sick childBy Dale Peterson, MD – Building Health

Nausea and Vomiting:  Weathering the Storm

As much as each of us would like to sail through life on smooth seas we find ourselves facing an occasional storm. One of the most unpleasant is an attack of acute gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as “the stomach flu.”

Virus or Bacteria?

Many attacks of stomach flu are triggered by viruses. These can be minimized by regular hand washing, getting regular rest, eating a prudent diet and taking basic nutritional supplements.

Other attacks are caused by bacteria.  Many of these episodes can be avoided by eating meats well done and disinfecting countertops, cutting boards and utensils after preparing high risk items such as poultry. The effect of disease-causing bacteria can be minimized by supplementing probiotics (friendly bacteria). It is particularly important to reintroduce these bacteria after taking an antibiotic.


When you are hit with waves of vomiting and diarrhea, listen to your body and give it time to recover. At the first sign of nausea stop eating and drinking. Let the stomach rest. The nausea and vomiting should pass within a few hours. Begin sips of water once your stomach has felt calm for an hour or two. Taking in an ounce of water every ten to fifteen minutes at first is safer and less likely to trigger additional vomiting than drinking 4 to 6 ounces at one time. The amount of fluid may be increased if you find that you are tolerating the small quantities well.


If you are urinating infrequently and your urine is dark you have become dehydrated. I’ve been able to keep many people out of the hospital over the years by having them prepare a rehydration solution at home.  The recipe is based on one recommended by the World Health Organization for use in underdeveloped areas and includes the four major electrolytes (salts) needed by the body.  It is made up of 1 quart purified water, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup orange juice, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of an unrefined sweetener such as barley malt, brown rice syrup, dried cane juice, honey (do not use honey in infants less than a year of age), maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, or Sucanat   Drink enough rehydration solution and water to begin producing pale urine at frequent intervals.

Clear Liquids

Just as it is important to let your stomach rest if you are experiencing nausea or vomiting, it is important to allow your intestines to rest when you are having diarrhea. Limit your intake to clear liquids until the diarrhea has passed. A clear liquid is defined as something through which you can read newsprint. Water, broth, sports drinks, and gelatin are examples of clear liquids.

When the diarrhea has subsided bland solids such as rice, potatoes, bananas, and cooked vegetables may be added. Expand your diet if you are tolerating bland solids. Milk and other dairy products should be avoided for at least two weeks because the ability to digest milk sugar, lactose, is lost in attacks of gastroenteritis. The exception is processed cheese, such as cheddar, Swiss or Colby, since the processing predigests the lactose.

Other Remedies

Additional measures are rarely necessary, but some are available. Ginger is quite effective in reducing nausea. The amount found in 12 ounces of ginger ale is adequate. Since it may be difficult to hold down that much fluid it is often better to use small quantities of ground ginger or ginger capsules. A tablespoon of thick syrup may also help to settle the stomach.

Homeopathic remedies for nausea and vomiting are helpful and easy to administer since they are dissolved in the mouth rather than swallowed. Repeat at fifteen minute intervals until the nausea and vomiting is under control. Homeopatics are safe for use with infants and children and the tablets may be dissolved in an ounce of water if the child is too young to let a tablet dissolve under his or her tongue.


Antidiarrheal remedies should generally be avoided as slowing or stopping the diarrhea prematurely will generally prolong the illness. Psyllium husk, however, can be used to absorb water and begin to form solid stools. It is readily available under several brand names. Take a standard dose every four hours until formed stools appear.


Two or three probiotic capsules should be taken three times a day for 1 – 2 weeks to restore a normal intestinal environment and prevent the overgrowth of disease causing organisms.  Acute gastroenteritis is unpleasant, but it is possible to safely weather the storm and resume smooth sailing in a short amount of time if these simple principles are followed.

Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  He is the author of Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at

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