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Transform Your Health NOW! , Issue #002: Protect Yourself from GI Public Enemy #1?
April 10, 2013

Transform You Health NOW! - Is This GI Public Enemy #1?

April 10, 2013

April 2013, Issue #002

Hello! Thanks for joining me on this journey of health transformation!

In this issue…A Look at GI Public Enemy #1

  1. What is GI public enemy #1?
  2. How do you become infected with it?
  3. How can you protect yourself from it?

April showers bring May flowers (That’s good). April can mean school closings due to unexpected winter storm bursts (That’s not-so-good. Did my kids really get off school for a snow day?) April means I can plant seeds to start seedlings for my garden (That’s really good and always makes me happy!)

April also marks the end of the season of the most norovirus outbreaks, and that’s always a good thing.

Protect Yourself from GI Public Enemy #1

Norovirus – GI Enemy #1 in the USA? - Bacteria and fungi are not the only assaults on our digestive systems. Norovirus, a type of very contagious virus, can cause the stomach or intestines or both to become inflamed. This leads to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and the dreaded vomiting. You could also have fever, headache and body aches.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the US. You may hear it called “stomach flu” or “food poisoning”. Symptoms can last from 1-3 days.

Maybe norovirus is not GI enemy #1 in the USA due to deaths, as colorectal cancer claims more lives every year (about 800 for norovirus and close to 51,000 estimated for colorectal cancer during 2013). But norovirus certainly can make your life miserable and account for lost work days during the short time it infects you and the other 21 million people in the US it makes ill each year.

The most common concern is dehydration, especially in young children, the elderly, and people suffering from other illnesses. Dehydration is serious business. See your doctor if you have any concerns.

How do you get norovirus? - Anyone can get norovirus, and you can get it many times in your life, as there are many different strains in the world. The latest one is an Australian strain, GII 4 Sydney.

The virus is found in the vomit and stool of infected people, even before those people start feeling sick and even after they feel better. So, norovirus could potentially be in your food or your drinks if a sick person, even if that person is now feeling better, handled them. People who were sick can continue to shed norovirus for 1-3 days after recovery.

Norovirus is very skilled at survival, so it can last for days or weeks on a hard surface, can survive 140 degrees F, and can last on infected clothing. It’s easy to see how outbreaks can occur quickly in places such as daycare facilities, nursing homes, cruise ships, camps, schools and restaurants.

Although oysters and other shellfish, leafy greens and fresh fruits are commonly traced to norovirus outbreaks, any food or drink has the potential to be contaminated if handled by an infected person or if in the vicinity of a person who vomits. As gross as it sounds, tiny particles from a person vomiting (even if you are across the room), or from flushing toilet water containing feces or vomit, can travel through the air and infect you.

So how can you protect yourself?

  1. The best way to avoid contact with any pathogen is to always, always wash your hands before handling food or eating. Always wash fresh produce, and always cook oysters and shellfish thoroughly.
  2. Also, try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth (try telling that to a young child!) And don’t share your drinks, eating utensils or gum (yuck!)
  3. Change hand towels and dish cloths daily, and have the sick person use disposable paper towels.
  4. Another way to protect yourself is to stay hydrated. Keeping your mucus membranes moist will help to wash away harmful substances, and in the event that do you succumb to norovirus, you won’t be starting out already dehydrated. Hydrate with water, though, because sugar can suppress immunity.
  5. A chlorine bleach solution is usually recommended for surface clean-up to kill the virus. The CDC recommends that you always pick up infected clothing using rubber or disposable gloves, and machine wash and dry the clothing at the maximum cycle length.
  6. One of my favorite ways to prevent infection is by keeping gut flora balanced. (Surprise!). Although no formal studies that I’m aware of have shown absolute protection from norovirus with probiotics, one study* in an elderly population showed significant shortening of the illness in infected adults who were taking Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (found in Yakult, a fermented milk beverage).

To me, it stands to reason that if your gastrointestinal tract is healthy to begin with, any assault by norovirus, any other virus, or any harmful bacteria or fungi, will have a harder time bringing your down.


What happens if you do get infected?

The number one priority is to stay hydrated , although your family may disagree and say that stopping the virus from spreading is priority #1! Seriously, though, replacement of body fluids lost through vomiting and/or diarrhea should be started as soon as possible.

Start with a spoonful of rehydration formula or a simple broth a couple of hours after your last episode of vomiting or diarrhea. Gradually increase as it’s tolerated. It’s best not to eat anything until you are certain you can keep the food in.

If you can take an occasional spoonful or sip of rehydration formula or broth for 1-2 hours, then try mixing in some probiotic supplement into it. You can find out about some probiotic formula options on this page: Probiotic Supplements. Start with a low dosage and gradually increase. You will help your intestines recover more quickly than if you did nothing. If the probiotics seem to make it worse, it could be that your probiotic is milk-based or that you overdid it.

Although the participants in the aforementioned study drank a fermented milk product, I recommend that you stay away from milk products and fatty foods during your recovery. Your levels of lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose sugar, may be low after gastroenteritis, so milk products could cause diarrhea and discomfort to continue. Fatty foods take longer to digest and could cause diarrhea to continue, too.

What about the BRAT diet? BRAT – bananas, rice, applesauce, toast – was always recommended for any kind of GI problem when my kids were little. Now we know that is not the best thing because it lacks the nutrients and fiber your GI tract needs to recover.

Bananas are the best nutritionally of the four foods on the BRAT diet, but if you’re not a fan of bananas, then eat whatever nutritious food sounds good to you. A little bit of cooked oatmeal (unsweetened), a slice of apple, a couple bites of lean protein, a small spoonful of raw sauerkraut – whatever. Start small and increase as you can.

Any advice to share? Have you or a loved one suffered from “stomach flu” or food poisoning? What helped? What didn’t? Share what you know and I’ll write a summary of responses in the next newsletter.

The Wrap Up

Norovirus, AKA "stomach flu" or "food poisoning" is a common occurrence. Although it is usually short-lived, it can make the sick person feel miserable.

The most serious threat from norovirus is usually dehydration, especially in small children, the elderly or people who are not very healthy.

Probiotics have the potential to protect you from the ravages of norovirus, and have been shown to help people recover faster once infected.

Remember, If you have any health concerns, please see your doctor. Do not discontinue any medications without first talking to your doctor. This information is presented for information purposes only, and is not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any mental or physical disease, nor is it a substitute for proper medical care from a qualified healthcare practitioner.

UPCOMING: Look for a new page on the website about Healthy Origins Probiotics in the next week.

Comments? Questions? Ideas?

I’d love to know what you think. If you found the information helpful, or have comments or questions about it, or ideas you’d like to see addressed, please leave me a message, either by replying to this e-zine, or commenting at Contact Us. Also, feel free to forward this to anyone you think would benefit from it.

If you were forwarded this ezine, and you like what you read, you can subscribe to it yourself at Power of Probiotics.

To your best health,

from PowerOf

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