Gastroenteritis: Managing the Condition

By Lisa Cantkier

Gastroenteritis: Managing the Condition

When it comes to treatment options for gastroenteritis, it depends on the severity of your symptoms. Some patients require hospitalization, but gastroenteritis often can be treated at home. Always seek the advice of your physician to determine the best treatment options for you.

“I had two hospital admissions within one week of each other for gastroenteritis, with severe pain on the left side of my abdomen and bloating,” said Jennifer, a patient. “I generally felt pretty sick. Antibiotics have helped me. I also found probiotic drinks and supplements to be helpful. I went on a high-fiber diet, which can be helpful but also can cause constipation.”

How is gastroenteritis treated?
When we are healthy and our immune system is functioning optimally, our body usually can fight off gastroenteritis without treatment. In severe cases, which are less common, medication or hospitalization may be necessary. Always follow the advice of your health-care provider before trying any new treatment.

“I have had gastroenteritis off and on for about 24 years,” said Penny, a 60-year-old patient. “Probiotics have really helped me and I prefer tablet form over liquid. Peppermint oil capsules also have been helpful—I take them when I have pain. However, you have to do what works for you. I also have found warm baths and electric heating pads help ease the pain and discomfort.”

As a result of diarrhea and vomiting, you will need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Drink lots of fluids to keep yourself well hydrated. When you are optimally hydrated, the color of your urine appears clear. Orange juice and coconut water are good sources of electrolytes. Your pharmacist also can recommend an electrolyte liquid for you (or your child) to drink. Eat foods that contain electrolytes, protein and complex carbohydrates, such as lean meats, whole grains and potatoes. According to Dana Angelo White, a Connecticut-based registered dietitian—good sources of electrolytes also include raisins, bananas, spinach and sweet potatoes. Your doctor may recommend that you eat six very light meals or snacks throughout the day instead of the three larger meals you normally would eat.

If the cause of your gastroenteritis is a viral infection (the most common cause) or is bacterial, antibiotics would not be prescribed, as they have not been shown to be effective. However, antibiotics may be recommended if you have severe gastroenteritis and a specific bacterium has been identified in your stool sample. Antidiarrheal medications usually are not recommended for gastroenteritis (unless your case is very severe) because they can prolong infection, especially in children. Anti-emetic medications sometimes are prescribed to help reduce vomiting.

Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases in which serious dehydration has occurred or if an underlying medical condition puts you at risk of developing complications. This applies to infants and children as well as adults. If you require hospitalization, you will receive fluids and nutrients through an intravenous tube (IV).

Last Reviewed 12/22/15

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

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