Gastroenteritis causes diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and the loss of sodium and potassium (electrolytes).
The disease puts a stress on your body and often causes an increase in blood glucose (sugar) levels. The two main culprits are stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) and lack of physical activity when you are ill. In rare cases, blood glucose (sugar) levels will fall.
What to do if you get gastroenteritis:
- Measure your blood glucose (sugar) frequently;
- Continue to take your medication or insulin as usual (or as adjusted by your doctor while you are sick), even if your food intake is reduced because you’ve lost your appetite or are vomiting;
- Modify your diet: if you find it difficult to eat solid foods, try to eat the usual amount of carbohydrates in liquid form or, at the very least, satisfy your body’s minimum carbohydrate requirements of 150 g per day while you are ill.
What are the signs of dehydration?
|Mild to Moderate Dehydration||Severe Dehydration|
|Dry, sticky mouth||Extreme thirst|
|Unusual sleepiness or tiredness||Irritability and confusion|
|Dry and cool skin||Sunken eyes|
|Headache||Dry skin that doesn’t bounce back when you pinch it|
|Dizziness and lightheadedness||Low blood pressure|
|Rapid heartbeat and breathing|
|Dark urine in smaller quantity|
Call a doctor or go to Emergency if:
- Signs of severe dehydration;
- Your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than 25 mmol / L accompanied by excessive drowsiness (type 2 diabetes), or 20 mmol / L with a moderate to high ketone level in your urine or blood (type 1 diabetes);
- You are vomiting continuously and unable to keep liquids down;
- Your fever stays above 38.5 ºC (101.3 ºF) for more than 48 hours;
- Diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours or occurs more than 5 times per day.
How to avoid becoming dehydrated
Here are some ways to avoid dehydration and to give your intestines a rest to reduce the diarrhea and vomiting.
|Phase 1||Phase 2||Phase 3|
(first 24 hours)
|Solid but easily digested foods
Gradually add solid foods containing carbohydrates, in order to reach the amount of carbohydrates in your daily meal plan.
|Back to normal eating
Adapted from: CHUM-Hotel-Dieu Metabolic Medicine Day-care Centre (2013), Understand Your Diabetes and Live a Healty Life, pp.100-102.
To rehydrate and restore lost electrolytes, especially if you have diarrhea, drink:
- 1st choice (because of the correct proportions of electrolytes): a commercial rehydrating solution (Gastrolyte® or Pedialyte®)
- 2nd choice: a homemade rehydrating solution (250 ml (1 cup) of a mixture containing 10 g of carbohydrates):
- 360 ml (12 oz) of orange juice +
- 600 ml (20 oz) of water boiled for 1 minute +
- 2,5 ml (1/2 tsp) of salt
Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals
Update: May 2017
CHUM-Hotel-Dieu Metabolic Medicine Day-care Centre (2013), “Special Situations,” Understand Your Diabetes and Live a Healty Life, Montreal: Rogers Publishing Limited, pp. 94-109.