I have had a few inquiries from my readers about the best foods to eat during and after food poisoning or stomach flu. I’ve done a bit of research and dug back into my own experiences for this handy post featuring mostly gluten-free, grain-free options.
I know the feeling when keeping anything down is impossible – even water. Food poisoning or the stomach flu can throw a wrench in your healthy eating plan, or eating anything at all. Generally speaking, the worst of it passes rather quickly, and you can stomach having little bits here and there.
When it comes to recovery from any type of illness or injury, I believe nutrition is key. With a stomach bug, it’s easy to reach for whatever food you can keep down, even if those calories are empty calories.
Instead, reconsider your choices and speed up your recovery with my favourite real foods to eat when you have the stomach flu or an upset stomach.
WHAT TO EAT WHEN YOU HAVE THE STOMACH FLU OR FOOD POISONING
The ideal choices are foods that are easy to digest, easy to keep down, and good for your gut health. These foods will cause the least amount of additional distress while offering you substantial nutrients to encourage a speedy recovery. Some of these foods are fine while you’re battling the onset of food poisoning, while others are also included as best foods to have after you’ve had an upset stomach. These are gluten-free and dairy-free foods.
You’ve heard of the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. While it’s outdated due to it being overly restrictive, some of these foods still hold up if you’re recovering from any sort of gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting or diarrhoea.
A few of these will indeed end up on the list today, but let’s begin with bananas. Bananas are fantastic for replenishing the nutrients lost as you lose fluid, namely potassium. Plus, they’re soft, easy to keep down, and not very heavy.
Without getting into the gross details of the stomach flu or food poisoning, chances are, you’re losing fluids at a pretty rapid rate. If you’re experiencing the standard symptoms, all that necessary hydration is going right down the drain.
During the first 24 hours, a clear liquid diet is highly recommended. Instead of regular water, stock up on coconut water which has essential electrolytes that will basically double up your hydration, helping you to restore those stocks more efficiently. Plus, it’s important to have liquids during the periods when you can’t keep down any solid foods at all. Forget sugary lemonade, sip coconut water throughout the day instead.
Want to step things up a bit? Get hydrated, replenish electrolytes, and add gut-friendly probiotics to the mix with coconut kefir. It’s essentially a fermented coconut milk drink so it offers a bit more nutrition than coconut water without feeling like solid food, all the while avoiding dairy which is a big no-no during the stomach flu.
Alternatively, you can make coconut kefir with coconut water and a starter culture. Since the stomach flu and food poisoning both wreak havoc on the gut, you want to keep that good bacteria in check both during and after recovery. If you can handle dairy, some regular milk kefir or yoghurt might also help to balance out the gut bacteria.
Many people are keen on ginger ale for healing the stomach flu, but I’m almost positive excess white sugar is not doing your gut any favours. Instead, choose healing herbal teas that are soothing for the gut. Brewing ginger root in hot water or having your favourite ginger herbal blend handy is a lifesaver. Ginger is especially good at reducing nausea.
Another fabulous choice is peppermint tea which can also help with headaches and sinus issues during the stomach flu.
Mix up some grass-fed gelatine with your favourite fruit juice, some coconut kefir, or whatever else you like to make gummies or a healthy Jell-O. Gelatine offers some animal protein with a full set of amino acids while being light on the stomach. It also contains gut-healing properties. The food is light and can be made naturally sweet, making it easy to eat.
Gelatine is particularly easy to digest as well. If you’re steering clear of solid foods, mix some collagen – basically, gelatine that doesn’t gel – into your tea or your water for similar benefits.
Bone broth heals everything. This is another fabulous and healing liquid choice to soothe an upset stomach, restore fluids, and add some protein to the mix. You can often find it at health food stores as it becomes more widely available, but it’s easy to make at home, so stock the freezer with some homemade broth.
You can boil down any type of bones in water with veggie scraps to utilise your food waste and turn it into the perfect cure for any ailment. It contains many of the same properties of gelatine so it’s healing for the gut and rich in essential amino acids like proline and glycine.
Bonus: add healthy anti-inflammatory turmeric and black pepper to the mix, or veggies and chicken if you’re feeling up to it. Plain broth can be a part of the clear liquid 24-hour fast. Learn how to make nutritious bone broth here. I really like Kettle & Fire’s ready-made bone broths, especially their Turmeric Ginger Broth (ps. you can get 10% with this code cravecollective)
Potatoes & sweet potatoes
Complex carbs are great for the flu or food poisoning. They’re palatable, relatively bland (especially opting for regular potato), and efficient in replacing nutrients. Sweet potatoes are particularly nutritious with plenty of vitamin A and beta-carotene. You can really add on to these, too. Keep some pre-baked spuds handy for adding to bone broth soups or filling with protein when you can add more foods in. If you don’t feel like cooking, the tinned pumpkin will offer similar benefits, and is very easy to snack on.
Freshly cooked rice is great for those with upset stomachs. It’s easy to get down plain or mixed in with a little bone broth, and you can make a big batch without fussing too much in the kitchen which is the last thing you need to be doing with flu or stomach poisoning! As you gain your appetite, you can add seasonings, veggies, and protein to the blank canvas. Out of all grains, white rice (not brown!) is particularly easy to digest and inherently gluten-free for minimal distress on the gut.
You want to opt for low-fat foods which help to speed up digestion since fat delays gastric emptying as well as bland foods which are much more palatable to someone whose appetite has gone missing. I’d say rice is the perfect food for this while offering substantial energy. Add a little bit of salt for seasoning!
If you’re following the paleo diet and wondering about white rice, check out my post about why I include it in my diet on occasion here.
Lean Fish or chicken
You want to avoid too many fatty foods with an upset stomach, so if you can stomach meat, make it lean. The body will welcome a protein boost!
Fish and chicken don’t have an overwhelming flavour either, so just steaming some and cutting it up into bite-sized pieces for a snack can give you some much-needed energy without upsetting your stomach further. Go easy on spices in the beginning. Add to the broth if it makes it easier to stomach.
The best remedy of them all? Rest and stay hydrated! Don’t push yourself too hard, and you’ll recover much more quickly. Whether you can only keep down liquids or you’re adding solid foods in, there are plenty of paleo foods that help you recover from the stomach flu or food poisoning. Get better soon!