing that a small proportion of people can then go on to develop symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In a Nottingham survey1 of people reporting an episode of bacterial gastroenteritis (food poisoning) over a 6 month period,
Unfortunately there is limited scientific evidence to guide our recommendations for dietary management for gastroenteritis. Below we have provided some practical suggestions which may be helpful for your recovery.
Days 1-2: Acute phase
During the first 24-48 hours the main priority to manage gastroenteritis is hydration and fluid replacement. During this period, the body loses a large amount of water and electrolytes and therefore there is a significant risk of dehydration. Ensure you are still getting more than 2-3 L of fluids per day. Incorporating oral rehydration solutions every few hours are an achievable way of replenishing electrolytes whilst promoting water re-absorption along the gastrointestinal tract. Keep sipping fluids as much as you can. There are oral rehydration solutions available from pharmacies. Sucking ice blocks and sipping dry ginger ale can help. If necessary, limit food intake. You need plenty of rest.
Following the first 1-2 days you may start to feel hungry (a good sign). Take it slowly- a bland diet is best so avoid rich fatty foods, spicy foods, caffeine and dairy products. Try flat lemonade, dry ginger ale, plain rice, dry toast *, dry biscuits*, clear soup* or broth *. Have small frequent snacks as your appetite allows.
(*low FODMAP foods may be better tolerated – see below)
Days 3-5- Recovery Phase:
The Low FODMAP diet may be a useful dietary approach during the recovery phase after a bout of gastroenteritis once you are over the first acute 24-48 hr, and have started to re-introduce foods. As fructose, sorbitol, and mannitol can also increase water delivery into the small and large intestine, temporary restriction of these FODMAPs may also alleviate symptoms. Changing over to lactose-free alternatives may also be beneficial as temporary lactase deficiency is common. You can always start by restricting intake of HIGH FODMAP foods and focusing predominantly on LOW FODMAP foods until symptom control is achieved.
You do not need to follow a low FODMAP diet once symptoms of gastroenteritis are resolved. Instead, use your symptoms as a guide as to when you can reintroduce high FODMAP foods and return to your usual diet.
If concerned, see your doctor
It is important to ensure EXCELLENT HANDWASHING while you are unwell as gastroenteritis can be highly contagious.
Gastroenteritis in infants and children
Gastroenteritis in infants and young children is usually caused by a virus. It is highly infectious and typically spread when in contact with another person who has the illness. For this reason, infants and children are abstained from school, day-care or kindergarten while they are unwell. It is also very important in infants and children to see your doctor, especially if you have an infant less than 6 months of age or weights less than 8 kg.
Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and tummy pains. As in adults, the main treatment is ‘fluids’, to prevent dehydration.
For more information on managing gastroenteritis in infants and children please refer here
Download the Monash University Low FODMAP diet app for food lists.
1Neal KR, Hebden J, Spiller R. Prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms six months after bacterial gastroenteritis and risk factors for development of the irritable bowel syndrome: postal survey of patients. British Medical Journal. 1997; vol. 314: pages 779.