Having an upset stomach is never fun, and sometimes it can ruin your whole day. While the exact causes of an upset stomach may vary, there are home remedies that can help to alleviate your stomach discomfort. In this article, we are going to explore these home remedies for upset stomach in depth so you can know how to relieve your upset stomach.
What Causes an Upset Stomach?
The causes of an upset stomach may vary, and sometimes we may not know what the cause is. If we do know, however, it can help us better know how to treat it. Some of the most common causes of upset stomach are:
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Food poisoning
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Digestive disorder(s)
If you have an upset stomach, try to reflect on what may be causing it. Was it something you ate? Did you eat too much? Is it gas? Could you have gotten a stomach bug? Knowing what caused it helps you know the best way to treat it, as different remedies may be more appropriate for different causes.
That being said, these natural remedies for upset stomach can make a huge difference in alleviating, and potentially curing, your stomach discomfort.
Natural Remedies for Upset Stomach
Ginger is truly an incredible herb with a huge range of uses. The rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) is what is used for both food and medicine. For centuries, this herb has been used both as a culinary spice and as a medicinal remedy for many ailments from stomach pain to inflammation to nausea and altitude sickness. It is typically used for gastrointestinal disorders, and its anti‐inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, and antiulcer effects have been proven in many scientific studies.
Several compounds have been identified in ginger that are said to be responsible for ginger’s medicinal benefits. Of these gingerol is known to be one of the primary. Both whole ginger herb and gingerol extract have been shown to have benefits for the digestive system.
The easiest way to use ginger as a remedy for upset stomach is to make a tea of ginger. You can buy ginger tea that is already in tea bags, or you can simply chop about a tablespoon or two of ginger root finely and steep it in boiling water for 5 minutes. Ginger powder can be used this way as well.
Drinking warm ginger tea may help to soothe the stomach and relieve digestive discomfort. It is especially effective in cases of overeating or when bloating and gas are present.
Chamomile is another great herb for upset stomach. Chamomile tea is made using the buds of chamomile flowers. Like ginger, this herb can help ease the pain of an upset stomach by acting as an anti-inflammatory. These anti-inflammatory properties can help your stomach muscles relax. This can reduce the pain of cramping and spasms.
Chamomile tea has strong carminative properties. Carminatives are herbs that soothe the digestive tract. Carminatives work by reducing and preventing gas formation in our gut which can also alleviate bloating. Most carminative herbs are also antispasmodic, meaning they can prevent or reduce muscle spasms that can occur in the smooth muscle of our gut.
Peppermint is another great herbal remedy for upset stomachs. It is often cited as a helpful fix for nausea as well. Peppermint contains menthol, a compound in its leaves that is a natural analgesic, or pain reliever. Peppermint is great to use when there is actual stomach pain experienced with your upset stomach. It is a very soothing and cooling plant that also offer anti-inflammatory properties, helping to soothe and relax stomach muscles. The easiest way to consume peppermint is in tea form, though small amounts of pure peppermint oil in water can be used as well. While we don’t recommend it due to some of the other ingredients, peppermint candies have also been used in some cases to soothe an upset stomach.
Bitter herbs have a unique effect on the digestive system. Bitter herbs help digestion because of their bitter taste. This taste stimulates your bitter taste buds, which signal different activities in your digestive system to start, like making more saliva and releasing bile from your gallbladder. Bile is important for breaking down foods, especially fats. If you have eaten too much food, or know you are going to have a big meal, drinking some bitter herb tea or even simply chewing on a bitter leafy green can stimulate the digestive process. Many greens are considered bitters like dandelion, lettuce, and arugula. Bitter herb teas are also diverse. Examples are dandelion, Oregon grape, and centaury.
- Carbonated Water
Carbonated water is one of the famous old home remedies for nausea and upset stomach. It is also a good remedy for people suffering from constipation. One study in 40 older individuals who had experienced a stroke, found that average bowel movement frequency nearly doubled in the group that drank carbonated water, compared with the group that drank tap water. The group that drank carbonated water also reported a 58% decrease in constipation symptoms.
Other studies show that sparkling water may improve symptoms of indigestion, including stomach pain. One controlled study examining 21 people with chronic digestive issues found that after 15 days those who drank carbonated water experienced significant improvements in digestive symptoms, constipation, and gallbladder emptying.
- BRAT Diet
The BRAT diet is a classic diet for those suffering digestive disorders, especially nausea and diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are low-fiber, high-binding foods and none of them contain salt or spices, which often further aggravate symptoms of an upset stomach. This is a good go-to diet for when you’re feeling sick but still have to eat something. It is worth mentioning that this is a short-term solution to ease discomfort and does not contain sufficient nutrients as a long term diet.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is also known to reduce stomach discomfort, especially if it is caused by some kind of bacterial infection. If it is too intense to consume on its own, simply dilute a tablespoon in water to neutralize an upset stomach.
The acids in apple cider vinegar may help decrease starch digestion, allowing the starch to get to the intestines and keep the bacteria in the gut healthy. Some people even take a spoonful of ACV each day as a preventive measure. Be sure to get raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar that contains “the mother”—which is a cloudy substance made from the combination of yeast and bacteria formed during the fermentation process. Do not worry, this is beneficial bacteria that aids gut health and is nothing to worry about.
Astringent herbs are herbs that have a tightening effect on the tissues of the body. They are really only beneficial in the case of diarrhea, but for this purpose they are quite effective. Astringent herbs help "dry up" the mucous membranes in the intestine, which can relieve diarrhea. Blackberry leaf and raspberry leaf are common astringent herbs.
One simple remedy to ease an upset stomach could be to use a heating pad or hot water bottle. The warmth on your stomach will distract you from any cramping or pain, and the heat can help to relax your muscles and reduce symptoms of nausea. Be careful not to leave it on too long, however, as it may damage your skin if used too much.
Sometimes fasting for a short period of time can ease stomach discomfort. This is especially helpful if you have been overeating and are suffering from indigestion. Fasting is the practice of going without food for a specific period of time. Skipping one or two meals may give your digestive system a break to rest and recover, and to process the food that is already moving through it. Drinking water or hot tea during this time can add an extra stomach-soothing benefit to the fast.
Digestive enzymes can help to relieve symptoms of an upset stomach as well. They are especially useful in cases of bloating, indigestion, or overeating. Digestive enzymes may be especially helpful in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who experience symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, despite little or no active inflammation.
Specific strains of good bacteria, known as probiotics, have been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of many gastric illnesses including diarrhea and can even reduce symptom duration by up to 24 hours.
One particular strain, clinically trialled to reduce the effects of stomach upsets, is Saccharomyces boulardii. It is unique from other bacterial strains because it is actually a probiotic yeast. Originally found in lychee fruit, this probiotic strain is known for its transient qualities, meaning that it doesn't colonize in the intestines. Research shows that it has a sticky outer membrane which it uses to adhere itself to harmful bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. This process is thought to help remove any pathogens from the gut.
Probiotics can be a great remedy to use in the case of diarrhea, food poisoning, stomach flu, or bacterial infection.
Most upset stomachs will simply pass in time. The above remedies can help to speed up the process and help you recover faster, but allowing some time to simply rest and avoid any food or drink that could worsen symptoms will allow your body to heal and return back to normal. Eat simple foods that are light and easy to digest. Drink warm tea, especially ginger, chamomile or peppermint. Allow your body to rest and recover.
Everyone experiences stomach aches at one point or another. There are numerous reasons why you might get a stomach ache, and knowing the cause of your stomach ache is the best way to know how to treat it. Most causes aren’t serious and the symptoms pass quickly.
However, if you experience severe pain or experience discomfort for a long period of time, it may be a good idea to have it checked out by your doctor. The home remedies shared in this article can help for the average upset stomach, but it is possible that you could have an underlying digestive disorder that could be causing your stomach ache—especially if it is frequent and recurring.