Home and natural remedies for upset stomach
- heartburn, or acid reflux
- belching, sometimes bringing up bitter or foul-tasting fluid or food
- bad-smelling or sour breath
- hiccupping or coughing
This article looks at 21 of the most popular home remedies for an upset stomach and indigestion. We also explain when to see a doctor.
Twenty-one home remedies
Some of the most popular home remedies for an upset stomach and indigestion include:
1. Drinking water
Dehydration can increase the likelihood of an upset stomach.
The body needs water to digest and absorb nutrients from foods and beverages efficiently. Being dehydrated makes digestion more difficult and less effective, which increases the likelihood of an upset stomach.
In general, the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) recommend that:
- women should have around 2.7 liters (l), or 91 ounces (oz), of water a day
- men should have about 3.7 l, or 125 oz, of water a day
Around 20 percent of this will come from food, with the rest coming from beverages. For most people, a good figure to aim for is approximately 8 or more cups of water a day. Younger children require slightly less water than adults.
2. Avoiding lying down
When the body is horizontal, the acid in the stomach is more likely to travel backward and move upward, which can cause heartburn.
People with an upset stomach should avoid lying down or going to bed for at least a few hours until it passes. Someone who needs to lie down should prop up their head, neck, and upper chest with pillows, ideally at a 30-degree angle.
Ginger is a common natural remedy for an upset stomach and indigestion.
Ginger contains chemicals called gingerols and shogaols that can help speed up stomach contractions. This may move foods that are causing indigestion through the stomach more quickly.
The chemicals in ginger may also help to reduce nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
People with an upset stomach could try adding ginger to their food or drinking it as a tea. Some all-natural ginger ales may also contain enough ginger to settle an upset stomach.
Ginger tea is widely available to buy in supermarkets and online.
In addition to sweetening the breath, the menthol in mint may help with the following:
- preventing vomiting and diarrhea
- reducing muscle spasms in the intestines
- relieving pain
Researchers have found that mint is a traditional treatment for indigestion, gas, and diarrhea in Iran, Pakistan, and India.
Raw and cooked mint leaves are both suitable for consumption. Traditionally, people often boil mint leaves with cardamom to make a tea. It is also possible to powder or juice mint leaves and mix them with other teas, beverages, or foods. Mint leaves are widely available in health stores and online.
Sucking on mint candies might be another way to help reduce the pain and discomfort of heartburn.
5. Taking a warm bath or using a heating bag
Heat may relax tense muscles and ease indigestion, so taking a warm bath may help to ease the symptoms of an upset stomach. It could also be beneficial to apply a heated bag or pad to the stomach for 20 minutes or until it goes cool.
Heating bags are available to purcahse online.
6. BRAT diet
Doctors may recommend the BRAT diet to people with diarrhea.
BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. These foods are all starchy, so they can help bind foods together to make stools firmer. This may decrease the number of stools a person passes and help ease their diarrhea.
As these foods are bland, they do not contain substances that irritate the stomach, throat, or intestines. Therefore, this diet can soothe the tissue irritation resulting from the acids in vomit.
7. Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol
Smoking can irritate the throat, increasing the likelihood of an upset stomach. If the person has vomited, smoking can further irritate the tender tissue already sore from stomach acids.
As a toxin, alcohol is difficult to digest and can cause damage to the liver and stomach lining.
People with an upset stomach should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol until they are feeling better.
8. Avoiding difficult-to-digest foods
Some foods are harder to digest than others, which increases the risk of an upset stomach. Anyone with an upset stomach should avoid foods that are:
- fried or fatty
- rich or creamy
- salty or heavily preserved
9. Lime or lemon juice, baking soda, and water
Some studies suggest that mixing lime or lemon juice in water with a pinch of baking soda can help to relieve a variety of digestive complaints.
This mixture produces carbonic acid, which may help to reduce gas and indigestion. It may also improve liver secretion and intestinal mobility. The acidity and other nutrients in lime or lemon juice can help to digest and absorb fats and alcohol while neutralizing bile acids and reducing acidity in the stomach.
Most traditional recipes recommend mixing the following quantities:
- 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1 teaspoon (tsp) of baking soda
- 8 oz of clean water
Substances in cinnamon may help to reduce gas and bloating.
Other substances in cinnamon may help to reduce gas, bloating, cramping, and belching. They may also help to neutralize stomach acidity to reduce heartburn and indigestion.
People with an upset stomach could try adding 1 tsp of good-quality cinnamon powder, or an inch of cinnamon stick, to their meals. Alternatively, they could try mixing the cinnamon with boiling water to make a tea. Doing this two or three times daily may help to relieve indigestion.
Cloves contain substances that may help to reduce gas in the stomach and increase gastric secretions. This can speed up slow digestion, which may reduce pressure and cramping. Cloves may also help to reduce nausea and vomiting.
A person with an upset stomach could try mixing 1 or 2 tsps of ground or powdered cloves with 1 tsp of honey once a day before bedtime. For nausea and heartburn, they could combine the cloves with 8 oz of boiling water instead to make a clove tea, which they should drink slowly once or twice daily.
Cumin seeds contain active ingredients that may help by:
- reducing indigestion and excess stomach acids
- decreasing gas
- reducing intestinal inflammation
- acting as an antimicrobial
A person with an upset stomach could try mixing 1 or 2 tsps of ground or powdered cumin into their meals. Alternatively, they could add a few teaspoons of cumin seeds or powder to boiling water to make a tea.
Some traditional medical systems suggest chewing a pinch or two of raw cumin seeds or powder to ease heartburn.
Cumin seeds are available to purchase online.
Figs contain substances that can act as laxatives to ease constipation and encourage healthy bowel movements. Figs also contain compounds that may help to ease indigestion.
A person with an upset stomach could try eating whole fig fruits a few times a day until their symptoms improve. Alternatively, they could try brewing 1 or 2 tsps of fig leaves to make a tea instead.
However, if people are also experiencing diarrhea, they should avoid consuming figs.
14. Aloe juice
The substances in aloe juice may provide relief by:
- reducing excess stomach acid
- encouraging healthy bowel movements and toxin removal
- improving protein digestion
- promoting the balance of digestive bacteria
- reducing inflammation
- flatulence and belching
- nausea and vomiting
- acid and food regurgitation
Yarrow flowers contain flavonoids, polyphenols, lactones, tannins, and resins that may help to reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces. They do this by acting on the main digestive nerve, called the vagus nerve. A reduction in stomach acid levels can reduce the likelihood of heartburn and indigestion.
A person with an upset stomach could try eating young yarrow leaves raw in a salad or cooked in a meal. It is also possible to make yarrow tea by adding 1 or 2 tsps of dried or ground yarrow leaves or flowers to boiling water.
Basil may increase appetite and improve digestion.
Basil contains substances that may reduce gas, increase appetite, relieve cramping, and improve overall digestion. Basil also contains eugenol, which may help to reduce the quantity of acid in the stomach.
Basil also contains high levels of linoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
A person with an upset stomach could try adding 1 or 2 tsps of dried basil leaves, or a couple of fresh basil leaves, to meals until their symptoms lessen. For more immediate results, they could mix half a teaspoon of dried basil, or a few fresh leaves, with boiled water to make a tea.
Licorice root contains substances that may help to reduce gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, as well as inflammation relating to peptic ulcers.
Someone with an upset stomach could try drinking licorice root tea several times a day until their symptoms improve. Licorice root teas are widely available online, but it is also possible to make them at home by mixing 1 or 2 tsps of licorice root powder with boiling water.
Like mint, spearmint is a common remedy for many digestive complaints, including:
- stomach and intestinal spasms
- gastrointestinal infections
Most people find that the easiest way to consume spearmint is to drink prepared herbal teas in which spearmint is the primary ingredient. There are many such teas available online.
It is usually safe to drink spearmint teas several times daily until symptoms improve. Sucking on spearmint candies may also help to reduce heartburn.
Plain rice is useful for people with many types of stomach complaints. It can help by:
- adding bulk to stool
- absorbing fluids that may contain toxins
- easing pain and cramps, because of its high levels of magnesium and potassium
Someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea could try slowly eating half a cup of plain, well-cooked rice. It is best to wait until at least a few hours after the last episode of vomiting. The person may continue to do this for 24–48 hours until diarrhea stops.
Rice is also part of the BRAT diet that doctors often recommend.
20. Coconut water
Coconut water contains high levels of potassium and magnesium. These nutrients help to reduce pain, muscle spasms, and cramps.
Coconut water is also useful for rehydrating and is a better option than most sports drinks as it is also low in calories, sugar, and acidity.
Slowly sipping on up to 2 glasses of coconut water every 4–6 hours could ease upset stomach symptoms.
Bananas contain vitamin B6, potassium, and folate. These nutrients can help to ease cramps, pains, and muscle spasms. Bananas can also help by adding bulk to loose stools, which can alleviate diarrhea.
When to see a doctor
An upset stomach and indigestion should not usually cause concern. For most people, symptoms should go away within a few hours. As older adults and children can become dehydrated much more quickly, they should seek medical attention for vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than a day.
People with severe, frequent, or persistent stomach problems should talk to a doctor. It is also best to seek medical attention if the following symptoms are present:
- continual or uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea
- chronic constipation
- bloody stool or vomit
- inability to pass gas
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- arm pain
- unintentional weight loss
- a lump in the abdomen or stomach
- difficulty swallowing
- history of iron-deficiency anemia or associated conditions
- pain when urinating
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