Stomach Ache? What to Eat to Feel Better
Soothe your tummy
Upset stomach? Whether it's nausea, vomiting, or just a general icky feeling due to a stomach bug or something you ate, you want to feel better—now.
Sadly, your doctor may say that the best treatment is to just wait until the germ or symptoms run their course. However, choosing the right food may make that waiting period a bit easier.
Here's a guide to what the experts generally recommend to soothe tummy trouble.
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Bananas are the first item in the "brat" diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), which has been used by generations to soothe bellies.
Bananas contain potassium, which you may need if you're dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, says Robynne Chutkan, MD, assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.
They also contain sugar so you get calories at a time when you're probably not eating much. But they're not so sweet it will make you nauseous, she adds.
Rice, along with other starchy foods such as potatoes and oats, helps coat the lining of the stomach, easing digestion and having an overall soothing effect, says Dr. Chutkan.
Starchy foods also don't sit in the stomach for long periods of time, nor do they stimulate acid reflux, which would make you feel even worse, says Amit Bhan, MD, service chief of gastroenterology at Henry Ford Health System, in West Bloomfield, Mich.
Applesauce is generally calming for the stomach because it's easily digested, relieves diarrhea, and provides calories. Apples themselves contain pectin (especially in the skin), which can provide roughage if you're constipated.
"If the cause of distress is constipation, then an apple can help," says Dr. Chutkan. "When someone is having diarrhea, you want the applesauce."
The fourth and final component of the brat diet is just as bland as the first three items.
Toast won't cause acid reflux, so you'll feel better. It also doesn't sit in the stomach like a high-fat meal, which would make you feel increasingly uncomfortable.
But leave off the butter and jam until you're feeling better.
Broth, in particular, is great for an upset stomach.
Both the liquid and a high salt content can keep you hydrated. "Salt, when it's in the bloodstream, helps draw fluid in," says Dr. Chutkan. Of course, if you have high blood pressure, look for low-salt varieties so you'll still get the liquid benefit.
"Soup or broth, if not cooked in fat, is very easily digested. It's well-tolerated and you don't get nauseous or have reflux," says Dr. Bhan.
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Crackers fall into the same category as rice. "They're easily digestible and soothing. There's not a lot in them that can hurt you," says Dr. Chutkan. In fact, they're often recommended for women who have morning sickness. Some report that crackers can also absorb stomach acid, but it's unclear if that's true or not, she says.
As long as you don't have high blood pressure, plain old saltines may be the way to go (although low-salt versions of saltines are now available).
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Herbal teas (those without caffeine, which can stimulate acid reflux) can also help tame a troubled tummy. Chamomile is a favorite because it is thought to reduce inflammation, although pretty much any herbal brew is a great way to get liquid into your body.p
But stay away from peppermint tea. It can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid and other stomach contents to splash up into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Coconut water may not have all the magical properties manufacturers would like you to believe, but it can help soothe tummies.
It contains natural sugar to provide calories as well as electrolytes, such as potassium. It also contains vitamin C.
Plus it has no artificial ingredients such as food colorings. "I'm a big fan of coconut water," says Dr. Chutkan.
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Ginger has long been touted as a way to calm upset stomachs, but doesn't have the strong evidence to back up the claim, despite its reputation.
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"I don't think there's any hard scientific data to support that. It's just a spice [though] it's generally well tolerated," says Dr. Bhan.
Some people find ginger helpful and may even soak it in water or make ginger tea to quell queasiness, says Dr. Chutkan.
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