back to Body

I’m a gastroenterologist. This means that gastrointestinal (aka GI) diseases – or in everyday terms, stomach bugs – usually show up in my life through my patients, when I’m asked to help heal them. As I write this, though, I’m in total empathy mode for all of you. The combination of nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps that has attacked me over the last five days has been downright cruel.

In an effort to maintain caloric and electrolyte intake during the whole awful process, I drank ginger ale, water, and absurdly huge amounts of Gatorade. Seriously: if my hazy memory serves, I drank three 28-ounce bottles of Gatorade on Day One.

Post-Gatorade-sugar-blast, I noted how horrible I felt during the day. My nausea worsened, a mind-bending headache began, and I felt sluggish and totally depressed. I know that this is often a part of the process of working through an illness, but it made me wonder if there was an alternative explanation – like, I don’t know, maybe my intake of at least 150 grams of sugar and lots of artificial food coloring in a short period of time the day prior.

Gatorade

Reality check: electrolytes or not, I’d been trying to heal myself with glorified sugar water. “Fruit Punch”? Not so much.  

The overwhelming nausea and fatigue motivated me to find another alternative. (I had also started watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” on Netflix – believe me, that was quite a kick in the butt when it came to seeking out alternatives to processed compounds.)

So I started poking around online, and I found a bunch of articles on juicing. I’d always been hesitant to try it, but I was desperate at this point. Maybe juicing the stuff we find in nature could have the potential to replace electrolytes and cure my ailment at a quicker rate. 

So I made a kale/carrot/lemon concoction in a blender, using a sieve to get the pulp out. Call it a placebo effect or good timing – but within hours, I felt better.

In the following days, I reached out to two of our experts: Jeanie Redick, a holistic nutritionist, and Leslie Gaillard, a dietitian specializing in chronic disease management. I asked them for recommendations on holistic ways to avoid cleaning out the corner store’s Gatorade stock while you recover from the dreaded stomach bug.

Lisa: We lose a lot of water and electrolytes during an illness. What are some ways to naturally replace them?

Jeanie: I often recommend ginger ale, peppermint or ginger tea, and lots of water with lemon. These remedies aid in improving hydration; also, in limited studies, ginger has been found to improve nausea, while peppermint is a centuries-old remedy for a multitude of associated symptoms (nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloating, etc.).

Leslie: In terms of how much fluid to drink, I recommend the following formula:  Take your weight, divide by 2, and consume that number of ounces daily of fluid.  

Lisa: What juicing recipe would you have recommended for me?

Jeanie: Juicing is definitely the way to go. Natural fruit and vegetable juices can restore the electrolytes lost in the process of illness, and they can begin to replenish needed vitamins and minerals for healing. Juicing removes the fiber from raw food, so there is no energy spent digesting; this makes it easier on your belly. It is like being hooked up to an IV of the best stuff in nature.

Here’s one recipe you can try: Start with half a lemon and a thumb-sized nub of fresh ginger; put them into your juicer hopper first.  It needs to be a juicer and not a blender. There is a huge difference – remember, a juicer removes the fiber so it is pre-digested. Ginger helps to “settle” the stomach, while the lemon can help to restore electrolytes. Add a few stalks of celery and an equal part of carrots.  Top it off with an apple to make it all taste sweet and delicious! Voilá. Bon appetit!

Lisa:  What if you only have time (or energy!) to pick something up at your local pharmacy for electrolyte replacement? What do you recommend then? 

Jeanie: For a quick on-the-go electrolyte drink, try “Emergen-C”.  They are small packets of a flavored fizzy drink mix that cost less than a dollar per packet. They’re loaded with antioxidants and electrolytes; they contain 20 calories with 5 grams of sugar and 5 grams of carbs. Great for travel, after a workout, or to keep in your office drawer.

Lisa: What if you are ready to move onto food? What do you recommend then? 

Leslie: Food intake is still needed during stomach discomfort. Good, nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory healing foods are recommended. So, where do you start? Essentially, you pretend that you’re feeding a 6-month-old baby with an immature digestive tract:

  • Mashed sweet or white potato with a little cinnamon and butter is a good start. (Ever wonder why you sometimes crave French fries when you have a stomach bug?  The naturally occurring potassium and added sodium help to replenish your electrolytes. A baked sweet or white potato works even better, because it doesn’t contain fat to slow down your digestion.)
  • Almond or rice milk, blended with banana and strawberries and sweetened with a little juice.
  • Avocados sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice.
  • Coconut water. It’s great for extra hydration; it is also an excellent source of electrolytes.
  • Other remedies include roasted butternut squash, pureed butternut squash soup, and cooked oatmeal made with extra water.

Lisa: Any other suggestions?

Leslie: If you are having stomach issues, steer clear of raw vegetables, dairy, beans, and high-fat animal meats. All of these can burden an already compromised digestive tract.

Finally, remember to take your probiotics to keep the good bacteria thriving in your gut. Your stomach may be cranky, but good nutrition and the proper fluids will put you on the road to recovery!

Note: We recommend contacting your physician prior to trying of the above remedies.  He/she understands is best suited to make recommendations based on your personal history, severity of illness, and physical exam. This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be seen as a substitute for sound medical advice.

Jeanie Redick, CN is an Integrative Health Coach and a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist. As a health coach, her greatest passion is helping her clients transform their lives to achieve the optimal health they desire. To work with Jeanie, contact her at www.eatforlife.org

Leslie Gaillard, MPH RD LDN is a registered and licensed dietitian. Leslie offers local and remote nutrition counseling and consulting services. To work with Leslie, contact her at www.lgnutrition.com

Dr. Lisa Jones is a physician and the Editor-in-Chief at CurvyGirlHealth . At CGH, she discusses her personal battles with self-care and documents her journey to seek insight and make life-long changes. read more about