Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Viral Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”)

What should I eat if I have viral gastroenteritis?

When you have viral gastroenteritis, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. You may vomit after you eat or lose your appetite for a short time. When your appetite returns, you can most often go back to eating your normal diet, even if you still have diarrhea.

When children have viral gastroenteritis, parents and caretakers should give children what they usually eat as soon as their appetite returns. Parents and caretakers should give infants breast milk or formula as usual.

A boy eating a healthy dinner.
When children have viral gastroenteritis, parents and caretakers can give children what they usually eat as soon as their appetite returns.

What should I avoid eating if I have viral gastroenteritis?

Research shows that following a restricted diet does not help treat viral gastroenteritis. Most experts do not recommend fasting or following a restricted diet when you have viral gastroenteritis.

For some people, certain food ingredients may make symptoms such as diarrhea worse, including

  • drinks with caffeine, such as coffee and tea, and some soft drinks.
  • foods that are high in fat, such as fried foods, pizza, and fast foods.
  • foods and drinks containing large amounts of simple sugars, such as sweetened beverages and some fruit juices.
  • milk and milk products, which contain the sugar lactose. Some people recovering from viral gastroenteritis have problems digesting lactose for up to a month or more afterwards.
May 2018
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.