Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines that often causes diarrhea and vomiting. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites, and it may occur with certain medications or toxins found in seafood, or from eating too many acidic foods. It is often called “stomach flu,” but it is not caused by influenza. Gastroenteritis that is caused by a virus is the second most common illness in the United States. The main types of viruses that cause gastroenteritis are rotavirus and norovirus. Bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella also can trigger gastroenteritis.

The illness spreads through contaminated food or water or contact with an infected person. Gastroenteritis also can cause abdominal pain, headache and chills. The condition may improve in a few days with no treatment, but dehydration is common if not enough fluids are consumed. Those with gastroenteritis should stop eating for a few hours, drink plenty of liquids, such as a sports drink or water, ease back into eating with bland foods such as crackers and toast, and get plenty of rest.

UAB Medicine is known worldwide as a leading center for digestive and liver disorders. Our gastroenterology and gastrointestinal (GI) program is consistently ranked among the top programs of its kind in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We see more than 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures each year.

Our specialty at UAB has a notable history. The inventor of the endoscope, Basil Hirschowitz, MD, founded our program more than 50 years ago. His innovation revolutionized GI and other diagnoses around the world and continues to inspire us today. Our interventional endoscopy group, which includes endoscopic ultrasound, is one of the busiest in the country and has grown to become one of the most prestigious, both clinically and academically.

UAB continues to lead advancements in gastroenterology by participating in many research trials of promising drug therapies and other treatments for digestive disorders. Our physicians and scientists are searching for causes and cures for many GI illnesses through basic research, including studies of the bacteria that inhabit our intestines and affect our health.

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