Eating bland foods and avoiding trigger foods may help manage a sensitive stomach and the underlying cause. Bland foods include broth, eggs, certain cooked vegetables, and lean meat. Foods to avoid include spicy, fried, or acidic products.

A sensitive stomach may occur due to a stomach infection, food intolerance, indigestion, or long-term condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

This article examines the causes of a sensitive stomach, foods to eat and avoid, treatments for the underlying cause, and when to contact a doctor.

Eggs and spinach, which are foods that are good to eat with a sensitive stomach -2.Share on Pinterest
ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

Eating a bland diet may help people who have a sensitive diet. A bland diet consists of foods that are easy to digest. This gives the gastrointestinal tract a chance to rest, results in fewer bowel movements, and is less acidic.

Bland, easily digestible foods typically have a soft consistency and are low in fiber. These foods are not spicy or raw.

Examples of bland foods include:

  • broth
  • easy to digest, cooked vegetables, such as spinach or carrots
  • low fat dairy products
  • lean meat, such as skinless chicken or fish
  • tofu
  • eggs
  • cream of wheat
  • puddings
  • fruit juices

People may want to avoid non-bland foods with a sensitive stomach. These include:

  • fried foods
  • spicy foods
  • nuts and seeds
  • acidic fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges, and berries
  • non-lean meat, such as beef and chicken with skin
  • wholegrains
  • high fat dairy, such as whole milk, ice cream, or cream
  • vegetables that cause gas, such as cabbage, cauliflower, or onion
  • pickles
  • strong cheese
  • sauces and dressings
  • alcohol

People with certain conditions, such as IBS, may want to avoid specific trigger foods. This may include gluten, which may occur in bread, pasta, and cereals.

People with IBS may also want to limit or avoid foods containing FODMAPs, a type of carbohydrate that can be difficult to digest, such as:

  • certain fruits, including apples, pears, mango, and plums
  • certain vegetables, including garlic, onions, mushrooms, and beans
  • dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • sweeteners such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol

A food intolerance may cause a sensitive stomach. They may occur if the digestive system cannot break down food as expected.

This may occur due to problems with digestive enzymes, reactions to naturally occurring substances, or sensitivity to food additives.

Additionally, people may be able to eat a small amount of the food but may not tolerate larger quantities. Food intolerance may cause stomach discomfort, bloating, and changes in bowel movements.

Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, may cause a sensitive stomach, and individuals may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

A range of gastrointestinal conditions may cause a sensitive stomach, including IBS and irritable bowel disease (IBD).

IBS is a disturbance to typical bowel function and may cause symptoms after eating or experiencing stress. Symptoms include:

IBD includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms of IBD can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • blood in stools
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

Gastroparesis refers to delayed gastric emptying, where the food does not leave the stomach as quickly as it should and slows digestion. Symptoms may include upper abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and feeling full shortly after eating.

Indigestion is the term for a group of symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Indigestion may make people feel uncomfortably full shortly after eating, and they could experience abdominal pain, nausea, and bloating.

The duration of a sensitive stomach depends on the underlying cause. An infection, such as stomach flu, will usually resolve by itself without treatment.

Conditions, such as IBS and IBD, may be long-term conditions that people will need to manage, but treatments can help provide symptom relief.

Gastroparesis can be a long-term condition, but treatments may help relieve symptoms. In some cases, treating the cause of gastroparesis may resolve the condition.

Indigestion may resolve with treatments, and people may be able to prevent further indigestion with lifestyle changes, such as:

  • chewing food slowly and properly
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding exercise straight after eating
  • avoiding eating late at night
  • limiting the intake of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • avoiding smoking, if applicable
  • managing stress

Treating or managing the cause of a sensitive stomach may help relieve symptoms. Treatments will depend on the underlying cause but may include:

  • dietary changes, such as avoiding trigger foods, adjusting fiber intake, or eating smaller meals more frequently
  • managing stress and practicing relaxation techniques
  • medications, such as antacids, medications for constipation, diarrhea, or nausea, or medications to promote stomach emptying
  • pain relief medication to ease abdominal pain
  • psychological therapies, such as counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy, to help manage symptoms

People with persistent or worsening symptoms of a sensitive stomach can contact a doctor.

If individuals have indigestion lasting more than 2 weeks, it is best to talk with a healthcare professional.

People will also need to contact a doctor if they have any severe symptoms, such as blood in the stool, black and tarry stool, or unexplained weight loss.

If a person has a stomach bug that leads to dehydration, they need immediate medical care.

A sensitive stomach may occur due to a stomach bug, indigestion, or gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS.

Eating bland foods, avoiding trigger foods, and staying hydrated may help manage a sensitive stomach.

A sensitive stomach can be temporary, but for long-term conditions, people may have to manage symptoms with diet and lifestyle changes and medications.