Gastroenteritis or Diarrhoea with Infection

Gastroenteritis is a general term used to describe a condition of known or unknown origin, which causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort.

Viral, bacterial, parasitic infections, chemical toxins or even lactose intolerance may cause gastroenteritis. The cause of Gastroenteritis, in most cases, is a virus or bacteria, which has entered the body through contaminated food or drink or via contact with an infected person.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The severity of the signs and symptoms of Gastroenteritis will vary depending on the type and amount of infective substance, which has entered the body, the duration of its action, the person's resistance and the extent to which the digestive system is involved. The onset is often sudden and sometimes dramatic with a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea (with or without blood and mucus). Tiredness and muscle aches may also be experienced. In severe cases the abdomen may become distended (bloated) and tender. Persistent vomiting and diarrhoea may also occur which, if not managed properly, can result in severe dehydration and loss of electrolytes, shock and kidney failure.

TREATMENT OPTIONS
As with all conditions, your Doctor should be consulted. Your Doctor will diagnose and treat this condition. Ask your Doctor about the latest advice on this ailment. The health management for Gastroenteritis usually involves supportive care with bed rest, a bland diet and replacement of the fluids and electrolytes lost due to vomiting and diarrhoea. Antibiotics are rarely prescribed for cases of Gastroenteritis. A faecal specimen may be required if the following are present:
• Blood and/or mucus in bowel motions.
• Temperature more than 38 degrees C.
• Chronic diarrhoea.
• The patient has returned from overseas.
• The patient has recently been on a course of antibiotics.

DIET HINTS
• A patient with Gastroenteritis should avoid solid foods. When the symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting are acute, it is best to continually sip water, electrolyte replacement drinks, strained broth or bouillon with added salt to help prevent or to treat mild dehydration.
• When the symptoms begin to improve, the patient may be able to tolerate warm fluids, cooked bland cereals, jelly, dry biscuits and other bland foods.
• It is advisable for the patient to avoid rich foods such as dairy products and meat as well as spicy, sugary and fatty foods for a period of time after symptoms have ceased. Re-introduce these types of foods gradually and avoid them if the symptoms recur. Foods, which are very high in fibre, may also aggravate the symptoms (e.g. wholegrains).
• When vomiting stops, include some garlic in the diet each day. Garlic has natural antibiotic properties that can help to combat infection.

VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS
Nutritional supplements are only to be used if the dietary vitamin intake is inadequate.
• Oral rehydration solutions are powdered or liquid formulas designed to reduce the risk of developing an electrolyte imbalance. An oral rehydration solution is recommended for the management of Gastroenteritis with mild-moderate dehydration. Activated charcoal, in the correct dosage, may be used internally to help absorb toxic substances from the digestive tract.
• Glutamine is an amino acid which helps regenerate the lining of the gut, which may be damaged in cases of Gastroenteritis.
• Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is a herb with a long history of traditional use in herbal medicine. When ingested, Slippery elm helps to protect and reduce inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract.
• Research indicates that an acidophilus supplement may help to protect against gastrointestinal infection and restore the normal bowel flora, which may be destroyed by Gastroenteritis.
• A multi-vitamin/mineral may help to replace some of the nutrients lost through vomiting and diarrhoea associated with Gastroenteritis. A liquid form is recommended to aid absorption.

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
See your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Follow the Diet Hints.
2. Gastroenteritis is contagious and the patient should make sure that the hands are washed thoroughly before handling any food.
3. It is very important to increase the fluid intake if you are suffering from Diarrhoea. Your Pharmacist can suggest an oral rehydration solution to help replace fluids and electrolytes, which are lost because of persistent diarrhoea and vomiting. Drinking water alone will not replace the electrolytes, which are vital for sustaining bodily functions.
4. Check the diet for any food allergies (e.g. tomatoes, seafood, lactose). This may be a cause of Gastroenteritis. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
5. Some nutritional supplements might help if the diet is inadequate. Slippery elm can help to soothe the bowel. Acidophilus may help to restore the normal bowel flora, which has been destroyed by the infection.