Yuma, Arizona - Viral gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach bug, is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever. It is often called the stomach flu, but it is not actually the flu, or influenza, which is a respiratory illness. Often this infection is developed though contact with an infected person, or by ingesting contaminated food or water.

"An upset stomach is a common symptom of a stomach bug, and this can make eating sound unappealing, even though you may be hungry," says Shelly Frischmann, a family medicine nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska. "Knowing what to eat is difficult because you don't always know what's going to agree with your stomach."

Frischmann recommends these tips for fueling your body when you have the stomach flu:

  1. Let your stomach settle.
    Avoid solid foods for a few hours and stick with liquids.
  2. Hydrate.
    Try drinking clear soda, clear broths or noncaffeinated sports drinks in small but frequent amounts to stay hydrated.
  3. Ease back into eating.
    Gradually incorporate bland, easy-to-digest foods into your system, but be sure to back off if your nausea returns.
  4. Avoid certain foods until you feel better.
    These foods include dairy products; alcohol; caffeine; nicotine; and fatty, spicy or highly seasoned foods.
  5. Be cautious with medications.
    "It's best to use medications such as ibuprofen with food and sparingly, if at all, as they can cause an upset stomach," Frischmann advises. "It's best to discuss which medications you are using with a doctor to avoid any potential side effects."

Foods to eat are clear broths, crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice and chicken. Foods to avoid are alcohol, caffeinated beverages, dairy products and processed foods.

"The main complication of a stomach bug is dehydration — a severe loss of water, and essential salts and minerals. If you're healthy and drink enough to replace fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldn't be a problem," adds Frischmann.