In modern times, street food is becoming not only accepted but also glamorized and glorified. While previously, only people who had no other option ate at carts and dhabas, today street food is an entire industry. Recent years have seen the emergence of events such as Street Food Festival etc. which celebrate the entire culture of enjoying a delightfully delicious meal without the fine dining experience. While this has a culturally positive impact in terms of popularizing a certain dish and its historic connotations, we need to look at the medical impact also.
Although there is no rule that street food will always make you sick, there is always the chance. In India there have not been any legal ramifications of controlling and monitoring the quality of street food, certainly not in practice. Therefore, while you may enjoy the finger-licking goodness of chaat or the sweet sourness of pani puri, there is no guarantee that these have been prepared in ideal or hygienic conditions. This is one reason, among others, as to why stomach infections remain so common in India.
Not merely street food, but even fruits and vegetables that may have been infected can cause stomach infection, or stomach flu. The other reason is infected water. Contaminated water used for cooking or drinking can lead to stomach infections frequently and with dire consequences. Open defecation, rampant garbage dumping in open spaces, water clogging and general unsanitary practices all contribute directly or indirectly to the stomach flu.
Stomach flu, medically known as gastroenteritis, is an infection acquired from contaminated food and water that causes irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The lining of stomach and intestines is primarily affected. More than a crore cases are reported every year in India, which goes on to show that our hygiene and decontamination practices remain subpar. More common but by no means limited to the lower socio-economic class, stomach flu affects young and old alike. It may last for several days or even up to weeks.
A whole host of bacteria, viruses and even protozoa may cause stomach flu. E.coli is the commonest bacteria. Others are Shigella, Salmonella, and many others. Viruses may be adenovirus, cytomegalovirus, etc. The commonest protozoan cause is Entamoeba that causes amoebic dysentery. In many cases, the causative organism may even remain unknown and pathological diagnosis may be difficult.
Stomach flu, like any other flu, spreads very quickly. This is because we often fail to observe basic hygiene practices that we are all thoroughly aware of. We do not invest enough time in washing our hands, and families share too many infected articles among themselves. This is why flu generally becomes a family affair in the sense that multiple people in the same household get infected. This goes on to prove that basic hygiene practices must never be taken for granted.
Sign and Symptoms of Stomach Flu
Let us now discuss the signs and symptoms of stomach flu. The symptoms may be non-specific and different organisms cause different patterns of symptoms to appear. Pain in the stomach or abdominal region is usually seen. The pain may be of cramping type and may vary in intensity. Nausea and vomiting are common, as are loose stools. As is the case with infections, fever may be present. Continued vomiting and diarrhea lead to loss of significant amount of fluids from the body, which may cause dehydration. Dehydration is a dangerous condition that may even turn life-threatening without the patient or his family realizing the severity of the problem. Collapse occurs at extreme levels of dehydration. Sunken eyes, lightheadedness and a dizzy feeling, a dry mouth and throat, weakness, small quantity of urine and a general sick feeling, are all warning signs that need medical supervision and guidance.
Primary prevention of stomach flu involves encouraging and maintaining hygiene practices. Fruits and vegetables must be well washed, hands should be clean, water should be filtered, outside food must be prepared in healthy conditions, and washroom hygiene should be maintained. It is important to teach children the implications of good hygiene practices from a very young age.
If you have contracted stomach flu, apart from medications there are steps that can be taken at home to manage the condition well and recover quickly. The first rule is to remember to keep your fluid levels intact. If you are losing fluid through vomiting or diarrhea, increase your fluid intake proportionally. Coconut water is an excellent option to maintain your electrolyte balance. In severe cases ORS may be taken to rapidly restore fluid levels. Non-irritating foods with minimal spice and oil will help the stomach and intestines to heal from the onslaught of the infection. Apart from this, foods like papaya, curd, apple, cucumber etc. can be included in the diet.
When it comes to medicinal management, allopathy works to target the specific organism that has caused the infection. Usually antibiotics are the first line of treatment prescribed by allopaths. These may work in many cases but not in all, specially when the causative organism is not bacteria. Often the actual causative factor may remain unknown, and in many cases, the allopathic management is to simply maintain the fluid-electrolyte balance while the infection clears out. Anti-pyretics may be prescribed for fever, and painkillers for the pain.
Homeopathic Medicne for Stomach Flu
Homeopathy works differently in the sense that it addresses a patient?s symptoms rather than the organism that caused the illness. This is why homeopathy has a wide arsenal of medicines to combat stomach flu, and Schwabe India provides them in excellent quality standards.
Homeopathic medicine for gastritis, unlike the conventional allopathic drugs, is not only effective but also safe. Medicines like Arsenicum album, Croton tig, Podophyllum, Aloes socotrine, China, and many more are used according to the patient?s symptoms to treat gastroenteritis. Homeopathic medicine for acidity and gas is manufactured by Schwabe India and available at all licensed homeopathic dispensaries as well as on Schwabe India?s website. These can be ordered online and taken as per the guidance of a professional homeopathic physician. While homeopathic remedies are safe to use and cause no ill effects whatsoever, it is always best to get a prescription from a homeopathic doctor so as to get the best use out of them. A visit to the doctor also helps to rule out warning signs, if any. Homeopathic medications of the best quality, along with a strict adherence to good diet and hygiene, can help us to fight stomach flu every day with ease.