It’s been a year and a half now, and COVID 19 is still with us. 9,257 new cases in North Carolina Thursday (8/26/21).
In the beginning, we thought of COVID as similar to the “flu” – a wet cough and lots of chest congestion.
Now it’s apparent this virus can manifest in many ways. In Charlotte, it’s also been surfacing as a dry cough or mild “allergies” similar to a light cold. Later, it morphs into a brutal stomach flu – nausea, vomiting, and dry heaves first, followed by days of diarrhea. Some have had to seek medical treatment or be hospitalized due to the resulting dehydration.
Here are my tips in case you get this variation of COVID – or any other nasty stomach flu.
(Please note: I am NOT a medical professional. This is just what worked for me.)
For years, doctors have recommended this “sports drink” for children suffering from diarrhea and seniors who struggle to drink enough water. Besides having electrolytes (sodium and potassium), Gatorade seems to have a slightly different texture than water that slips down your throat more easily. It’s also tastier than water, which makes it easier to drink. (I’m old school – my personal favorites are the Orange, Grape, and Fruit Punch flavors.)
What about Pedialyte? Pedialyte has more sodium and more potassium. But it’s also waaay more expensive – one liter of Pedialyte (1.1 quart) costs between $5-$6, while one quart of Gatorade costs approximately $1. Plus, Pedialyte flavors are limited and somewhat chalky tasting. If your goal is to drink as much liquid as you can, Gatorade is the cheaper, more efficient, and tastier way to do it.
Is Gatorade vegan? It’s kosher and vegan-friendly. Gatorade has confirmed none of their colorings or “natural flavors” are animal derived. It does contain sugar (unless you opt for a sugar-free version). Sugar can be hard to source – sometimes it may be processed with bone char; sometimes it might be processed with activated charcoal. There’s no way tell – and personally I think your vegan efforts are better spent eliminating meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. The PETA website lists Gatorade as vegan in its list of vegan beverages.
Tip: I have a BIG house. I chose smaller bottles so I could put one in the pocket of my robe and keep it with me as I stumbled from room to room. I had no excuse not to take a drink! If your dwelling is smaller, you could stash a larger bottle beside the places you drag yourself to the most, to remind you to sip.
SIP Don’t GULP
I know, it is sooo tempting to gulp down a glass of water or juice because you are really, really THIRSTY. But then – WHOOMP, THERE IT IS – in your bathroom sink. Take small, frequent sips until you find what your stomach can tolerate.
Drink Your Beverages At Whatever Temperature
There’s a lot of “wisdom” that says to drink your beverages at room temperature if you have an upset stomach. I say – do you! When you’ve been sick on your stomach for a few hours or a few days, and you have no appetite for eating or drinking, it’s important to take in fluids any way possible. I can drink Gatorade room temperature, but I find plain water more enticing chilled – not iced, but chilled. You might prefer sipping on cups of hot herbal tea throughout the day. Whatever works. And let’s not forget …
If you have the dry heaves and are throwing up everything, including water, try sucking on an ice cube or eating some crushed ice. When you get better, move on to a fruit juice pop or a frozen Gatorade slushie.
But DON’T Take Anti-Diarrheal Medications
This one was new to me, but makes sense. Your body is trying to get rid of something – bad food, bacteria, a virus. Anti-diarrheals slow your intestinal tract, essentially keeping bad stuff in your body longer. These medicines should ideally be used by those with chronic conditions, such as IBS.
Meal Replacement Drinks
When we first went under lockdown and the supermarkets were selling out, I purchased a couple of containers of vegan meal replacement drink powders. I reasoned that, should I get COVID or run out of food, I had some easy meals that required nothing more than adding water and blending.
This illness finally gave me the chance to try them out. Once I was able to handle a little food – but still had NO appetite – I added one for lunch each day. My favorite is Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal Replacement in Chocolate. I don’t normally recommend meal replacement drinks, nor do I usually advise vegans to seek out protein drinks. However, I think these drinks come in handy in situations when you are able to eat very little. It’s gluten free and soy free, which helps if your stomach is even the slightest bit sensitive to these common allergens. It also contains probiotics. Which brings us to …
A bout of stomach flu can really “clean you out,” which includes the good bacteria in your stomach as well as the bad. Enter probiotics and yogurt. Once upon a time, vegan yogurt didn’t exist in stores – you had to make it yourself. Now, it’s everywhere! Made from soy, almond, or coconut milk, these yogurts taste like fruity or chocolate-y puddings and are easy to eat as you convalesce.
When you’re back to eating solid foods, try breakfasting on healthier fruit and granola yogurt parfaits for a week to continue adding probiotics and “restocking” the “good” bacteria in your gut.
What About Vitamins?
Many vegans will argue that there’s no need to take vitamins; you can get all the vitamins you need on a vegan diet. Which is true, but – How many vegans are actually eating a healthy, well-planned vegan diet? Yes, a Beyond Burger and fries are vegan, but if that slice of tomato and leaf of lettuce on your burger are the only fresh veggies you’re eating – you need a vitamin. Likewise, if you normally eat a healthy, well-planned vegan diet but are suddenly sidelined from your regular eating habits by illness – from lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea – you may need supplementation as well.
In this case, I don’t recommend pills. What you are putting into your body is likely not staying in your body long enough to dissolve and be absorbed.
I recommend a powder mixed in water – such as Emergen-C. This provides you with a good dose of Vitamin C, B vitamins, electrolytes, and a few other things. Just be sure it doesn’t include Vitamin D, as they use a non-vegan version of D3 – cholecalciferol. (Vegans should look for either D2 – ergocalciferol – or D3 that is derived from lichen.)
CAUTION: Do not overdo it with the Emergen-C. Too much Vitamin C can cause diarrhea – exactly what you’re trying to avoid!
OR – try gummies! YES, there are vegan gummies now! Make sure the product lists “pectin” instead of “gelatin.” And note the type of Vitamin D used. Emergen-C gummies are vegan, as long as they don’t have Vitamin D. Garden of Life’s MyKind Vitamins offer 100% vegan multivitamin gummies. Gummies are a little more expensive than pills, but if you are a frugal vegan look at it this way – you’re trying to get your health back as quickly as possible, so it’s a short-term investment.
Ahh, rice is nice. The first thing I ate once I got back on solid foods. It’s bland, easy to digest, and after an illness and not “eating” for a few days, hot white rice “buttered” with EarthBalance and sprinkled with a little salt is delicious! (Yes, I said white rice – brown rice is harder to digest. Yes, I know I’m going to get some hate responses, “Brown rice matters, too!”) Once you can go a step further …
Khichdi is a “bland” Indian food served to the sick. It’s just red lentils, rice, turmeric, and salt. It’s absurdly easy to make and absolutely insane how delicious and “strengthening” this tastes when you’re under the weather. Super easy to digest. Click here for my Khichdi recipe.
Try Vegan Soups
There are tons of canned and boxed vegan soups these days. There are even vegan chicken soups these days, such as Amy’s No-Chicken Noodle, Gardein, and my favorite, Upton’s Chick & Noodle Soup.
Other vegan soups I like include Amy’s Split Pea and Minestrone, and Pacific’s Cashew Carrot Ginger. Even Campbell’s has gotten into the act, adding a number of vegan flavors under their Well Yes! brand. (Just be careful with Well Yes! The symbols used for Vegetarian and Vegan both look very similar, and just because a soup is made with “plant based” chicken, does not, in fact, mean the soup is vegan. Think egg noodles.)
Fruit is also a stepping-stone on your way back to health. Try applesauce and bananas first. Then move on to apples, melons, stone fruits like peaches and plums, and grapes. Work up to the citrus fruits, which are more acidic and might upset your stomach again.
When you feel you’re making some progress in your eating and appetite, green smoothies (with both fruit and a hefty handful of greens) are the way to go.
Greens can be difficult to digest, but with a green smoothie you’re breaking them down in your blender, which is in essence doing some of the digestion for you.
I am absolutely wild about Simple Green Smoothies. Just be sure to pick smoothies that are low-acidic at first.
Avoid Coffee and Alcohol
- Coffee and alcohol are both dehydrating.
- Coffee and alcohol can both stimulate bowel movements, encouraging diarrhea.
- Coffee and alcohol can both play games with your blood sugar levels, encouraging nausea.
Let’s Talk About Dehydration
You have a high likelihood of getting dehydrated if you have COVID 19 – or any severe stomach flu, from:
- Lack of Appetite (not eating/drinking as normal)
- Sweating (such as Night Sweats or Fever Sweats)
During my bout with this beast, I had the first four – plus, I’d go to bed with a chill and later wake up totally soaked in sweat!
Of course I knew I was dehydrated because I’d wake up with a parched mouth. And I have to say it took awhile to get back to my former well-hydrated state. Some other signs of dehydration are:
- Dry lips
- Blurry vision
- Fluid retention – puffy eyes or swollen ankles
- Rapid heart beat
- Dry, wrinkly skin – Pinch some skin on the back of your forearm. Does it look like a much older person’s skin? Or, be bold, take a selfie. Does your skin look dry? Are your laugh lines more prominent? Do you look like your mom?
- Not peeing as frequently – or as much. (I found this one to be interesting as it really illustrates how even though you may be working hard to drink fluids, those fluids may be excreted in ways other than pee – such as vomit, poop, fever, or sweats.)
One sign I wouldn’t worry about as a vegan is dark urine (usually one of the “top” signs of dehydration). Many vegans I know take a B12 supplement or a B-multi. Vegan multivitamins tend to be high in B vitamins as well. Both B2 and B12 can turn your pee various shades of dark to bright yellow.
Stating The Obvious
Most of my readers are on some level of the vegan – veg curious spectrum. If you are an omnivore, please consider giving up meat and dairy for at least the term of your illness.
- Many people have allergies or reactions to dairy, either an allergy to a dairy protein or a sensitivity to milk sugar (lactose intolerance);
- Meat is difficult to digest. Aside from that, it’s often inherently fatty (bacon, beef) or cooked in a fatty manner (crispy chicken fingers, fried fish sandwiches). Fat is one thing that can definitely exacerbate a bad stomach situation.
Give your digestive system a break and avoid these for a few weeks, until you feel better.
OK, so this was really long – but if you read it till the end, you probably had a really good reason for reading it. I hope this was helpful to you and gave you some insight or new ideas. Wishing you health.