What Causes the Flu – Vomiting (Gastroenteritis)?

Many people think they have the flu when they get a “vomiting bug”. But they actually have either a bacterial infection (perhaps food poisoning), or viral gastroenteritis – which is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea and they may also have a headache, fever, and abdominal cramps (stomachache). It is often called the “stomach flu,” although it is not caused by the influenza viruses.

The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. The affected person may also have a headache, fever, and abdominal cramps (stomachache). Usually, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days after infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.

Natural Remedy For the Flu – Vomiting (Gastroenteritis)

Those of us who are mums are well acquainted with stomach flu, or vomiting bugs. And the minute one child gets it, it sweeps through your other children and usually the entire school!

I’m going to give you the protocol I have used for years to keep vomiting bugs to a minimum in my house – and yes, it is possilbe to avoid them entirely. I’m happy to report that my 3 elementary school-aged kids rarely get more than one episode per winter and there have been 3 years now where ALL three kids have remained vomit-free for the entire year. We have also had other years where only my youngest has gotten sick with gastroenteritis and the older two used my wild oregano oil flu protocol to avoid catching it.

Before we get into treatment for vomiting bugs, first look through this list to help you get an idea of what is causing your (or your child’s) vomiting.


1. Stomach flu – not actually the flu, but viral gastroenteritis and it is by far the most common cause of vomiting.

2. Food poisoning – This doesn’t actually mean you were poisoned, it simply means there were some bad bacteria in the food you ate. Some clues that it may be food poisoning are:

  • Sometimes there is no fever
  • Usually occurs within a few hours after eating an identifiable source of bad food such as a questionable restaurant or a picnic. However, some can have an incubation period of up to one week. And contrary to popular belief, vegetables like spinach, lettuce, sprouts etc. have been contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, like salmonella.
  • Vomiting usually does not last more than 12 hours.
  • Diarrhea may or may not be present

3. Other bacterial or viral infection – there are a variety of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria that can result in vomiting. There are a variety of these, although most are not serious. Some examples include Rotavirus, Salmonella, and E-Coli. The initial vomiting pattern, stomach pain and fever of these illnesses is the same as the stomach flu (gastroenteritis) and therefore difficult to distinguish from the flu. However, in the initial period of vomiting, it is not really necessary to determine which of all these illnesses is causing it. Instead, you simply need to know how to handle the vomiting and avoid dehydration.

4. Bladder infection – if you’ve had a high fever for several days with occasional vomiting, and your urine burns or smells foul, consider this cause.

5. Intestinal obstruction – this occurs when the intestines become twisted or you have a build up of scar tissue that has caused a stricture (narrowing) and food then gets stuck and causes a blockage. The symptoms may include:

  • Sudden onset of abdominal pain
  • Dark-green vomiting (bile), not just light-green mucus
  • Usually, but not always, projectile vomiting
  • Agonizing pain that may be constant, but may also come and go
  • Few or no bowel movements
  • Pale and sweaty skin
  • Condition is overall worsening, rather than staying the same or improving

If you suspect this is the cause, see my Intestinal Stricture or Obstruction page.

But, if you suspect the intestine has ruptured or perforated, this is considered a medical emergency and you should get to the hospital right away. If your intestine has ruptured, your abdomen will feel rock hard, you will not pass stool or gas, the pain will be immense and you will have a fever.

6. Severe cough and cold – children can often vomit after a big coughing fit. This isn’t really considered a vomiting problem but rather a coughing problem.

As I wrote above, you should only use this symptom page if you (or your child) have already started vomiting.

If you are trying to prevent catching (contracting) a vomiting bug, then see my other treatment page which has full instructions on how to use wild oregano oil to avoid getting the flu in the first place.

How To Stop Vomiting Quickly

As with most of the tried-and-tested remedies you’ll find on this site, my treatment protocol is not based on suppressing your body’s natural healing mechanism. It is based on working with your body and assisting it to accomplish it’s healing as quickly as possible.

If you are vomiting (and/or have diarrhea) it is because your body is trying to expel pathogens (bad bugs) as quickly as possible before they get a chance to damage your body.
So the first thing we do is to help our body flush these pathogenic viruses or bacteria as fast as we can.
The second objective is to avoid dehydration.
And lastly, we want to implant as many good bugs (probiotics) as possible, to give our body additional soldiers to use to end the battle quickly.

Step One – Water Flushing

Drink a glass of room temperature filtered water with 10 drops of potassium iodide in it. Most people will tell you to stop drinking anything once the vomiting starts. However, if our goal is to assist the body, then the body will be able to flush the pathogens far more quickly if we help it by flooding the stomach with clean water. Adding 10 drops of potassium iodide (SSKI) helps to kill the pathogens at the same time.

Potassium iodide is a natural mineral that has long been used to purify dirty drinking water and treat infection. I have used it on both myself and my kids and it has not irritated, or caused any discomfort or burning in the stomach or throat. Whilst we have no research or test data on this practice, my anecdotal evidence suggests it will shorten the duration of the vomiting.

Continue drinking water this way until you are vomiting up nothing but water. As long as food particles are still coming up, keep chugging the glasses of water. I find if you drink the water quickly, you can usually get down the whole glassful before you vomit again. You may want to do this near the toilet as it may come up again fast.

If you don’t have any potassium iodide (SSKI), then just drink room temperature, clean water until you are vomiting up nothing but water.

Then stop drinking anything and just rest for two hours. If you (or your child) go to sleep, allow yourself to sleep until you naturally awaken. If you keep vomiting, that’s fine, but don’t do any more water flushing.

Step Two – Timed Water Rehydration

Once you have not vomited for an hour or two (use your intuition to gauge exactly when), get a glass of filtered water and a clock or watch and drink ONE SIP every five minutes. This usually gives enough time for the water to be absorbed, without the volume that triggers vomiting. If you have a sip and immediately vomit, then wait another hour and try again.

While unpleasant, vomiting is usually not dangerous and rarely results in significant dehydration. Keep in mind it usually takes at least 12 hours of severe vomiting to make a child or adult significantly dehydrated.

If you suspect that you (or your child) IS dehydrated, see the section below on how to diagnose dehydration and then how to rehydrate if you just cannot stop the vomiting.

Step Three – Probiotic Army

When you have finished that first glass of water, it’s now time to add some good soldiers (probiotics) to your water, so you can continue to rehydrate, but also help your body fight the pathogens that made you sick in the first place.

Get another glass of room temperature, filtered water, but this time add Natren powdered probiotics to it. Add 1 tsp. of each species (for children under 12 use 1/2 tsp of each): MegodophilusBifido FactorDigesta-Lac and use the dairy-based, or non-dairy based, whichever your body normally prefers. Mix all 3 together in one glass of filtered, room temperature water and sip through a straw. For babies, ONLY give Life Start and start with 1/4 tsp. in water or breastmilk (no formula yet).

Folow the same timed procedure: Drink ONE SIP every 5 minutes. Use a straw if you can – especially if using for a child who may not like the taste. Continue with one sip every 5 minutes until you have finished the glass of probiotics.

Then get another glass of probiotic water and do exactly the same thing again. Keep going with this procedure until you can drink the probiotic water normally, without waiting 5 minutes between sips.

When you have drunk 5 glasses of probiotic water without vomiting, you are ready to try some chicken broth. It is MUCH better if it is homemade chicken broth and contains the gelatin which has a long history of therapeutic use dating back to ancient China.

Easily Tolerated Foods After Vomiting

Here is my list of easily tolerated foods to introduce gradually after a bout of gastroenteritis, food poisoning, or any other vomiting bug. These are given in order of most easily tolerated first:

  • Chicken broth – preferably homemade
  • Chicken broth with rice
  • Applesauce
  • Sliced, peeled apple (chew well)
  • Rice (soy sauce, butter, salt okay)
  • Boiled, scrambled or poached eggs (with butter, salt only)
  • Porridge (water and sugar only – do not add milk)
  • Cooked carrots
  • Baked sweet potato (with butter okay)

Ongoing Therapeutic Probiotics

Once you are back on solid foods, be sure to keep going with daily probiotics for at least 3 months. If you can swallow capsules, then you can switch to the Natren Healthy Trinity capsules (one per day), if you wish. Once you’ve had an intestinal infection, you need to re-build a healthy gut flora to make yourself strong and resistant to further, secondary or opportunistic infection.

You need to make sure the probiotic you are taking is of therapeutic quality and capable of restoring your gut flora, to learn what to look for and how to select a potent, therapeutic probiotic (and why I recommend Natren), see my eBook, What You Need To Know About Probiotics.

How To Tell If You Are Dehydrated

Pinch some skin on the back of your hand for 2 seconds, then release. If the skin immediately returns to normal, you are not dehydrated. If the skin stays pinched or bunched, then you are dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include eyes that do not produce tears, or going longer than 8 hours without urinating.

Use A Water Retention Enema to Hydrate Easily

If you or your child are dehydrated, you don’t necessarily have to rush off to the hospital for intravenous rehydration. You can easily rehydrate a baby, child, or adult, using filtered water in a baby enema bulb. These can be purchased at any pharmacy and most grocery stores. Since the tip in very small, it does not hurt or irritate the anus and is much more convenient and quicker to use then an enema bag.

You can rehydrate through the colon because that is one of the primary functions of the colon – to absorb water. This is a fabulous way to avoid a trip to the hospital for intravenous rehydration and most likely our grandmothers or great-grandmothers used this method whenever needed.

Notice this is called a water retention enema – that means the goal is to have the water retained and absorbed by the colon. NOT to flush or clean the colon and have the water expelled – as enemas are usually used.

How To Administer A Water Rehydration Enema:

1. Lie on your left side, with a waterproof pad (or towel) underneath to catch any leakage. Completely squeeze all the air out of the enema bulb and keep the bulb tightly squashed and folded until you immerse the tip fully into a large glass of filtered water. Then release the bulb and it will suck up the water.

2. Lubricate the anus and the tip of the enema bulb liberally with comfrey salve, or vitamin E oil. Insert the enema tip gently and slowly into the rectum (about 1 inch) and then very slowly squeeze the enema bulb steadily to slowly flow the water into the rectum.

NOTE: Do not squeeze the water in quickly, or it creates urgency to expel it!

3. Keep the pressure on the enema bulb constant as you squeeze it, or it will suck the water back in – and likely some air as well. Then when you squeeze it again, you will be putting air into the colon; which is uncomfortable and will cause the colon to expel the water. So squeeze the enema bulb slowly, so that the water flows in steadily, yet slowly.

4. If you are giving a water retention enema to a baby or child, feel free to buy 2 baby enema bulbs and give the enema to yourself first. This will enable you to know what it feels like, how slow to go and also ensure you are good at it when you give it to your child. Unless you can sterilize between uses, I prefer to keep enema equipment separate and not to re-use for different members of the family – to prevent any transmission of infection.

5. After the enema bulb is empty of water, KEEP THE BULB SQUEEZED as you slowly withdraw the enema tip from the rectum. AFTER you have fully withdrawn the enema bulb, you can release the enema bulb (and it will immediately suck in air).

6. Remove the tip from the bulb and wash both in hot soapy water, then air dry until the next application.

7. Keep checking for dehydration and re-administer the water retention enema every 20 minutes until you are no longer dehydrated, or until you are able to drink water by mouth without vomiting.

Support your Immune System

Along with the powerful treatment above, it’s always good to support your body’s immune system during winter, or while travelling, to do it’s job with maximum efficiency. So make it part of your preventative regime to ingest immune-strengthening substances like:

Vitamin C – in mineral ascorbate form (eg. calcium ascorbate) is gentler on the gut and less likely to loosen the bowels. Take as much as you can, to bowel tolerance.

Medicinal Mushrooms & Herbs – in capsule, tincture, or powder form. Immune boosting mushrooms like reishi, shiitake, maitake, lion’s mane, chaga etc. You can also get these in a spray you can apply directly to your throat, if you wish. Or in powder or tincture form (add to hot water) where you can sip it slowly and let it wash over your throat. Herbs like cat’s claw, astragalus, and ashwaganda are all helpful for supporting and strengthening the immune system during times of challenge or stress.

MultiAbsorb Immune Booster – this is a product that I formulated for Imix Nutrition, with my ideal blend of 50 nutrients, herbs, supergreens etc to support the immune system, along with whole body health. If I’m traveling, or during flu season, I take MultiAbsorb Immune Booster daily as a preventative.

Vitamin D3 – in an adequate dosage for your skin color and where you live on the planet (distance from the equator). The darker your skin and the further you are from the equator, the more vitamin D3 you need. I’m half Indian and live in the overcast Pacific Northwest coast of Canada, so I take 5,000 IU per day. I also take magnesium because the body needs magnesium to convert D3 to it’s active form; so the more vitamin D3 you take, the more magnesium you need. Use magnesium citrate if you tend towards constipation and need help loosening your bowels. Or take atom-sized magnesium if your bowels are normal, or you tend towards loose stool, or a sensitive stomach.