Friday, October 22, 2010

Paleo & Gastroenteritis

Wednesday evening I came down with a nasty case of the stomach flu. I guess it's just one of those little "benefits" of working with people who drive themselves too hard. If you're sick, don't come in to work and spread it around to your coworkers, please! At any rate, I was up most of night with it. Without going into too many details, lets just say I spent way too much time in the bathroom. By Thursday morning was so weak and drained that I could barely moved. After having found someone to cover my shift in the ER, I crawled back to bed and began thinking about how I was going to fuel my body with the basic necessities while I couldn't eat. I'd been drinking as much water as my stomach could tolerate, because I knew dehydration is a major concern during this kind of stomach illness. But only drinking water won't cut it for very long. Losing all your electrolytes without replenishing them can lead to complications from hyponatremia (too low sodium) and hypokalemia (too low potassium). The commonly recommended diet for gastroenteritis is the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, apples, and toast. Well, obviously this presents a problem for a Paleo eater since half that diet is not on the menu. This was my solution:

I'm a firm believer in the value of western medicine. Bismuth Subsalicylate (the pink stuff) helps a bit. Any over the counter anti-diarrhea/nausea mediation is worth keeping around, but make sure you read the ingredients. Some flavors of Tums even have gluten in them.

For the first 24 hours, I could not really tolerate any form of solid food. I drank plenty of water, some black tea with locally produced honey & salt (get those electrolytes and a few calories), and a cup of watered down chicken broth (recipe from The Primal Cookbook) with salt added. I also managed to eat 2/3 a banana, one slice at a time, and 1/2 a snack cup of applesauce. A good trick for the banana is to slice it up and put it in the freezer. It keeps the individual slices from going brown. Plus, the coolness is soothing. Don't expect to put any of this stuff down in large portions, everything I ate or drank was spread throughout the day. The broth took me 2.5 hours to drink and even the first cup of tea took a couple of hours.

Hours 24-36, I slept... a lot. When I woke up Friday morning I ate the rest of the banana and the apple sauce in one go. Not completely better, but greatly improved!

Hours 36-48. I successfully ate one soft boiled egg and half a baked apple. I'm actually starting to feel hungry, but don't want to eat more than my poor shrunken tummy can handle. 41 hours into it, I decided to test my limits a little further. I had my chicken broth with chopped up cooked carrots & cauliflower and a shredded slice of deli turkey. Almost real soup! I ate the other half of my baked apple and heated some frozen blueberries into a soup.

Here's the short version:
1. Use over the counter upset stomach medication.
2. Liquid diet: Black tea with salt and honey. Weak broth (only add salt if your broth is homemade and doesn't have any to begin with).
3. Add some soft solids: Skip the rice & toast. They have minimal nutrients anyway. Bananas & apple sauce.
4. Advance diet as tolerated. Cooked veggies in the broth. Baked apple. Soft boiled egg.

Despite these efforts, this has been a horrible case of the stomach flu. I had no intentions of losing 5 pounds in 36 hours, but I simply could not put enough food into my body. Obviously, I don't recommend this form of weight loss. Hopefully, no one ever needs this post, but in case you do get sick, this method seemed to work fairly well for me.


  1. You should have gone and hiked Pikes with this, you missed out on a great training opportunity!

  2. Just found this googling paleo BRAT diet. This is the best answer I've found so far, thank you! I'm not actually doing paleo but I often avoid grains. The thought of eating more toast in a day than I do in a month or more was discouraging but it turned out okay. Now I have more options-hopefully I won't need them again anytime soon but if I do, I'm glad to try out what you did.