Stomach flu and Stomach upset are two commonly used terms when describing the ailments of the stomach and the digestive system. Though they sound similar they have few subtle differences.
This is also known as gastroenteritis. It is usually caused by consuming food contaminated by microbial organisms like bacteria, virus or parasites. These organisms gain entry into the digestive system of human beings and cause irritation and inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach and the intestines.
The person with stomach flu may complain of abdominal cramps, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting diarrhoea, fever, swelling of lymph glands, headache and dehydration. In some cases the dehydration can be severe enough to be life threatening.
The common bacteria that cause stomach flu are E.coli, salmonella, shigella and campylobacter. Viruses causing stomach flu include norovirus, rotavirus and calicivirus.
The main cause of stomach flu is lack of hygiene. Cooking food in unclean vessels, consuming unhygienic food, not covering food, not washing hands before cooking or eating, not drinking clean water, not washing hands properly after changing dirty diapers etc. are the common causes of stomach infection. It is a highly contagious disease which can spread through contact with unclean hands. The condition commonly affects people who consume roadside food, pregnant women, infants, undernourished children, immunocompromised adults and elderly people.
The condition is generally self-limiting. The patient is advised to drink a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration. He is also given antibiotics to fight the infection. In very severe cases medical attention is required. If there is blood in stools or vomit, severe dehydration (indicated by dry mouth, wrinkled skin, not passing urine adequately), high grade fever (more than 101 degree F), abdominal swelling, pain in the right lower part of the abdomen or vomiting lasting more than 48 hours usually requires immediate medical attention.
It is more common condition affecting any age group and is usually less severe than stomach flu. It is also commonly known as dyspepsia or indigestion.
The person complains of pain in the upper abdomen. He will usually present with a group of symptoms that include belching, bloating, burping frequently, flatulence and nausea. It occurs when the acid present in the stomach comes in contact with the mucosal lining of the oesophagus. Oesophagus lies just above the stomach. The contents of the stomach usually do not enter the oesophagus due to the presence of the oesophageal valve. If the valve does not function properly, gastric juices from the stomach enter the oesophagus and irritate the mucosal lining. The patient usually complains of burning in the chest area or the upper portion of the stomach soon after eating food.
Stomach upset or indigestion occurs due to poor eating habits like eating very oily or fatty food, eating very fast, not chewing food properly, eating on the run, overeating etc.
In some cases stomach upset can be caused by consuming specific foodstuffs. For example people with lactose intolerance experience gas, bloating, diarrhoea or abdominal cramps on consuming any food containing lactose or fructose.
Stomach upsets are usually for a short duration and can be cured quickly by consuming antacids or taking any home remedy for indigestion. But severe stomach upsets can be a sign of gastroenteritis, gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome or even pregnancy. The patient must visit the physician in case of severe symptoms.
Stomach upset and stomach flu are quite similar. Stomach flu is an infection of the digestive system and stomach upset is a symptom that indicated that all is not well with the digestive system.