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Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

  • Posted on- Jun 18, 2016
  • 3267 Views

Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is a medical condition that is characterised by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation is mainly caused due to a pathogenic infection. The causal organism may be a virus, fungus, parasite or bacterium. Though the incidence of viral stomach flu is definitely higher than a bacterial infection in stomach and intestines, consumption of contaminated food may provide bacteria an opportunity to travel to the gastrointestinal tract. Once bacteria find a way into the gastrointestinal tract, they start multiplying. Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract is the direct result of the spurt in the bacterial growth. Given below is some information on bacteria that cause inflammation of the digestive tract along with bacterial gastroenteritis symptoms and treatment options.

Bacteria that commonly cause gastroenteritis

Bacterial infection in stomach and intestines is mainly caused due to consumption of contaminated food or water. At times, the way the food items are handled or stored at grocery stores or the way in which these foods are prepared at the food joints may be responsible for contamination of food items. Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium, Shigella, Salmonella, Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus figure in the list of common bacteria that may cause stomach flu.

The symptoms usually appear soon after the ingestion of contaminated water or foods. As the bacteria grow in numbers, they may also react with the food present inside the gastrointestinal tract, and start producing toxins. This leads to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Since some of the bacteria may be found in poultry, it is essential that you wash your hands after handling animals that may be infected. Those who don't do so, are at an increased risk of developing gastroenteritis. Sometimes bacteria may be present in human faeces, and if the infected person doesn't wash his hands properly after defecating, the surfaces or objects he/she touches may become contaminated. It is therefore, essential that one pays attention to hygiene.


Symptoms

Diarrhoea is a characteristic sign of gastroenteritis. As bacteria enter the digestive tract, they start acting on the partly digested food. The toxins that may either be present in the contaminated food, or may be generated as the bacteria act on the contents of the stomach or the intestinal tract, may further cause inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. The digestive process would naturally be adversely affected on account of inflammation. Since the absorption of nutrients or water may be impacted, one is most likely to suffer from watery stools or diarrhoea. Vomiting, nausea, bloating or abdominal cramping may also be experienced by the sufferer. Since there may be a significant loss of fluids owing to diarrhoea or vomiting, one may also feel lightheaded or weak due to dehydration. One may also suffer from loss of appetite, dry mouth, nausea or fever. In severe cases, traces of blood may be present in stools.


Treatment

Complete blood test, blood culture, stool test and physical examination can help the doctors in formulating a diagnosis. The doctors may follow a symptomatic approach, and prescribe drugs to counter diarrhoea or vomiting. Analgesics may be prescribed if one is suffering from pain. Antibiotics would also be prescribed for killing the bacteria and also to prevent them from multiplying further. Since one may lose a lot of fluids, there is a need to compensate for the fluid loss. One must drink water at regular intervals. In case of severe dehydration, one may need to take an oral rehydration solution to replenish the body with electrolytes or necessary nutrients.

Though one may suffer from a loss of appetite and may feel repulsed even at the sight of food, there is a need to gradually start having small amounts of easily digestible foods. It would be best to consult the doctor and follow the guidelines given by the gastroenterologist regarding diet for gastroenteritis. Even after one has recovered fully, one must refrain from consuming street food for a while. One must also pay attention to hygiene and handle food items and cook them after washing hands. Since poultry or other meats may be carriers of bacteria, make sure that you buy them from a place where they are stored and handled properly.

This was some information on the symptoms of a bacterial infection in the stomach and the intestines. A person suffering from stomach flu is most likely to experience severe discomfort due to diarrhoea or vomiting. Since bacterial gastroenteritis can cause distressing symptoms, the wise thing to do would be to consult a gastroenterologist for getting this condition treated at the earliest.