Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explains how to deal with  a nasty, upset tummy and the aftermath

Gastroenteritis is the medical term for a tummy bug, the kind of infection that gives you diarrhoea and sickness.

Friday, 28th August 2020, 7:00 am

Last weekend, my household had the pleasure of celebrating a family birthday. It started with sunshine, friends, incredible food and summer drinks. It ended in gastroenteritis. Honestly... it was awful.

I’d taken the Monday off, to enjoy a lazy morning and a late lunch with friends. The plan was to reminisce over the weekend’s festivities and ease ourselves back into the working week.

Instead, it ended in high temperature, gut pain, nausea and some dreadful, dreadful evacuations in the bathroom. Too much information? Then you’ll be glad you weren’t there.

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Gastroenteritis is the medical term for a tummy bug, the kind of infection that gives you diarrhoea and sickness. It can be picked up by consuming food or drinks which are contaminated by bacteria or viruses but it is also spread very easily from person-to-person.

Only one person in my house fell ill that weekend and since we had all been eating and drinking the same things, the exact source of the infection is still unclear.

As one of the healthy ones, I spent my Monday playing nurse and disinfecting the house to try to protect everyone else from the gut rot that plagued our poor birthday boy. I use the term boy ironically, since he’s actually a grown man, but considering the circumstances, a weekend of being spoiled and nursed was exactly what he needed.

A high fever, diarrhoea, stomach pains and nausea lasted for a good few days. His skin felt hot to the touch and he spent 48 hours in and out of a restless sleep. I painted a red plague symbol on the threshold to our home.

Medical herbalist Nicola Parker

Luckily, living with a herbalist, he was in good hands. His suggestion of Lucozade was quickly denied.

Sugary drinks on an inflamed gut? Not the wisest of ideas. Losing water this quickly means you’ll need to replace essential minerals. Drink plenty of water combined with some electrolyte sachets which can be picked up from any pharmacy.

For nutrients and natural sugars, look to vegetable juices and thin soups rather than fruit juice or sugary drinks.

Equally, I suggested he steer clear of medicines like Imodium that thicken the stool to force the body to hold it. Better to let the body purge the infection while staying hydrated than to encourage it to hang on to something it’s desperately trying to get rid of.

Instead, I pulled out my trusty goldenseal. I knew he must be sick when I wasn’t met with loud complaints about the bitter taste. Although unpleasant tasting, goldenseal is one of the most powerful herbs I have in the fight against bacteria and viruses.

Not only do I use it to try to fight infection but it also helps to heal inflamed gut tissues, a main cause of the stomach pains and cramps.

It’s powerful action in these areas means it’s the first herb I reach for when I want to speed recovery. It won’t work like Imodium, stopping the diarrhoea immediately, but it should quicken the healing process, getting you back on your feet quicker.

Gastroenteritis shouldn’t last more than a week and if symptoms persist beyond this point, or there are no signs of improvement, it’s best to call your GP. By Wednesday evening, we’d gotten symptoms under control and outside of some tenderness in the tummy area, everything had returned to normal. That’s when the real work starts.

Recovering from a bug like this can leave one feeling weak and exhausted for a very long time, especially if the body is left to heal itself.

Taking a probiotic, to replace all the good bacteria that you’ve just lost can mean the difference between feeling back to normal and being left feeling drained for a number of weeks.

I brought home some Mightidophilus, a high strength, multi-strain probiotic which I use for gut infections and already, he seems back to his usual, playful, mouthy and energetic self.

For this, I’m very grateful. I can play nurse when it’s needed, but a mopey man in the house for weeks at a time isn’t much fun for anybody!

l For more information or to book a consultation with Nicola, call her at her clinic on 01524 413733.