Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Norovirus – prevention and support
WITH schools in lockdown and businesses running on half staff, the winter vomiting bug has hit us hard. Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhoea and is one of the most common stomach bugs around.
The symptoms of this vomiting bug include severe vomiting and diarrhoea, often alongside fever, muscle aches, and weight loss too. Anyone can pick up this pesky bug, but young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals are most vulnerable.
:: How do I avoid getting sick?
Prevention is always better than cure, and although it is difficult to avoid, there are a few simple things we can all do to reduce our risk.
- Keep your immune system nourished by eating a diet packed with colourful vegetables and some fruits (berries in particular). Include some protein with each meal and pack in essential fats form nuts, seeds and oily fish.
- Take a vitamin D supplement during winter months to help support your immune function and resilience to bugs.
- Support resilience to bugs by taking a daily probiotic supplement, or consuming probiotic foods and drinks like live natural yoghurt, kefir and kombucha.
- Go to bed early and get a good night's sleep.
- Keep an eye on your sugar and alcohol intake.
- Wash your hands really well with soap and water several times a day, and especially after using the loo and before preparing or handling food.
:: How can I recover quickly?
Rest is the best healer, but here are a few ideas to help support and nourish your body to help get you back on your feet.
- When we get hit by a bug, it tends to make us feel exhausted. This is our body's way of telling us to slow down, take it easy, rest and recover. But most of us hit the ground running again as soon as we feel well enough to get back to work. After an illness it is important to give your body a little R&R. If you can find time among the Christmas card writing and present buying, to take time to rest and let your body recover.
- The norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhoea, so it is crucially important to get plenty of fluids into your body after you have been sick to help prevent dehydration. You will need to drink more than you usually do. As well as drinking water, some herbal teas can be good. Ginger is thought to help settle nausea and elderberry has been shown to have anti-viral properties.
- Once your appetite starts to pick up a little, then homemade soup is a good way to get more fluid into your system, along with some much needed vitamins and minerals to help support your immune system.
- Avoid fizzy drinks and fruit juice as they could make diarrhoea worse.
- Once you start to feel a little better, and can start to eat again, you may find it easier to eat little and often until you recover. Bland food will be easier on you than spicy or highly flavoured foods, but avoid foods with low nutritional value, as your body will have been nutritionally depleted when you have been sick and unable to eat.
- Easily digested foods like bananas, soups, stewed apple, yoghurts, rice, pasta or potatoes can be good foods to start with.
- Avoid caffeine, high-fat foods, sugary foods and spicy foods as these are likely to upset your stomach.
- Evidence shows that our immune system is switched down a gear by eating sugar. This comfort food, that many of us crave can deplete our immune function for up to seven hours after munching our way through a sugary snack.
- I would suggest taking a good quality probiotic after a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea to help rebalance the levels of your friendly, beneficial probiotic bacteria. Certain Lactobacilli strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, may inhibit norovirus and improve gut function following gastroenteritis. Try the Optibac range, available from pharmacies and health food shops.