Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestine that usually happens after eating spoiled food, resulting in symptoms such as pain in the belly, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Most of the time, gastroenteritis is caused by eating contaminated food or drink, but it can also arise after close contact with people with gastroenteritis or putting your hands in your mouth after touching a contaminated surface.

The treatment of gastroenteritis is to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. In addition, it is also recommended to maintain a diet with foods that are easy to digest and low in fat, to help with the recovery of the digestive system.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms indicative of gastroenteritis are:

  • Severe and sudden diarrhea
  • general malaise
  • Stomach ache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Body ache
  • low fever
  • Headache
  • loss of appetite

Symptoms of gastroenteritis can appear minutes after consuming contaminated food or take up to 1 day to develop.

How long does gastroenteritis last?

Most cases of gastroenteritis last between 3 to 5 days. However, the symptoms of this inflammation vary according to the cause of the gastroenteritis, and can last up to 10 days in some people.

How to confirm the diagnosis

To confirm the diagnosis, the general practitioner or gastroenterologist performs some physical examinations, such as checking blood pressure and listening to the heart, in addition to evaluating the signs presented and the person’s health history.

The doctor may also request some more specific tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as stool, urine and blood tests.

Main causes

Gastroenteritis is more common in children and the elderly and is mainly caused by eating spoiled or contaminated food. Thus, after consumption of contaminated or spoiled food, the toxins produced by microorganisms cause irritation of the gastric mucosa and reach the bloodstream, developing viruses, bacteria or parasites in the body and causing infection.

Gastroenteritis can also occur when putting dirty hands in the mouth. However, in this situation gastroenteritis only develops when there is a high infectious load.

In addition, this inflammation can also be caused by parasites, such as Giardia Lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica, diseases such as celiac disease, or the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetylsalicylic acid and ibuprofen.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Types of gastroenteritis

The main types of gastroenteritis are:

  1. Viral gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and/or intestine caused by several types of viruses, the most common being rotavirus, norovirus and adenovirus. It is a very common and contagious disease, whose symptoms usually appear between 24 and 72 hours after exposure to the virus and, in general, last between 3 and 5 days, and can persist for up to 10 days.

Viral gastroenteritis usually happens by contact with contaminated objects or surfaces; when sharing food, drink or cooking utensils with people who have the virus; with ingestion of contaminated food and water; or by air.

  1. Bacterial gastroenteritis

Bacterial gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and/or intestine caused by bacteria such as Salmonella sp., Shigella sp., Campylobacter sp., Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus, among others.

This type of gastroenteritis is caused by eating food or water contaminated with the bacteria or the toxic substances it produces. In addition, this type of gastroenteritis can also occur due to poor hygiene, such as not washing your hands before preparing food, after going to the bathroom or after contact with animals, for example, or it can even be transmitted from one person to another through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.

  1. Parasitic gastroenteritis

Parasitic gastroenteritis can be caused by parasites such as Giardia Lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica or Cryptosporidium. These parasites produce alterations at the intestinal level, being transmitted mainly through the ingestion of food and water contaminated with feces or through anal intercourse.

  1. Non-infectious gastroenteritis

Non-infectious gastroenteritis is usually acute and is mainly caused by the use of drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat pain, inflammation and fever, such as acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen or diclofenac.

In addition, diseases such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease can also cause inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, leading to non-infectious gastroenteritis.

This illness can also arise from ingestion of food toxins such as botulism or ciguatera poisoning, which is a toxin accumulated in some types of fish and shellfish. It is important to note that this type of gastroenteritis is not contagious.

How the treatment is done

Treatment of gastroenteritis mainly consists of rest, maintaining a light diet and drinking plenty of fluids.

Rest, as gastroenteritis can cause dehydration and tiredness.

Light, easily digestible diet including white rice and peeled fruit to control symptoms, aiding recovery from infection.

Intake of plenty of fluids, such as water, teas, coconut water, oral rehydration salts and homemade serum.

Use of antiemetics, such as domperidone, diphenhydramine and granisetron, may be recommended by the doctor to relieve nausea and vomiting.

Use of antibiotics, such as azithromycin and tetracycline, may be prescribed by the doctor for the treatment of bacterial gastroenteritis.

Use of probiotics, can be prescribed by the doctor to regulate the intestinal bacterial flora, helping to reduce diarrhea.

In more severe cases, the doctor may indicate intravenous hydration in the hospital, so that the person can stabilize more quickly.

Whenever you suspect this illness, look for a doctor, it is the best solution for your treatment to be the best possible, soon I will be publishing a post about diets during gastroenteritis.



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