Depending on the cause, some foods, such as ginger, bananas, or applesauce, may help relieve an upset stomach. Most people will benefit from drinking plenty of fluids, and broths can provide both fluid and nutrients.

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 woman makes tea which is a food or drink that can help for an upset stomach. adamkaz/Getty Images
adamkaz/Getty Images

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 may 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:

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.

A person ladles broth, which is a food for an upset stomach, into a bowl. Madeleine_Steinbach/Getty Images
Madeleine_Steinbach/Getty Images

If a person cannot 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 2021 article notes that glutamine plays a role in maintaining intestinal flora and function.

The Intestinal Barrier (IB) helps to protect the body from harmful pathogens and toxins. It also helps a person to absorb water and nutrients from their food.

Another 2021 article associates IB dysfunction with the following inflammatory diseases:

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Apples contain antioxidants called polyphenols. According to a 2023 review, polyphenols may help modulate inflammation due to IBDs. According to the review, dietary polyphenols may help to:

  • regulate a person’s immune response, thereby controlling inflammation
  • suppress pro-inflammatory proteins associated with IBDs
  • 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 may be easier to digest than the whole fruit.

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Bananas can help replenish potassium and other electrolytes that a person may lose due to vomiting or diarrhea.

Bananas comprise part of the “BRAT” diet, which some people may recommend for an upset stomach with diarrhea. The acronym “BRAT” stands for:

  • bananas
  • rice
  • applesauce
  • toast

These bland foods are gentle on the stomach, so they might help prevent further stomach upset.

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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 reduce symptoms of IBD.

A 2019 study investigated the effects of daily ginger supplements on participants with ulcerative colitis, 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.

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People with constipation can try taking linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, while increasing their fluid intake. This combination should encourage soft, bulky stools that help keep a person regular.

A person can try sprinkling flaxseed 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.

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Probiotics offer health benefits for the digestive system and the immune system. People can take probiotic supplements or eat foods 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:

Below are some foods to avoid while experiencing or recovering from an upset stomach.

Insoluble fiber

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.

Soluble dietary fiber can relieve diarrhea and constipation. When consumed with plenty of water, it helps to form soft, bulky stools. People with constipation may also benefit from adding some insoluble fiber to their diet.

However, adding insoluble fiber can worsen diarrhea because it can irritate the lining of the large intestine and stimulate the secretion of water and mucus.

It may also worsen symptoms in people with chronic digestive issues. A person with chronic digestive issues should talk with their doctor or nutritionist before increasing the amount of insoluble fiber in the diet.

Some food sources of soluble fiber include:

Some food sources of insoluble fiber include:

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:

FODMAPs are not a problem for most people. However, people with certain digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, may find that a low-FODMAP diet improves symptoms.

Some examples of high FODMAP foods to avoid include:

Dairy products

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:

People who are lactose intolerant should limit or avoid consuming dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Lactose-free dairy products or alternatives 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
  • cream
  • sour cream
  • foods with added butter, margarine, or oil

High-sugar foods and drinks

Consumption of high-sugar foods may trigger symptoms of dumping syndrome, or rapid gastric emptying. This condition sometimes occurs in people with a history of stomach surgery, diabetes, or certain viral infections.

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:

  • cookies
  • pastries
  • cakes
  • ice cream
  • chocolate milk
  • sugary sodas
  • sports drinks
  • fruit juices
  • most flavored yogurts

A person with an upset stomach may find it challenging to eat anything at all. However, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Bland foods without strong tastes or odors may help satisfy hunger without further upsetting the stomach. Some of these foods may also help replace electrolytes lost through vomiting or diarrhea.

Certain foods can further aggravate an upset stomach or an underlying digestive condition. Examples include insoluble fiber, fried or fatty foods, and high-sugar foods.

A person should see a doctor if they experience persistent or worsening symptoms of an upset stomach. A doctor will work to diagnose the cause and provide appropriate treatments.