Stomach Flu Cramps: Is There Anything You Can Do For Norovirus Symptoms?

Taking ginger for stomach spasms? You can find the fresh root in the produce section of the grocery store: This is what ginger root looks like. Image by Fastily

Taking ginger for stomach spasms? You can find the fresh root in the produce section of the grocery store: This is what ginger root looks like. Image by Fastily

They’re calling it a SuperBug.

This year’s stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis, is having a wide impact this year, affecting most families – even Queen Elizabeth caught the norovirus in early March.

Sometimes, the stomach cramps and pain are the worst part about the stomach flu.

Is there anything you can do to ease this symptom of the norovirus that’s hitting so hard this year?

Stomach Flu Symptoms: Cramps and Nausea

Stomach flu causes inflammation of the lining of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious and affects millions of people around the world every year with vomiting, watery diarrhea, headache, fever, chills, and abdominal pain and cramping.


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This year’s strain is from Australia, and is a new strain, so no one has immunity built up – this is why so many people are getting so very sick.

When a virus infects our bodies, our immune system works to get rid of the virus. In the case of the stomach flu, the body works to get rid of the virus via diarrhea and/or vomiting. When the stomach, small intestine, and/or the large intestine become inflamed, this causes the pain we feel in our abdomens when we are sick. Stomach cramps can be painful; everything from a mild ache to a sharp, stabbing pain.

Note: When you have the stomach flu, you generally feel pain in more than half of your stomach. If your pain is only in one part of the abdomen (localized pain) it could be a sign of problem with another organ such as your gallbladder or appendix.

Stomach Cramps: How Long Will They Last?

So how long will you feel bad with the stomach flu and cramps? According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, symptoms appear within 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus and you can expect to feel better within one to three days. While waiting it out, is there anything you can do to help ease the cramps? Ginger and peppermint are two herbs that might be able to help.

  • Ginger: In China, the people have used ginger to treat diarrhea and nausea for over 2,000 years. Ginger comes in different forms, from the actual ginger root to capsules, oils, and food and drinks that contain ginger. Researchers have studied the use of ginger, finding that it can help with nausea and vomiting that come with everything from pregnancy to chemotherapy. For those with the stomach flu, science affirmed in 2005 that ginger calms stomach cramps and spasms.
Peppermint helps soothe the muscles of the stomach. Photo by: Gürkan Sengün

Peppermint helps soothe the muscles of the stomach, relieving stomach cramps. Photo by: Gürkan Sengün

  • Peppermint: You can use peppermint to provide a numbing and calming effect. Peppermint comes in a variety of forms such as teas, dried or fresh leaves from the plant, and capsules. Research has found that peppermint can reduce gastric spasms as well. 

Stomach Flu Recovery

The stomach flu has hit hard this year; norovirus symptoms are causing some real problems for people, since we haven’t acquired immunity to this new strain of ‘GII.4 Sydney’ viral gastroenteritis, but the good news is that you will feel better in a few days.

Ginger and peppermint can help ease the stomach pains and nausea, but consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement, as some can interfere with your current medications or illnesses/diseases – and ask your pediatrician before using home remedies on your kids.

Once you start feeling better, it’s best not to eat anything until you have stopped vomiting for six hours, according to Medline Plus. When you do begin eating again, start with the classic B.R.A.T. diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are bland and easy to digest, and unlikely to start you on another round of painful stomach cramps.

Resources:

Medline Plus. Abdominal Pain. (2011). Accessed March 19, 2013.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Viral Gastroenteritis. (2012). Accessed March 19, 2013.

University of Maryland Medical Center. Ginger. (2010). Accessed March 19, 2013.

University of Maryland Medical Center. Peppermint. (2011). Accessed March 19, 2013.

Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of ginger in gastrointestinal disorders. (2005). Digestive Disease and Sciences. Accessed March 19, 2013.

Kingham JG. Peppermint oil and colon spasm. (1995) Lancet. Accessed March 19, 2013.

 

*This article is for informational purposes only, and is no substitute for the one-on-one medical advice of your doctor. Please seek medical care if you’re in need of treatment.*

© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science

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  1. Peppermint… Yes. I recall well how peppermint water was once dispensed without a prescription for upset stomach. And how pleasant it was! NO SUGAR. Just peppermint water. Remarkable.

  2. My husband came down with this while we were on a trip to Cambodia….at the time we did not realize what it was but low and behold he passed it on to me and me, being a nurse researched it and figured out it was viral gastroenteritis. It started on a Saturday morning with cramps and body aches, especially back pain, followed by a fever. Later that night I started throwing up and couldn’t keep any food down. Over night, the fever combined with the stomach cramp, and diarrhea were almost unbearable. Fortunately we had picked up several packs on Codine in Cambodia which was a lifesaver; we were in Bangkok when my symtopms finally came on. Since they don’t have electric heating pads in Bangkok, or at least we couldn’t find them, I would lay in the room and blow dry my abdomen, using my hair dryer, to help with the cramps and it worked wonders, weirdly enough. On Sunday, day 2, I had to endure a 17hr flight from Bangkok to Houston. Worst experience of my life! I am now home but still have really bad cramps, but if I lay with a heating pad on my stomach I feel pretty normal. This is the morning of day three and I have a very very low grade temp and cramps. Hope I’m nearing the end. Let me just say, I have never felt this sick in my life.

  3. Been sick since Weds night, it is now Sunday afternoon. Started out with what seemed like bad indigestion, stomach bloated up, couldn’t sleep, horrible gas pains. No vomiting or diarrhea. Seems like just the opposite, constipated. Hot & cold spells with sweating, which seems to have gone away today. Pain is better now, but abdomen still feels sore like I’ve been doing sit-ups. How long does this crud last?

    • How are you feeling now? You described this to a tee. Me and co-worker have it and both report since Sunday and it is now Friday. How long did yours last?

  4. Is it possible to have this and not vomit? My youngest had diarrhea for a couple of days, I started with it, and then my oldest had a day of vomiting once directly on me. I have had morning cramps for a couple of days, but seems to subside after going a few times. I’ve also had the chills and headache.

  5. Currently had the vomiting for 2 days then diahrea for the next 24 hours but can’t seem to get rid of the stomach cramping. On day 5 and miserable!

    • OH my gosh me too. Done being sick but the stomach cramps are terrible. When did it end up going away for you?

  6. currently suffering from this and i think the worst part is the stomach cramps that create the chills and sweat, and the chills and sweat that seem to make the pain worse. i hope this doesnt last for long, because i just started early this morning and im already being tortured.

  7. ok so its been two days ive been having unbearable cramps,diarrhea, headache,fever,nausea, and sudden dizziness i have not been able to sleep at all i’m not sure whats wrong but it sucks.

  8. First my son had it, then I got it. Jesse is fine, but it’s going on 2 wks and I still have stomach cramps. No more vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness, or weakness. But these stomach cramps are so annoying. It feels like you have a huge fart stuck at the bottom of your stomach and at the beginning of you’re large intestine. It hurts to eat meals, so lately I been eating breakfast cereal, (my stomach can handle it) applesauce, toast with light peanut butter, soup, lots of soup and lots of water. Thinking about asking my doctor what I can do about these cramps cause they hurts my sides and kidneys too. :-(

    • Rebecca, how long did it take for you to get rid of the cramping? I’m in the same boat. Diarrhea gone, just still cramping up

      • I”m in the same boat too. Completely done with virus but days and days of stomach pains and weird bowel movements. Going crazy!!!

  9. My wife fell I’ll before x-mas with sciatica nerve, right side then been sick since then. Tries to eat and either pukes it back up or loose bowls. Been to see the Dr bout every week but seems she is getting no better.

  10. Wow… I just went through one of the worst nights of my life. Sure, there were worse things, like losing loved ones, but this was just downright awful….

    So I got my new gaming laptop after waiting for quite some time. I was very happy. Of course, the day before, I had visited my sister and her two year old daughter. The child had been vomiting randomly the day before, with mild diarrhea. I asked what was up, apparently it was ‘food poisoning’ and not contagious at all.

    Little did I know!

    Anyway, back to yesterday. So I decided to give my new laptop a go, do a strain test. I played some Fallout and Battlefield, and despite my horrendous twitch-skills everything was just fine. I was enjoying myself. Fast forward a few matches. The map was loading, and naturally, I decided to take a drink of my usual carbonated lemon water. Well, that’s when everything went to hell.

    My stomach just flipped around, and I began experiencing some of the worst nausea of my life. So I went to the toilet, to see if it was gas. It wasn’t. So I lie down in fetal position, trying to suppress the horrible stomach pain and nausea. That didn’t last long. I couldn’t fall asleep, and had a strange feeling that this supposed ‘food poisoning’ was actually a bug. I was right.

    I’m sitting on the toilet, chunky diarrhea. All is good. Suddenly, I give it a gentle push, and just this murky water spills right out of me. The smell was so bad, it forced me to vomit out strangely colored chunks of… Stuff.

    So I go to sleep for a few hours, only to wake up with pretty bad nausea. Same thing happens. More water, more vomit. By now I’m waking up to go every 30 minutes or so. However, the diarrhea had pretty much stopped completely. Now I was just vomiting. What was I vomiting? Water. Just pure water and stomach acids. That’s it.

    I’m better now, I think I got everything out. No more cramps and nausea. Still, I hear that if I eat, it could come back. For that reason, I shall fast for the next few days.

    My personal experience

    Professor Lambda

  11. So after school one day after eating a community soup lunch made by students, my mom and I went to REI to get some stuff for me. While my mom was chatting w her friend, the lady sizing me asked if I was ok. I realized now that I was squatting and making sour faces. I said I was fine but when I went home I just let it all out. I was constantly squatting – the only position that actually made me feel not as bad as laying down or sitting. After the next couple hours I ate nothing and then threw up. 7 times. I also had no control of my poop. My poop was pretty much the consistency of water and I had zero control of it. The next day all I did was lay in bed and occasionally get up to stand over the toilet and spit or poop. I started eating! I was to scared to try the banana or toast so I stuck to applesauce and rice. I slowly started adding back foods, I had pho for dinner, and I went to sleep and the next morning I was totally fine.

    UPDATE
    So here I am again talking to you now. After a few days of stomach flu and harsh cramping my stomach finally got better. But just tonight I got the same pain as I did before which is confusing to me because I had already gotten it. I literally started crying, not of the pain, but of how the next 2-3 days were going to be absolute hell. Please help

  12. I came home from work and I was fine. I went to bed around 10:30pm and around 3:30am I started to feel sharp shoting stomach pains. I couldn’t lay on my back because it made it worse. So i had no choice to curl into fetal position and squeeze to help calm down the pain. I thought at first maybe it’s just gas. Or a tummy ache. I went and took petobismol and I went to lay down. 5 minutes later I threw up. I am back in bed and still have cramping all over my stomach.

  13. Last night before i sleep my stomach is hurting but i just ignored it, i thought i won’t feel the pain once i fall asleep, but the pain wont let me sleep, I start winding around in my bed until i drop. but i feel the pain its more getting worst. my boyfriend woke up because maybe he heard me sniffing then he ask my what my problem then i told him, he get some Menthol oil and massage my stomach, but its getting much worst i feel my back is hurts, So my Boyfriend get a bottle with hot water in it, he cover the bottle with a towel then place it under my stomach.it works it might not ease the pain at least it helps my stomach warm and i feel a little bit comfortable.

    • I’ve had dierrhea since Friday I took some Imodium tablets and it went away then I started to eat then it came back again been having sharp pains and got no engy my stomach feels tender

  14. I woke up this moring at 2am with the worst pain I have ever had in my entire 22 years of living. I was having major cold swaets and couldnt sleep at all. I went to the bathroom every 10-20 minutes. I went to the bathroom at around 7am and thats when I noticed that nothing but bloody mucus was coming out I went to the doc as soon as they were open and was told that I had thr stomach bugbthat was going around. I have to go back to work tomorrow and I have no idea how I will tolerate the Constant minor stomach pain that I still have.

  15. I have been having the stomach flu with cramps since Sep.2.. I thought it would go away on its own, but it been a week and it’s getting worse. I can’t keep anything in me, it’s only diarrhea. I’m cramping up, cold sweat and nauseous. Thinking of going to the ER tonight…. I was in Mexico for at least 72 that same week and I did eat some street food, breakfast and also ate at Cantina Laredo in the airport… Any suggestions would be really nice.

  16. I got this Friday started of get really cold then went bed woke up very hot and very bad craps still got it very bad worst I have ever felt

  17. For bad stomach cramps try Immodium tabs start with half tab take the other half if needed. Ginger is good for nausea, if you have some in your spice rack you can use that, empty out a capsule of some other med (like a cold capsule etc.) put the powdered ginger in that.
    You can also use OTC Dramamine or a store brand for nausea, it s marketed for motion sickness but will work for just plain nausea too.

  18. OMG glad I am not alone with this mess. I am on day four of extreme cramps. Had the other symptoms early on, but now it is just the cramps , warm flashes and no appetite. Trying to drink the ginger tea now.

    • Ditto. My fever broke after two nights and now the cramps have lasted another 2 days. horrible. especially because I’m not eating solids, just soup and teas and water.

      Oh and the added bonus deep cough, body pains and congestion doesn’t help either.

  19. COMPLETELY NORMAL DAY UNTIL LUNCH. I felt sick so I told my teacher. I went to the loo and I had diarrhea. I told my teacher I felt worse and asked if I could go home. He let me so I went home. I needed the loo every 10 mins having a huge load of diarrhea. I ended up going to the loo 5 times in about an hour. The first time the loo got clogged with runny poo and loo paper. I am now doing homework in peace but every now and then I get a terrible cramp. PLEASE HELP!

  20. Um..I have not been to a doctor yett but iI have the same sysymptoms y’all are having. I have really bad stomach and back pain. I’ve thrown up like 5 times everyday for the past 4 days. It was 99° today an I went outside for like 5 mins an I was freezing with the chills. Right now I’m at the point where my pain is so back I can barely move out of my bed. I’m basically starving cause I can’t hold anything down. I can’t even hold down water. Please help!!!

    • Jazmine,
      Drink lots of fluids, eat light, small meals when your stomach can tolerate it…ie:bananas, avocadoes, quinoa, bone broth, coconut water. Rest rest rest, drink ginger tea, eat light and take antiviral supplements like garlic or oregano extract from Gaia Herbs. Best of luck to you!!

  21. I got this awful virus three days ago , it started with pain all over my body , joints pain then suddenly my body was boiling so I couldn’t sleep for 5 hours in bed and went to the hospital my temp was 102.6 my vitals were low , I can’t breath, I stayed there for 6 hours till my temp were back to normal they gave me 2x Sodium Chloride IV, Toradol IV, Zofran IV and Tylenol also they put me on oxygen mask.I started feeling better , they diagnosed it as Viral Syndrome, the doc told me to take Mortin and Tylanol . I went home feeling much better then once I woke up the next day I got a severe stomach pain , diarrhea like every hour and I want to vomit but I can’t but every time I push myself to vomit I feel better for half an hour then the pain comes back .Now am an hour feeling normal then the next feeling much stomach pain and I keep vomiting , can’t eat or drink anything.

    This is the worst diseases that ever happened to me.

  22. I just got this yesterday when I woke up to get ready for school. My stomachs still hurts very bad and I haven’t puked yet but I think I might eventually. I keep waking up at night with cramps in my stomach.

  23. Just got it tưo days ago. Got a very bad back pain and the pain in my ovaries side as well, feel nauseous, haedache, light dizzy, sore throat, sneeze, trired and toes cramp!

    Didn’t think I’ve got the flu until see my GP this afternoon. Feel so so uncomfortable and very tired. Doctor said just take a lots of rest, fluid and take some Panadol and wait, if getting worse or still sick in a week than come back to do some more test.

    Hoppefuly I’ll get better soon, I never have back pain like this before.

  24. Just got this yesterday, The cramps were just as bad as active labor. Vomiting, the runs, couldnt do much but cry every time it cramped. doesnt seem to ease on day too. :(

  25. HI all I have had this since this last Friday and never had symptoms this bad I have insane cramping diarrhea fever chills nasuea and actually got vertigo from this one also sinus and lung congestion. I have slept all day for past 4 days and feel a little better but stomach pains have not even started to settle. By far this is worst than most sickness I had swine flu couple years ago and this is up there with that.

  26. I’m having really bad cramps and I can’t hold anything down. I always get bad cramps and nausea, headaches, back pain, and dizziness. Is there anything that I can eat that won’t vomit back up?

  27. I’m on day 4 now and I have to say that I’ve never had such excruciating cramps before. I started off with chills on day one followed by high fever. Didn’t get vomit but diarrhea continues. So much pain as I type and not sure what else to do but run its course. Wife wants me to go to hospital but I refuse.

    • I started with body aches then the diarrhea started fever with chills and cold sweats then the horrible cramps, I’m on day 2 and i want to die this the worst I have ever felt, anyone have any suggestions for the cramping? I haven’t eaten 2 days I am forcing self to drink water but that seems to bring the cramping on worse.

  28. I came down with this super bug last Wednesday March 18, did not throw up, wanted too, but had pure liquid water diarrhea for about 12 hours, finally took some iodium, it helped but my stomach was so weak, gargle and groans for two solid days, third day felt better, even went to work, but probably should not have, the next day I was exhausted and slept for over 12 hours, today I am better but still have swollen intestines, hurts like crazy to even pass gas. I feel like I need a normal bowel movement, but hurt to bad. If tomorrow does not produce some normal I will resort to over the counter meds.

    • i have irritable bowel and have been hospitalized for stomach pain so severe it felt like i was going to die, but this is just about at that level. the only thing is im almost used to stomach pain, its just the worse when chills, nausea, headaches, and cold sweating accompanies it.

  29. This virus is awful! I got it a year ago around this time. Now I have it again. The first time I was sick for about a week
    I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Eventually I was able to take small sips of Gatorade. This time around hasn’t been as bad as last time. It still sucks tho. At least I’m able to keep some pedialite down. Also, I’ve noticed the stomach cramps are worse this time, but I’m not violently throwing up like I was last time. It seems the best remedy for this is plenty or rest, pedialite (what you can handle), and let the god awful virus run its course. Hope everybody makes a swiftly recovery!!

  30. Hi, I just got the thick end of the stick with this stomach flu-fever, nausea, vomitting,loose stools, you name it. Took vomitting and loose stools medication from previous visits including oral electrolytes and the tummy rejected it all. Lasted almost 5 hrs and my kindly bf suggested waiting for my dad’s lift to the doc.
    Doc said the body’s in Defence mode so ‘Kung fu’ed the meds out of my system, also with the dehydration of fluids through vomiting n loose stools, it caused low blood pressure(the giddiness and lack of strength).
    He ended up giving me a jab to stop the vomiting (it did work–if it didn’t, I’d have to enter the hospital to get a drip) this helped me consume fluids like water.
    It’s Day 4 for me but still having stomach cramps after taking porridge once a day with fruit juice and water for rest of the meals.
    Hope my sharing helps and sending love to all of you going through this tough time.
    Hang in there!!:-)
    XxJo

    • Hi Jo,
      I also am on day four and I also still have cramping when eating some solid foods. The foods that have caused the least problem for me are coconut water, bananas, roasted fennel root and potatoes. The fennel really helped with the excess gas. I hope that we are both fantastic soon!
      Sylvia

      • Hi Sylvia,
        You are so smart to eat light. I am on week 10 with most symptoms gone but just experiencing some occasional lightheadedness and fatigue though it has much improved from what it was. I found that I felt worse when I would eat heavy foods/meals and when I would eat something acidic like spaghetti sauce. I hope you are not sick as long as I was and you are better very very soon. If you need to compare your symptoms to others, check out this link http://www.decodedscience.org/2014-stomach-flu-powerful-sydney-strains-gastroenteritis-update/41088#comment-55481

        There are quite a few posts under this article that are more recent than the ones below. I found it helpful to talk to others who were going through the same thing. Esp. since most of us had a lengthy illness and experienced alot of the same symptoms. Take good care of yourself. All the best.
        Angelica

  31. Hi has anyone been sick for more than a few weeks with this? I am on week 7 now and I am miserable. Nausea every day especially the first half of the day. Slight dizziness off and on which is an improvement because I was quite dizzy the first few weeks. Diarrhea every single day accept today. Tired and can’t fall asleep at night. I”m so tired and the anti nausea pills are not helping. Been to the doctor several times, plus a gastroenterologist. I am going to see a hematologist on friday and ask for norovirus testing. I can’t wait til this is over. If anyone comes on her to post can you please state how long you have been sick and what your symptoms are and if you get better can you repost how long it took to get better? THANK YOU! Angelica

  32. Just started last night with stomach flu….its horrid..abdominal pains like being in labour.. Diarrhea… Vomiting…Hope you are all getting better soon..Will go try the ginger…
    Thanks for all the comments as wonder what it was.

  33. Well, I spoke too soon. Started throwing up and it continued all through the night. This morning it started coming out the other end. Stomach cramps are pretty much gone. Feeling a little hungry but afraid to eat. Will stick to the Brat diet for a few days. I am hoping that the worst is over. I never want to feel this way again.

  34. This is the third time I’ve had these stomach cramps in the past week and a half. Seems to come , improve, then come back. I have never hurt like this before and am experiencing chills. No vomiting or diarrhea…would welcome either if it would help.

  35. I’ve got this virus once befor it lasted about 3 days and now 5 days later I have it again I’ve threw up twice my advice is when you puke let it all out because I held some of it in and I had o puke again just like till u can’t puke no more and the next day you should feel good

  36. I got my first cramps on Tue 6th Jan. By midnight I was vomiting. Vomited , awful cramps and slept for over 24 hours. Now into 3rd day flat on my back. Still getting awful cramps and can only sip water. Just want to get better. This is hell.

  37. 8 out of 10 in my family have this. My son in law has had it 7 days so far, husband is going on 6 days. Age doesnt seem to matter . My entire family is well over the few days they claim it should last. Different households with no common contact . It seems to be going around everywhere. How much longer is this expected to last?

  38. My 2 yr old had it for 24 hours. And I was the lucky one to get it too. On Christmas night I could not sleep at all due to the cramping and diahrrea .
    Luckily I woke up feeling a lil bit better today. I’m not feeling as weak and I feel a bit more energized. I want this to go away already. I’m still experiencing nausea :(

  39. This beyond sucks! It’s been 2 hours since last vomit but the cramps are horrible! Sent father to the store for ginger root and pedialyte. I’m continuing to breastfeed my 9 month old and she hasn’t had it as bad, thank God. I feel so dehydrated, I’m afraid to drink anything though.

  40. I have started to feel the abdominal cramps and diarrhoea since 30 November and I´m still feeling nauseated and with the abdominal cramps. I´m so tired of the situation (it´s 7 December) and some websites say that we must wait to the symptoms stop to left home until 48 hours and other say 72 hours. I really don´t know what to do!

  41. I’ve had it for about 24 hours now and it is spreading through my middle school, im in the 7th grade and out of 375 7th graders in the school, about 250 of us have the virus #namsbola

  42. I began getting sick on Nov 29. I had stomach cramps , ,diahera, and hot and cold flashes but never threw up.hope I feel better soon

  43. I came down with this Flu the 27 November 2014. It is the 30th of November and I am still sick. I am a Nurse . I never get stomach flu. I spent 11 years in Asia. I kept hydrated with ginger tea. I feel Ike I can eat and begin the cycle again. Nausea ans terrible stomach cramps. I am so weak it frightens me. I fear this goes on for a long time.