What Should I Eat With An Upset Stomach? Stomach illness can occur at any time, especially if you have upset stomach. Usually, it affects your lifestyle and causes loss of appetite. At that time, you need to help yourself and for that, the first step is to diagnose the cause of your illness. If you know what’s triggering your upset stomach you’ll surely find the best tips to cure it.
Upset stomach or abdominal pain is most often due to inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines caused by viruses. Typically, an upset stomach can be treated at home. If symptoms are extreme or prolonged, medical care is needed.
What Are Symptoms of Upset Stomach?
Symptoms of an upset stomach include:
- Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
- Feeling full quickly after eating
An upset stomach is usually not serious, but see a doctor if you have an upset stomach and:
- Bloody bowel movements, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Pain is severe and lasts more than an hour or comes and goes for more than 24 hours
- Inability to eat or drink for hours
- Fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
- Weight loss without trying, or loss of interest in food
How Is Upset Stomach Diagnosed?
Most cases of upset stomach are mild and self-limiting and able to be treated at home. The cause of more serious cases of upset can be diagnosed with a patient history of symptoms and a physical examination of the abdomen, which may include palpation of the area to check for tenderness, enlarged organs, or masses, and listening to the abdomen with a stethoscope for bowel sounds.
Other physical examinations to help determine the cause of an upset stomach may include:
- Rectal examination
- Pelvic examination
- Eye examination
- Skin examination for jaundice
- Heart and lung exams
Imaging studies used to diagnose the causes of abdominal pain may include:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI; including magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography)
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
When to contact a clinician
Persistent or severe abdominal pain, especially if unrelieved by vomiting or passing a bowel movement
Fever greater than 101 degrees F, not relieved by acetaminophen, or any fever that lasts more than three days
Vomiting or diarrhea without any improvement for more 24 hours
Blood in vomit or stools
No urination for more than 8 hours, or painful urination
Treatment & Prevention
Most stomach aches can be treated at home. During the first 24 to 36 hours, the best treatment is a diet of clear liquids in frequent, small amounts. Drink enough fluids to keep your urine a pale yellow or clear color. If you vomit, start with sips of water or sucking on ice chips. If these are well tolerated, try other fluids:
- Sports drinks
- Clear, non-caffeinated sodas such as 7-Up, Sprite or ginger ale
- Diluted juices such as apple, grape, cherry or cranberry (avoid citrus juices)
- Clear soup broth or bouillon
- Decaffeinated tea
What to eat and drink
Below are some foods and liquids that could help to settle an upset stomach, or prevent further complications.
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.
Probiotics offer health benefits for the digestive system and the immune system. People can take probiotic supplements or eat foods that are naturally rich in probiotics.
A person may want to consume probiotic foods if they have just finished a course of antibiotics, or as an add-on treatment for chronic digestive issues.
Probiotic-rich foods may not suit people who are experiencing an upset stomach with bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. However, after recovering from these issues, a person may want to consume probiotics to replenish their beneficial gut bacteria
Probiotic-rich foods include:
- natural, unsweetened yogurt
Foods to avoid
Below are some foods to avoid while experiencing or recovering from an upset stomach.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes slimy or gel-like when wet. Insoluble fiber does not absorb much water, so it does not change consistency much when wet.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, soluble fiber can benefit diarrhea and constipation. When consumed with plenty of water, it helps to form soft, bulky stools. People who have constipation may also benefit from adding some insoluble fiber to their diet.
However, adding insoluble fiber can worsen diarrhea because it speeds up the movement of food through the intestines.
It may also worsen symptoms in people with chronic digestive issues. A person who has chronic digestive issues should talk to their doctor or nutritionist before increasing the amount of insoluble fiber in the diet.
Some food sources of soluble fiber include:
- oat bran
Some food sources of insoluble fiber include:
- wheat bran
- whole grains
High FODMAP foods
The acronym FODMAP stands for ‘fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.’ FODMAPS are short chain carbohydrates that the intestines do not absorb properly. Foods that are high in FODMAPS can trigger symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain and discomfort
- gas and flatulence
- changes in bowel habit
Some examples of high FODMAP foods to avoid include:
- Certain vegetables, including:
- pickled vegetables
- certain fruits, including
- ripe bananas
- Certain meat products, such as:
- products containing wheat
- bran cereals
- dairy foods
- soy milk
Dairy contains the milk sugar lactose. Some people are lactose intolerant, meaning they are unable to digest lactose. They may experience the following symptoms shortly after consuming dairy products:
- stomach rumbling
- stomach pain and cramping
People who are lactose intolerant should avoid consuming dairy products, such as:
Lactose-free dairy products are available in most supermarkets and are suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
Fatty and fried foods
People who are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea should avoid fatty and fried foods. These are difficult to digest and can worsen stomach upset.
Examples of fatty or greasy foods to avoid include:
- fast foods
- high fat meats
- high fat cheeses, including cream cheeses
- whole milk, or milk that is 2% fat
- sour cream
- foods with added butter, margarine, or oil
High-sugar foods and drinks
Consumption of high-sugar foods can lead to a condition called dumping syndrome, or rapid gastric emptying. This is where the stomach rapidly empties its contents into the duodenum, which is the upper part of the small intestine.
A person who has dumping syndrome may develop watery diarrhea. They may also feel the effects of low blood sugar within 30 minutes to 2 hours of eating high sugar foods.
Examples of sugary foods and drinks to avoid include:
- ice cream
- chocolate milk
- sugary sodas
- sports drinks
- fruit juices
- most flavored yogurts