Gastroenteritis – causes, side effects and treatments at NaturalPedia.com

Thursday, April 05, 2018 by

Gastroenteritis, despite its common monicker being the “stomach flu,” isn’t a type of flu, nor is it limited to the stomach alone. Strictly speaking, the term gastroenteritis refers to the inflammation of the linings of the stomach and the intestines, collectively known as the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).

There are many causes of gastroenteritis, but the most common include viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Viral gastroenteritis, in particular, is known to be highly contagious and extremely common and is mainly caused by four types of viruses.

  • The rotavirus is most common in infants and young children, where it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis. In the U.S., children are likely to be infected with rotavirus before their fifth birthday.
  • Caliciviruses, on the other hand, are the most common cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the country, as well as acute cases of gastroenteritis with vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, and fever. Norovirus, commonly known to be responsible for many food-related outbreaks, is one type of calicivirus.
  • Adenoviruses, though known to be a respiratory illness, are also a common cause of gastroenteritis, especially in children less than two years old.
  • Astroviruses usually infect young children, but adults who have been exposed to high doses of the virus – typically because they are in close proximity to infected children – may also fall ill.

The main disease causative agents of gastroenteritis (i.e., virus and bacteria) are infectious and can be transmitted either by the fecal-oral route or eat contaminated food and beverage. Other causes, such as food allergies, drug side effects, and some parasites, are non-contagious.

One common misconception is that gastroenteritis and food poisoning are similar, with some even using the terms interchangeably. While they have nearly the same symptoms, the term gastroenteritis refers to inflammation in the GIT caused by either a virus or a bacteria. Food poisoning, which is more common, is the reaction of the body when it ingests toxins from bacteria, parasite, or prion.

Known risk factors and symptoms of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis has no genetic predisposition, but people who live in groups, such as those in the military or students in dormitories, are more prone to the condition. Frequent travelers are also at greater risk, with their interaction with different people and places at any given point.

The hallmark sign of gastroenteritis is diarrhea. This is because the colon loses its ability to retain fluids when it is inflamed, causing stools to become loose and watery. Other symptoms are:

  • A cramping pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Poor feeding (in infants)
  • Sudden weight loss (may be a sign of dehydration)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Muscle pain or joint stiffness
  • Loss of stool control

Body systems affected by gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis commonly affects the GIT; however, a common complication is dehydration. Some signs include extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, dry skin and mouth, sunken cheeks and mouth, and dry diapers (for infants).

Food items or nutrients that may prevent or relieve gastroenteritis

To relieve gastroenteritis, the following steps are recommended.

  • Drink plenty of liquids to replace lost fluids and electrolytes, but stay away from caffeinated drinks such as coffee and soda.
  • If vomiting is still an issue, sip small amounts of clear liquids or suck on ice chips.
  • Once the symptoms start to clear up, start with easy-to-digest foods, such as the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).
  • Refrain from fatty and sugary food items, as well as dairy products and caffeine, until recovery is complete.

Treatment and management options for gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis does not usually need urgent medical attention, and symptoms get better on its own. However, if the following cases occur, it would be best to get medical advice.

  • Cases of severe dehydration (i.e., persistent dizziness, fainting spells, and little to no urine)
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Constant vomiting
  • A fever over 38 C (100.4 F)
  • If traveling, upon return from an area with poor sanitation
  • A previous condition such as kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or a compromised immune system

Where to learn more

Summary

Gastroenteritis refers to the inflammation of the linings of the stomach and the intestines, collectively known as the gastrointestinal tract. There are many causes, but the most common include viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

The hallmark sign of gastroenteritis is diarrhea. This is because the colon loses its ability to retain fluids when it is inflamed, causing stools to become loose and watery. While gastroenteritis commonly affects the GIT; however, one common complication is dehydration.

Sources include:

eMedicineHealth.com

NIDDK.NIH.gov

MedLinePlus.gov

WHO.int

CDC.gov

Web.Stanford.edu

MedicineNet.com 1

MedicineNet.com 2

MedicineNet.com 3

My.ClevelandClinic.org

NHSInform.scot



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