Almost all of us have had an upset stomach from time to time. Symptoms include nausea, indigestion, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
There are many potential causes of upset stomach and treatment varies depending on the underlying cause. Fortunately, different foods can soothe your stomach and help you feel better faster.
Here are some of the best foods for upset stomach.
Ginger can relieve nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of an upset stomach. Ginger, a fragrant edible root with bright yellow flesh, is often used as a natural remedy for these two symptoms.
Ginger can be eaten raw, boiled, soaked in hot water or as a supplement and is effective in all forms. It is often taken by women who suffer from morning sickness and vomiting that may occur during pregnancy.
A review of 6 studies involving more than 500 pregnant women found that taking 1 g a day of ginger was associated with 5 times less nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Ginger is also useful for people undergoing chemotherapy or surgery, as these treatments can cause severe nausea and vomiting. Taking 1 gram of ginger daily before chemotherapy or surgery can significantly reduce the severity of these symptoms. The way it affects is not completely clear, but it is believed that ginger regulates the signaling of the nervous system in the stomach and accelerates the rate at which the stomach empties and this way it reduces nausea and vomiting.
Ginger is generally considered safe, but heartburn, stomach pain and diarrhea can occur at doses above 5 grams per day.
Chamomile can reduce vomiting and soothe intestinal discomfort
Chamomile, an herbal plant with small white flowers, is a traditional remedy for upset stomachs. Chamomile can be dried and brewed into tea. However, despite its widespread use, only a limited number of studies confirm its effectiveness in digestive complaints. A small study found that chamomile supplements reduced the severity of vomiting after chemotherapy.
An animal study found that chamomile extract relieved diarrhea in mice by reducing intestinal cramps and reducing the amount of water excreted in the stool, but more research is needed to see if this applies to humans. Chamomile is also often used in herbal supplements that relieve upset stomach, gas, bloating and diarrhea, as well as colic in babies.
Mint can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
For some people, upset stomach is caused by irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. IBS is a chronic intestinal disorder that can cause stomach pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Although IBS can be difficult to manage, studies show that mint can help reduce these unpleasant symptoms. Taking peppermint oil capsules daily for at least two weeks can significantly reduce stomach pain, gas and diarrhea in adults with IBS.
Researchers believe that peppermint oil works by relaxing muscles in the digestive tract, by reducing the severity of intestinal cramps that can cause pain and diarrhea.
Mint is safe for most people, but caution is recommended in patients with severe reflux, hiatal hernias, kidney stones or liver and bile diseases, as this can worsen these conditions.
Flaxseed helps with constipation and stomach pain
Flaxseed is a small fibrous seed that can help regulate bowel movements and relieve constipation and abdominal pain. Chronic constipation is defined as less than three bowel movements per week and is often associated with abdominal pain and discomfort. Flaxseed, consumed either as ground flaxseed flour or linseed oil, has been shown to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of constipation.
Another study found that those who ate flaxseed rolls every day had 30% more bowel movements each week than they did when they did not eat flaxseed rolls.
Papaya can improve digestion and be effective against ulcers and parasites
Papaya is a sweet tropical fruit with an orange color, which is sometimes used as a natural remedy for an upset stomach. Papaya contains papain, a powerful enzyme that breaks down protein in the food you eat, making it easier to digest and absorb. Some people do not produce enough natural enzymes to fully digest food, so consuming additional enzymes such as papain can help relieve their symptoms of upset stomach.
There are not many studies on the benefits of papain, but one studied found that regular intake of papaya concentrate reduces constipation and swelling in adults. Papaya is also used in some West African countries as a traditional remedy for stomach ulcers. A limited number of animal studies support these claims, but more human research is needed.
Finally, papaya seeds are also taken orally to eliminate intestinal parasites that can live in the gut and cause severe abdominal discomfort.
Upset stomach caused by infection or food poisoning is often accompanied by diarrhea. A study found that adding cooked green bananas was almost four times more effective at eliminating diarrhea than just rice-based. The powerful anti-diarrhea effects of green bananas are due to a special type of fiber that they contain known as resistant starch. Persistent starch cannot be absorbed by humans, so it continues through the digestive tract all the way to the large intestine, the end of the intestine. In the colon, they slowly ferment from the bacteria in the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids that stimulate the gut to absorb more water and harden the stool. Furthermore, because resistant starches are converted into sugars when bananas ripen, it is not known whether ripe bananas contain enough resistant starches to have the same effects.
Pectin supplements can prevent diarrhea and dysbiosis
When uspet stomach or foodborne illness causes diarrhea, pectin supplements can help speed up recovery. Pectin is a type of fiber found in large quantities in apples and citrus fruit. It is often isolated from these fruit and sold as a food or supplement. Pectin is not absorbed by humans, so it remains in the intestinal tract, where it is very effective. In fact, one study found that 82% of sick children taking daily pectin supplements recover from their diarrhea within 4 days, compared with only 23% of children who do not take pectin supplements.
Pectin also relieves upset stomach by promoting the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract. Sometimes people develop unpleasant symptoms of gas, bloating or abdominal pain due to an imbalance of bacteria in their intestines.
This can happen for a variety of reasons, but is especially common after intestinal infections, after taking antibiotics, or during periods of severe stress.
Pectin supplements can help rebalance the gut and reduce these symptoms by increasing the growth of good bacteria and reducing the growth of harmful ones.
While pectin supplements are effective in relieving diarrhea and promoting a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria, it is not known whether natural foods rich in pectin have the same benefits. More research is needed.
Foods rich in probiotics can regulate bowel movements
Sometimes an upset stomach can be caused by dysbiosis, an imbalance in the type or number of bacteria in the gut. Eating foods with probiotics that are good for the stomach can help correct this imbalance and reduce the symptoms of gas, bloating or irregular bowel movements.
Probiotic-containing foods for an upset stomach include:
- Yogurt - several studies have shown that eating yogurt containing live, active bacterial cultures can relieve both constipation and diarrhea;
- Kefir - drinking 2 cups (500 ml) of kefir a day for a month can help people with chronic constipation to have more regular bowel movements;
Light carbohydrates can be more easily tolerated
Light carbohydrates such as rice, oatmeal, biscuits and toast are often recommended for people suffering from upset stomach. Many people report that these foods are easier to hold in when you are not feeling well. While light carbohydrates may be tastier during illness, it is important to re-expand your diet as soon as possible. Excessive restriction of your diet can prevent you from getting enough vitamins and minerals that your body needs to heal.
Potatoes will help you absorb fluids to protect you from dehydration, and at the same time will help harden your stools due to their high starch content and low fiber content. Just be sure to peel the skin first, as it can irritate your stomach.
Natural peanut butter
When your stomach doesn't feel so good, you often don't want to eat much. But it is important to still give your body the vitamins and minerals you need. Peanut butter will also provide you with vitamin B6 and magnesium. Peanut butter is known to soothe your stomach and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center even recommends it to patients with gastroesophageal reflux, which can cause heartburn and upset stomach.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, most dairy products are banned when you have diarrhea, except for kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink that contains probiotics that can restore the beneficial bacteria that the body has lost in the illness, according to the website of the Cleveland Clinic. Just make sure the yogurt or kefir is low in sugar, the website advises; higher sugar levels can worsen the symptoms of diarrhea and further reduce water and electrolyte losses.
Adding whole grains can soothe stomach ailments and prevent possible bowel problems.
What not to eat with an upset stomach
• Milk, cheese or ice cream
Milk, cheese and ice cream are difficult to digest, because they are high in fat. They should be avoided when you have an upset stomach. Ordinary low-fat yogurt can be good for stomach health. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, ie. live bacteria and yeast that help maintain good gut health. A little yogurt for an upset stomach can help relieve the problem.
• Fried foods
Foods that are fried are rich in oils and fats and are usually more difficult for the stomach to digest. While you have an upset stomach, beware of such fried foods to relieve your symptoms.
• Raw fruit and vegetables
While raw fruit and vegetables are great for health when consumed during an upset stomach, they can make matters worse. This is because they are foods high in fiber. It is advisable to beware of them temporarily, until the upset stomach passes.
• Caffeine or alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can increase stomach acidity levels, leading to nausea. Caffeine can also worsen the symptoms of diarrhea. Beware of caffeine and alcohol to avoid worsening symptoms.
• Citrus fruit and foods with high acidity
Highly acidic foods such as citrus fruit and tomatoes are likely to cause acid reflux. This can worsen pre-existing symptoms, further causing heartburn and nausea. Lime, grapes, pineapples, processed foods and sugar are examples of foods with high acidity.