Upset Stomach: Causes, Natural Remedies And 12 Best Foods to Eat
Upset Stomach: Causes, Natural Remedies And 12 Best Foods to Eat
I’m sure we have all had an upset stomach at some stage, whether it be because of a virus, nausea or just generally feeling lousy. When you feel like this there is only one thing on your mind — feeling better!
Your body is really good at trying to repair itself, so it will try to find natural ways to relieve an upset stomach. While you might be feeling really tired and you might be wanting to sleep it off there are some things you can do, and some foods you can eat, to help settle your tummy.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about relieving an upset stomach.
What is an upset stomach?
An upset stomach can have lots of different symptoms — you might feel nauseated, your stomach might be grumbling and churning, you may have cramps, vomiting, or even diarrhoea. Whatever the signs, you generally know it’s not going to be a good day.
Usually, the first thing you want to do is to climb into bed and rest until you feel better. If you are running for the nearest bathroom every few minutes, you might be wishing for some upset stomach remedies to help speed up your recovery. Don’t worry — I’ll help you out with some natural remedies and the best foods to eat. But first, let’s look at some of the reasons why you might have an upset stomach in the first place.
What causes an upset stomach?
There can be a number of different causes of an upset stomach and some of these causes can overlap (meaning there can be more than one cause at a time!).
Common causes of an upset stomach include:
- Too much food: If you are familiar with overeating, you may already know that it can leave you with an upset stomach.
- Dehydration: Your body needs water for digestion, so when you are dehydrated, it becomes harder to process the food you are taking in.
- Food intolerance: If you have an intolerance, like an intolerance to lactose or gluten, and accidentally ate something containing this, it can lead to an upset stomach after eating.
- Motion sickness: Travelling by car, boat, air or even thrill rides (amusement rides) can leave you with an upset stomach! This is a result of confusion between your senses — your inner ear tells your brain you are in motion when your eyes may not be seeing the same thing. This can lead your brain to think something is wrong, like you may have ingested a toxin, so its natural response is to vomit.
- Stress: Feelings of stress can lead to an upset stomach or even diarrhoea. This is because part of your ‘fight or flight’ response is to slow down digestion (among other things) so that your body can focus on the perceived threat. You'll be surprised how much a bit of natural calm can do to ease your upset stomach.
- Pregnancy: An upset stomach or vomiting can be common in the early stages of pregnancy (and sometimes continuing further into pregnancy as well).
- Food poisoning or a virus: Food containing bacteria or viruses can cause an upset stomach or vomiting as your body tries to get rid of whatever is upsetting it.
- A side effect of medication: Unfortunately some medications or medical treatments can cause an upset stomach.
- Your period: Yep, as well as period pain and bloating, you may find you get an upset stomach around that time of the month. This is thought to be due to the change in your hormone levels, particularly progesterone.
- Certain types of food or drink: Too much caffeine or eating too much greasy or spicy food can upset your stomach and leave you feeling nauseated.
- A tough workout: An upset stomach after a workout can happen if you are dehydrated or if you ate a big meal before exercising.
When you have an upset stomach, it is natural to want relief from it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in some cases there isn’t much you can do but wait for the feeling to pass.
To make it easier to deal with an upset stomach, I’ve included some tips below to help you out.
How to settle an upset stomach
Now that you know what some of the possible causes can be, I’m going to explain what you can do to calm an angry tummy so you are on the road to recovery faster!
Natural remedies for upset stomach
When your stomach is upset, try soothing it from the outside as well. A heat pack, hot water bottle or even a warm bath can help to increase the blood flow and can help relax any cramping muscles.
An upset stomach can make it difficult to eat but it can also make it hard to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, headaches often come as a result of vomiting and nausea, often triggered in part by dehydration. If you’re looking for another natural remedy for upset stomach, try to drink water or clear liquids.
Take it slowly with small sips of plain water, rather than trying to gulp a lot down. Drinking too much in one go can actually make you feel more nauseated, so take it easy. The goal is to gently increase your fluid intake and keep you hydrated.
Water, coconut water and broths can all help to replenish fluids that may be lost when you are dealing with vomiting or diarrhoea. If you can get them, electrolyte drinks may also help balance your fluid levels when you’ve been unwell.
The BRAT diet
If you’ve been searching for ways to calm an upset stomach, you may have come across something called the BRAT diet. This is an acronym that stands for bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast — a mixture of bland, nourishing foods that can be eaten when dealing with an upset stomach. These foods are easily digestible and lower in fibre, so they don’t put extra stress on your tummy.
While the BRAT diet has some benefits (the foods are gentle on the stomach, so they can be easier to keep down), it isn’t a way of eating that you can sustain for very long! You may have noticed the BRAT diet avoids dairy, proteins and fruits — this is fine for a short-term illness but definitely not recommended for more than a day or two.
Even though you might not feel much like eating, you need to try and eat something to keep your strength up. That means you need to try to eat foods for an upset stomach — not foods that may make your tummy feel worse.
What better way to do that than to eat foods that can ease an upset stomach as well?
Best foods for an upset stomach
Reach for nourishing foods and some natural upset stomach remedies! This is a list of what to eat with an upset stomach.
Bananas are great to eat when you are feeling nauseated or unwell because they are easily digestible. When your tummy is hurting, bananas are a source of potassium, which is one of the nutrients that your body can lose through vomiting and diarrhoea.
Bananas also contain pectin, which can help to firm up your stool if you are experiencing diarrhoea. I know, that idea doesn’t sound pleasant! It can be really helpful and get you on the way to recovery though.
Ginger has always been one of the most popular natural remedies for upset stomach and nausea.
It’s not known exactly how ginger works to relieve an upset stomach but it has been suggested that it may influence the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Both raw and cooked ginger have been shown to be effective for an upset stomach.
If you are vomiting or dealing with bad nausea, try having some fresh ginger. I know ginger can be quite a strong taste for some people, so my recommendation is to boil a cup of water, put some freshly sliced ginger in it and add a squeeze of lemon juice or honey, which can help to mask the flavour. Sip it slowly (once it has cooled a little) to give your body time to absorb it.
Alternatively, try having some herbal tea with ginger to help ease a sore stomach!
Some people also swear by ginger ale to settle an upset stomach but keep in mind a lot of ginger ales have added sugar and preservatives. I find tea or some warm water with fresh ginger can really help.
Ginger can be so helpful for boosting your immune system, so try to include it in your diet regularly! Add some to broth-based soups, like chicken soup, for a rehydrating, inflammation-fighting dish.
Another great fruit to eat with an upset stomach is papaya. Papaya is a rich source of proteolytic enzymes, which can help the digestive process. Some of these enzymes such as papain and chymopapain can also help break down proteins and create a healthy acid balance in your stomach.
Papaya can help encourage the natural digestive processes and ease indigestion as well. Because it contains fibre, you might want to skip papaya if you have diarrhoea and stick to starchier foods instead.
Mint is great to ease an upset stomach, especially if you have eaten too much or are feeling a bit bloated. Add some freshly torn leaves in a glass of water or brew a peppermint tea to help ease your upset stomach. It’s thought that the menthol in mint can assist with reducing muscle spasms, so it may help provide relief from gas and stomach cramping.
I should point out, if you’re dealing with reflux, mint might not be the best choice. Stick to some of the other remedy foods on this list instead.
While certain types of dairy can be a source of discomfort for some people, having some all-natural yoghurt when feeling nauseous can help to restore balance in your stomach. It is important to choose a plain yoghurt that still contains live/active cultures, as these can help to restore the good bacteria in your gut. The good bacteria can help aid your digestion too.
6. Bland foods such as rice, potatoes and toast
If your stomach hurts because you have a virus or have been going to the toilet a lot, eating bland and starchy foods can really help. White rice, potatoes and toast are good because they don't put any added stress on your digestive system if it’s feeling a little sensitive. As explained above with the BRAT diet, these bland foods are easy on the stomach, which can be exactly what you need when it has been churning for a while or if you have been vomiting.
While I normally don’t eat white rice, it usually has lower fibre content than most coloured rice varieties. White rice and the foods above can help to ease diarrhoea by absorbing any excess fluids and hardening your stool. This can give you relief from that horrible ‘running-to-the-toilet-every-few-minutes’ feeling!
To ease an upset stomach, try eating fennel! While it has a strong taste, fennel can help to relax the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and aid digestion. You can either eat a few fennel seeds or try popping some sliced fennel onto a couple of plain crackers with a pinch of sea salt.
When you’re feeling queasy, a bowl of plain oats can be really comforting. Your body needs carbohydrates to function, so having some slow-releasing carbohydrates in your system will help you keep your strength up. If you do decide to have a bowl of oats, make sure you stick to plain rolled oats and not flavoured varieties.
Try sprinkling a little cinnamon on top of your oats too — cinnamon can help to break up gas bubbles, which can help to ease queasiness. If you’re worried about the taste of plain oats, try adding a little drizzle of honey on the top.
9. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes can help if you are feeling bloated or dealing with cramps as they contain both potassium and magnesium. Sweet potatoes are also low on the glycemic index (GI), and with the combination of magnesium and potassium, they can help to calm a stomach that may be upset due to nerves or stress.
Try baking some lightly in the oven or making a sweet potato mash, this way they will be soft and easy to eat!
10. Broth-based soup
If you are struggling to keep down solids, try starting out with liquid food. Broth-based soups can help to coat your stomach (especially if you have been vomiting a lot) and they also help to keep you hydrated as well. Chicken soup is a tried and true favourite but you could also make miso soup and sip on that too.
As mentioned above, be sure to stick to broth-based soups. Avoid the creamy varieties so you don’t upset your stomach further. Also, it is best to avoid adding any spicy flavours, beans or lentils to the soup — this can cause a buildup of gas (or contribute to diarrhoea, if you already have it) and make your stomach feel more uncomfortable.
11. Chamomile tea
Not only is chamomile tea great for relaxing, it is also a great tea to drink with an upset stomach too. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, which can help to relieve abdominal cramping or pain. Add in the calming properties and you should be able to rest a little easier.
12. Dry crackers
I know lots of mums who relied on dry crackers when they were dealing with morning sickness. Dry crackers are starchy, so they can help to absorb gastric acid and settle your stomach when it is upset. Crackers can also help balance your electrolytes after vomiting, thanks to the little bit of added salt.
Dealing with an upset stomach
Tummy troubles are no fun for anyone and generally, we look for relief in any way! Whether you have an upset stomach after eating or due to stress, there are ways to calm it and feel more comfortable. You also want to avoid making it worse, which is why there are some foods you should skip when you have an upset stomach.
Foods to avoid with an upset stomach
Your stomach is going to be extra sensitive, even a few days after it feels as though it has calmed down. There are a few foods you want to avoid during this time:
- Greasy, fried and fatty foods. Fats can actually delay the emptying of your stomach, leaving you with indigestion. Plus, fried and fatty foods have little fibre, so they are harder to digest.
- Spicy foods can stimulate the digestive system, which you definitely want to avoid if you have vomiting or diarrhoea.
- Raw vegetables. While these are great any other time, the extra fibre puts these on the list of foods for upset stomach you should avoid!
- Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, citrus fruit and soft drink (soda). These foods can irritate the lining of your stomach, something you definitely don’t want when you are already unwell.
- Dairy foods. These tend to be harder to digest and dairy can produce mucus as well.
- Food and drink with caffeine, such as chocolate, some tea varieties, soft drink and coffee. Aside from the dairy that most people add to a cup of coffee, the caffeine can also stimulate your gastrointestinal tract, making any digestive issue worse. Try an alternative to coffee instead.
If you get an upset stomach after eating, it could be because of some of the foods and drink on the list above. They can be common triggers for many people, which is why they are definitely foods to avoid eating if you already have an upset stomach.
Exercising with an upset stomach
Doing one of my BBG workouts is probably the last thing you feel like doing when you have an upset stomach! For some people though, trying to stick to a routine and getting out of bed helps them to feel better.
Whether you continue exercising when sick is completely up to you — although I would recommend doing low-intensity exercise with an upset stomach. A short, gentle walk around the block is probably more than enough. Don’t get frustrated or feel upset with yourself if you can’t manage any exercise. Feeling better should be your priority!
Should you see a doctor for an upset stomach?
As I’ve explained above, an upset stomach can happen for a number of reasons. In most cases, it will pass and you should start feeling better within a day or two.
An upset stomach can also be a sign of something else going on. If it lingers or you are dealing with severe vomiting or diarrhoea, make sure you see a doctor, particularly if you are having trouble keeping fluids down. Dehydration can result from an upset stomach so it is important to be mindful of this.
If you have an upset stomach as well as difficulty swallowing, a fever or you are feeling lightheaded, talk to your doctor.
Settling an upset stomach
Now you know more about some of the causes, what foods to eat with an upset stomach and how to manage this common issue! It can be uncomfortable and leave you feeling horrible but an upset stomach will generally calm down.
It can be hard to eat and drink as normal but you do need something to keep your strength up. Just remember not to force yourself to eat all of these foods if you aren’t feeling up to it. I tend to stick with either a banana or a herbal tea with ginger and some toast when my stomach has been hurting or I feel unwell. Do what works for you!
Don’t forget to stay hydrated when feeling sick or nauseous, girls! If you have a wheat bag, I find this can really help ease the symptoms as well.
If you are still feeling nauseated after a few days, best to head off to your doctor.
Love, Kayla xx
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.