We all have those days. You wake up and your stomach hurts. It might be gas, or maybe you ate something bad, but what do you do? You could take an over-the-counter medicine and hope it gets better. Or you could try food!
Food For Stomach Aches
What to Eat
When your stomach hurts, cramps, or you feel like you might throw up, the last thing you want to do is eat something that makes it worse. It can be even harder to know what to try if you’ve been vomiting or have diarrhea. But some foods can give you nutrients you need without making you feel worse.
Start With Liquids
If you can’t keep solid food down, there’s no point in trying to eat. Things like sports drinks, clear broth, or coconut water have minerals you need like potassium, calcium, and sodium (salt).
They’re easy to digest and have lots of potassium — an important mineral you may start to lose if you have diarrhea or have been vomiting.
Make sure it’s plain white rice. Wild, brown, or black rice — generally healthy — are harder to digest, especially on an upset stomach. Starchy, low-fiber foods like white rice also can help firm up your stool and stop the diarrhea that can come along with stomach trouble.
It’s easy to digest and has plenty of nutrients, including pectin — a kind of fiber that dissolves in water. It can add bulk to your stool and help get rid of your diarrhea.
Simple white-bread toast is better than fiber-rich whole grains when you have an upset stomach. Whole grain has a kind of fiber that’s good when you’re not sick, but it can make an unhappy tummy worse, especially if you have diarrhea or nausea.
If those foods stay down, you can start to branch out to things like baked potatoes and maybe some boneless, skinless chicken breast. Once you’re feeling better and haven’t thrown up or had diarrhea in 24 to 48 hours, you can try to add in some fruits and vegetables.
Don’t Eat: Dairy
Milk, cheese, and ice cream are all no-no’s with an upset stomach. They’re hard for your body to digest, in part because they’re high in fat. Plain, nonfat yogurt may be OK sometimes, but start with a little and see how it goes.
Don’t Eat: Fried Foods
These have lots of oil and fat, so they’re harder to digest. Fried foods aren’t great for you even when you’re healthy, but they can make an already upset stomach even worse.
Don’t Drink: Soda
The bubbles can be a problem, because gas gets into your digestive system. And if lots of sugar hits you all at once, it can make diarrhea worse — there’s no quicker way to get sugar into your bloodstream than to drink it. Small sips of a flat soda may be OK.
Don’t Eat: Spicy Food
It’s probably the last thing you feel like having with an upset stomach — and there’s a reason for that. Your digestive system may have to work harder to digest it, and that can make your rumbly tummy worse. Stick to the bland stuff until you feel better.
Don’t Eat: Raw Fruits and Vegetables
They’re great when you’re healthy. But when you have an upset stomach, the fiber in them — which normally makes your poop easy to pass — can make things worse. It’s best to wait until you feel better to add them back into your diet. Start with small portions of cooked vegetables and juices.
Keep Your Belly Happy
A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help keep your digestive system healthy and your immune system strong and ready to fight off bugs that might upset your stomach. And watch for triggers — anything from foods that have acid like tomatoes, to fizzy drinks, to stress at work.
If You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions are based in your immune system and involve a lot more than an upset digestive system, through that can be one of the symptoms. Food doesn’t cause IBD, and there’s no single diet that helps everyone with IBD. But it can help to keep a food journal so that you learn what your trigger foods are, then you can avoid them.
When to Call Your Doctor
Everyone gets an upset stomach from time to time, but talk to your doctor if you’re losing weight without trying, you don’t have much of an appetite, you’re fatigued or have cramping, bleeding, pain, or other symptoms, or it goes on for too long.
Best Foods For An Upset Stomach
Short-term, or acute, causes of an upset stomach include food poisoning and viral gastroenteritis. The symptoms of acute stomach upset typically involve nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Longer-term, or chronic, causes of stomach upset may include irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, gas, or bloating.
Some foods can worsen symptoms of an upset stomach, while others can help alleviate them. Read on to find out what to eat and what to avoid when experiencing an upset stomach.
A person can lose a lot of fluids through diarrhea or vomiting. They will need to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
Doctors sometimes recommend short-term clear liquid diets to help settle an upset stomach.
Below are some fluids that can help replenish water and electrolytes without causing further upset to the stomach:
- plain water
- clear broths
- diluted fruit juice or squash
- popsicles made from frozen diluted fruit juice
- electrolyte drinks
- weak tea without milk
- herbal teas
Drinking enough liquids is also essential for someone who has constipation. Fluids help to soften stools, allowing them to pass more easily through the bowels. This helps keep bowel movements regular.
If a person is unable to eat or keep food down, they may be able to tolerate a simple vegetable or bone broth.
Bone broth contains the amino acid glutamine. A 2017 study notes that glutamine plays a role in maintaining the intestinal barrier (IB). The IB helps to protect the body from harmful pathogens and toxins. It also helps a person to absorb water and nutrients from their food.
According to an older review from 2009, IB dysfunction is a major contributory factor to the following inflammatory diseases:
- food allergies
- celiac disease
Apples contain antioxidants called polyphenols. According to a 2015 review, polyphenols may help alleviate inflammation associated with IBDs. According to the review, dietary polyphenols may help to:
- regulate a person’s immune response, thereby controlling inflammation
- protect the lining of the gut from damage
- improve the gut microbiome, which is the term for the trillions of microorganisms that live inside the digestive tract
Stewed apples or applesauce are easier to digest than the whole fruit.
Bananas can help to replenish potassium and other electrolytes that a person may lose as a result of vomiting or diarrhea.
Bananas make up part of the “BRAT” diet, which some people recommend for an upset stomach with diarrhea. The acronym “BRAT” stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These bland foods are gentle on the stomach, so they might help prevent further stomach upset.
Ginger can help combat feelings of nausea. A person can make ginger tea by slicing or grating fresh ginger and adding hot water. Sipping the mixture may help to settle an upset stomach.
Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties that could help alleviate IBDs.
A 2019 study investigated the effects of daily ginger supplements on participants with ulcerative colitis, which is a form of IBD. Over 12 weeks, participants with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis received either 2 grams (g) of a ginger supplement per day or a placebo.
Participants who had taken the ginger supplements showed reduced disease activity and increased quality of life, compared with those who took the placebo.
However, the authors note that scientists need to conduct further clinical trials using different dosages and durations of ginger supplementation to confirm the findings.
Linseed for constipation
People who have constipation can try taking linseed oil while increasing their fluid intake. This combination should encourage soft, bulky stools that help keep a person regular.
A person can try sprinkling linseed on their breakfast cereal or adding the seeds to a smoothie.
Try to drink plenty of water while taking linseed, otherwise, stools may become bulky and hard. This might make constipation worse.
10 Foods That’ll Relieve Your Upset Stomach Instantly
There is nothing worse than the agony of an upset stomach. Belly bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and nausea are all too familiar stomach ache symptoms that can feel so excruciating, they can’t be ignored. “People can experience an upset stomach for an endless amount of reasons,” explains Keri Glassman MS, RDN and founder of Nutritious Life. “It can be from stress, a food borne illness, full-blown food poising, or maybe you’re feeling gassy from eating too many vegetables.” It’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly what led to your tummy trouble, but the good news is relief isn’t too hard to come by.
However, if your symptoms get serious, it can be a sign of a larger problem. “If you’re throwing up blood, experiencing severe abdominal pain or fever, or passing blood in your stool, which can sometimes become a black color, seek immediate medical attention. Drive to the doctor or go to an urgent care center,” American Gastroenterological Association spokesperson and gastroenterologist Tauseef Ali, MD, says. A cup of ginger tea won’t remedy those symptoms. But the next time your tummy just isn’t feeling right, consider adding these foods to your diet for relief.
Research has shown that ginger can in fact help alleviate stomach pain and nausea. “Make a fresh ginger tea by cutting up ginger root and letting it soak in a cup of hot water,” Glassman recommends. You can add some lemon or honey to enhance the flavor, too. Too much ginger can cause gastric discomfort though, so keep your consumption to a cup or two of ginger tea a day.
Due to their high fiber content, specifically the thickening fiber, pectin, bananas are a great choice to help with diarrhea. They are also easy to digest and help absorb water from the intestine, which assists in binding loose stool. Bananas are also high in nutrients that can energize you after a bout of debilitating diarrhea.
“Fennel seed tea can help with constipation,” Dr. Ali explains. Boil dried fennel seeds in water to make a tea, use fennel oil in your cooking, or mix fennel powder with water. You can also consume the seeds to help relieve painful constipation.
Most herbal teas are helpful in reducing gastrointestinal distress, but chamomile’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a smart choice in soothing an upset tummy. “The same mechanisms in the tea that help with calming and sleep work for relieving stomach issues as well,” Glassman explains. “A cup of chamomile tea is good for your GI tract.”
Apples and applesauce have high pectin content. Pectin is a compound found in many fruits, like bananas, that the body uses as a thickening agent. If you’re suffering from loose stool or vomiting, foods containing pectin can help firm-up your insides.
If you’re experiencing constant stomach pain and can’t trace it to something specific, it can mean you’re missing certain probiotics, aka good bacteria, in your gut. “Probiotics can help with bacterial overgrowth,” Dr. Ali explains. Bacterial overgrowth, or having too much bad bacteria in the gut, is thought to be one of the main causes of irritable bowel syndrome. Eating probiotic-rich yogurt daily will help to keep your gut balanced.
The benefits of staying hydrated are endless, and you can add constipation relief to the list. Constipation essentially happens when your colon gets dehydrated. The stool being stored in your colon ends up hardening, making it difficult to move through the body. If you tend to get constipated, drink lots of water throughout the day.
If keeping food down is your issue, stick with simple, bland foods, like potatoes. “The reason these foods help isn’t that scientific,” Glassman shares. “They’re just simple carbohydrates that are easy to digest and will give your body some fuel.” Rice, toast, and plain potatoes can help with diarrhea symptoms by absorbing excess water in the body.
Fruits, in general, are great to eat when you’re experiencing constipation. Their high-fiber and water content help rehydrate the body and soften stool. Dates, grapes, and papaya are particularly helpful because of their high insoluble fiber content. This means that the fiber in these fruits doesn’t dissolve in water, which helps provide volume and moisture to hardened stool stuck in colon.
“A brothy soup will help coat your stomach if you can’t food down,” Glassman says. Broth is also hydrating, so if nothing else, your body is getting some amounts of liquid. Just make sure to keep the broth light, avoid spicy flavors or foods that may cause more discomfort like beans or greens.