While the most common symptoms for COVID-19 continue to be fever, sore throat, cough, and shortness of breath, doctors have advised that the virus is mutating, causing diarrhea-like symptoms.
Dr Ankush R Pawar, Consultant at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Fortis Escorts Liver and Digestive Diseases Institute, New Delhi, and Dr Archana Batra, a Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator, based in Gurugram, help us understand the myths and truths when it comes to stomach ailments, infections, and diarrhea.
1. A diet can’t help a stomach bug
The BRAT diet is short for Banana, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.
Speaking about its efficacy, Dr Pawar says, “When people have an upset stomach or diarrhea, they tend to stop eating. That will do you no good. Ensure that you eat foods that are easy on your stomach, meaning easily digestible.” Only a BRAT diet will help your body get all the needed vitamins and minerals.
Dr Batra says one must always consume fresh food and avoid eating leftovers and stale meals to prevent gut infections. “Eat light foods like khichdi/soups/whole wheat chapati-sabji and dal, while avoiding excessively fried and fatty foods. Avoid raw foods like salads during the monsoons. Meals should be properly cooked with condiments, and herbs like ginger, which not only helps in improving digestion but also builds immunity against infections,” she says.
Buttermilk/coconut water and other plain low-calorie drinks are useful to prevent dehydration. Buttermilk with cumin powder also helps in improving digestion. She also recommends consuming only seasonal vegetables, sourced locally. Wash them, especially the greens, thoroughly in running water before cooking.
2. Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs will work to help the stomach infection
Dr Pawar earnestly requests that we refrain from consuming any OTC drugs for stomach aches or infections. “Patients often tell me that they have already consumed medication, and since the infection has not eased, they have come in for a consultation. Please do not self-medicate,” he says.
In some cases, one might develop diarrhea as a reaction to an antibiotic as well.
“Antibiotics are often prescribed with probiotics to maintain gut health. In case of adverse reactions to certain drugs, do reach out to your doctor to get the medicine changed.”
Thankfully, drug-induced diarrhea is common and can be rectified quite easily.
3. Lie down if you have a stomach bug
This is a myth. Dr Pawar suggests, “On the contrary, walking around and doing light exercises will help relieve gas and uneasiness in the stomach.”
Along with this, avoiding foods that contain fructose like potatoes or sweets will help. These are likely to cause more gas and alleviate your symptoms.
4. Do not eat anything if you have diarrhea
“Not eating will only leave you dehydrated and weak. When the body is fighting an infection, it needs all the nourishment it can get. Stay away from foods that will aggravate your condition and eat light and home-cooked meals for a full and fast recovery,” advises Dr Pawar.
Dr Pawar also reiterates having enough water and electrolytes for diarrhea. “Water is great, and if you mix it with lemon and salt, it is even better. Even mixed with ORS, it will help you stay well-hydrated,” he explains.
5. Teething in children causes diarrhea
“Sometimes, the two coincide, but there is no truth in this. When children are teething, they are in the habit of chewing all kinds of things. It is also a time when their body is getting used to different kinds of foods,” explains Dr Pawar.
So, next time your child has diarrhea coinciding with teething, do not brush it aside and consult your doctor.
While we have taken utmost care in putting this article together, do reach out to your medical practitioner for specific queries.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)