Gastroenteritis is the most common infectious illness in children. It is a very unpleasant experience for both parents and child. While there are no magic pills that will make it disappear instantaneously, there are many effective natural remedies for gastro that will significantly reduce the length of the infection as well as prevent the onset of chronic digestive and immune imbalances.
Very often, patients tell me that the onset of their IBS or food intolerance started after an episode of gastro.
It is my aim to provide you with detailed, accurate and effective naturopathic solutions so you can heal your gut 100% after a bout of gastro.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. Most pre-school children will contract rotavirus at least once, with most having 2-3 episodes before the age of 6.
Rotavirus is highly contagious and is easily transmitted from person to person by touching contaminated hands or faeces (poo). The virus can survive on objects such as toys, clothes and change mats for several days, increasing the risk of spreading.
Symptoms occur within a couple of days of exposure and they can include: vomiting, fever, sudden watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cough & runny nose, dehydration and drowsiness.
Symptoms usually last between 4-6 days.
The first exposure to rotavirus is usually the most severe. Most children do not require hospital admission following infection, however rotavirus can be life-threatening in young babies due to sudden dehydration.
Time of year
Rotavirus is a seasonal infection, which usually occurs in the winter and early spring period though it isn’t uncommon for the gastro season to start as early as early autumn/late summer.
How long it lasts
The vomiting usually lasts 2-3 days and is usually followed by diarrhoea, which can last anywhere between 3-8 days. In some cases, a milder diarrhoea can last for a couple of weeks.
Things to look out for
Signs of severe dehydration, especially in babies or children below the age of 1 who were born premature or low birth weight:
Dry mouth and lips, passing little urine (less than one full nappy every 12 hours), a sunken fontanel, lack of tears when crying, fast and shallow breathing, drowsiness. These are a medical emergency and you should call an ambulance immediately.
Ethical nutrients Gastro relief contains two strain-specific probiotics that have been proven to prevent attachment of the pathogen to the intestinal walls. If you can’t find this product, look for a probiotic that contains Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG. It has to specify GG as this is the strain that has been studied for gastro.
Oral rehydration solution (ORS):
This is the rehydration solution recommended by the World Health Organisation. You can use this as a healthy alternative to commercially-bought electrolyte icy poles as these tend to have this formula plus artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners.
Instructions: Mix 30g (6 level tsp) white sugar (yes white sugar) with 2.5g (1/2 level tsp) sea salt with 1 L water. It is essential to mix the correct amounts as too much salt or sugar can be very harmful to children.
Encourage your child to drink as much as possible.
Dosage: Children under 2 years of age: at least 1/4 to 1/2 of a large (250-millilitre) cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool.
Children aged 2 years or older: at least 1/2 to 1 whole large (250-millilitre) cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool.
If they’re still breastfed, use breastmilk for rehydration instead of solution.
- Avoid juices and soft drinks
- Carob powder (raw):
5g/Kg/day to a maximum 15g/d given in ORS /milk for up to 6 days. In scientific studies carob decreased length of diarrhoea by 50% and vomiting by 75%. Mix it up with vaalia kids yoghurt – no more than ½ cup per day or mixed in water. Or even better, make a tea with carob powder and a cinnamon stick and add a little manuka honey.
- Cooked green bananas
- Avoid gluten while gut is inflamed
- Avoid grains except white rice. Stick to well cooked vegetable soups.
- Avoid giving chicken broth during the acute phase of the infection:
Chicken broth is a tonifier and will act as a tonic for the pathogens.
Cinnamon tea, raspberry leaf tea, blackberry leaf (tannins herbs). Tannins kill viruses when they come in contact with them in the gut.
Ethical nutrients Gastro relief: 2 capsules twice a day for adults and 1 capsule twice a day for children.
Post gastro healing
Your intestinal lining and gut flora will be severely compromised for up to 2 months following the infection. Many people develop lactose intolerance and continue to have diarrhoea for months after the infection, giving them the mistaken impression that the gastro hasn’t left.
In order to prevent the development of future allergies and rebalance the immune system it is essential to reduce the inflammation caused by the virus, restore the mucus (mucin) layer that lines the gut and replenish the depleted numbers of healthy bacteria.
- To replenish good bacteria: continue the Ethical Nutrients for 2 months: 1 capsule twice daily
- To replenish the mucin layer: Take 1 tsp slippery elm twice daily in warm water or make a tea with marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) – 1 tsp in one cup of freshly boiled water – steep for 5-10 minutes. Do this twice daily. Halve the dose for kids.
Both slippery elm and marshmallow are rich in demulcent phytochemicals that help restore the normal mucus layer in the gut. The mucus is essential for the proper attachment of good bacteria to the gut walls, so they can reproduce and flourish.
- Avoid cold, raw foods for at least one week after the gastro. Your digestion has taken a beating and warm, well cooked foods are easier to digest and will speed up healing.
- Take lactulose (from chemist) to replenish good bacteria: start with 5ml once a day after breakfast and after 2 weeks increase to 10ml. Halve the dose for kids. If bloating is an issue, start with a smaller dose. Do this for 2 months.
- Take a good zinc supplement (zinc picolinate if you’re in the US or NZ or zinc citrate in Australia) – this will boost immunity and help regenerate the gut lining. 30mg for adults and 8mg for kids daily. Take with food to avoid nausea or last thing at night.
- Increase vitamin A rich foods to support intestinal lining repair: liver and cod liver oil are the best source of pre-formed vitamin A.
- Avoid dairy for 6 weeks after the infection to prevent post-gastroenteritis lactose intolerance.
- Re-introduce bone/chicken broth on a daily basis. It is a great source of hydrophilic gelatine, which attracts and holds digestive juices in the gut, whilst being a strong anti-inflammatory.