Most people have experienced an upset stomach at some point in their lives. They can be uncomfortable and get in the way of your – or your child’s – daily routine.
There are some medications that can help, but there are also many natural remedies that help ease things like stomach cramps, gas, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and pain in your abdomen.
“Depending on the nature of the abdominal pain, some natural remedies can be just as effective as medications,” said Russell Horton, DO, a physician with Banner Health in Queen Creek, AZ.
Read on to learn some of the common causes of stomachaches and natural ways you can calm your tummy.
Common causes of stomachaches
There are dozens of reasons why adults and children might get a tummy ache. Most causes aren’t serious, and many times the symptoms pass quickly. In more serious cases, such as chronic illness or disease, you’ll want to be seen and treated by your health care provider.
Some possible causes for stomachaches and abdominal pain include:
- Digestion issues, including symptoms of indigestion, gas, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, food allergies or intolerances and food poisoning
- Inflammation caused by an irritation or infection, such as the stomach flu or kidney stones
- Menstruation (AKA your period) and pregnancy (such as morning sickness)
- Digestive system diseases, including chronic acid reflux (burning feeling), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
9 natural remedies for an upset stomach
Next time your stomach isn’t feeling right, try some of the following home remedies.
You lose water throughout the day from sweating, breathing and digesting food—but especially if you’re experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. It’s crucial to replace these fluids to prevent dehydration, which can be more serious in young children and older adults.
Sip on some water or suck on some ice chips throughout the day to keep the fluids going.
[Also check out 5 Tips to Prevent Dehydration When You Have Diarrhea or Vomiting.]
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been used since ancient times to treat tummy aches.
You can chew on little slivers of freshly peeled ginger root, boil it to make ginger tea, drink ginger ales or try ginger chews or supplements.
Peppermint is an herb that has been used to sooth stomachaches, indigestion and a number of other digestive conditions.
Try drinking peppermint tea or sucking on peppermint candy.
Chamomile (along with peppermint and ginger) decaf teas are great options to help calm a restless stomach. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties.
Tea may not be everyone’s cup of … er, tea. Add a little honey and lemon juice, and you will be more likely to take a sip.
Essential oils are an aromatherapy treatment that can help relieve some day-to-day discomforts. Peppermint, ginger, lavender and cinnamon oils are good options.
You can diffuse them, use steam inhalation and apply topically; however, use these products with caution. And don’t ever swallow oils.
“It’s important to watch for any reactions, especially when putting a new product on your child,” Dr. Horton said. “Also, keep in mind there is no hard data on how effective these remedies are so if you have prolonged symptoms or symptoms worsen, contact your health care provider.”
Drawing a warm bath when you have an upset stomach is another solution. You can also put a heating pad or hot towel on your tummy. The warmth can help relax muscles and ease discomfort.
Chronic stomachaches might be a result of constipation. Adjust your diet by eliminating dairy and increasing high-fiber fruits and vegetables. But don’t overdo them!
“Potentially eating too much fiber could disrupt your gut and further tummy troubles,” Dr. Horton said. “You could see increased gas and gas pain as well.”
Fiber requirements differ based on age and gender, so check what the actual requirements are before setting goals for you or your child.
Conversely, if you’re having the opposite problem (i.e., diarrhea), the BRAT diet can help. BRAT stands for banana, rice, applesauce and toast. All of these bland foods are low in fiber but starchier, which makes them especially helpful if you’re making several trips to the bathroom or if you don’t really have an appetite. Cooked cereals (like oatmeal or cream of wheat) are also a good option when prepared with water, not dairy.
Apple cider vinegar
Last, but not least, you can try diluting a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a cup of warm water. This may help relieve gas or indigestion and keep the bacteria in the gut healthy. Taking undiluted apple cider vinegar isn’t recommended, because it can irritate the throat and damage the enamel of your teeth.
When should you see your health care provider for stomach pain?
An upset stomach is a common problem that usually gets better in a few hours or a day (24 hours) at most.
Although many types of abdominal pain can easily be treated at home, seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- Chronic or severe abdominal pain that makes it difficult to do normal activities
- Bloody or black stool or blood in vomit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Signs of dehydration
- Trouble breathing
- Diarrhea and vomiting that lasts for more than two days
“People who experience frequent or long-term stomach issues may have something more going on than just a common stomach bug.” Dr. Horton. “The best thing to do is to see your health care provider to be screened.”
Stomachaches are an uncomfortable but common problem that we all will face at some point throughout our lives. Potential causes can range from a stomach bug and constipation to digestive system diseases and food allergies.
In addition to medications, there are thankfully many quick home remedies that may help alleviate your symptoms. However, call your doctor if your stomachache includes bloody stools or vomit, difficulty breathing, chronic and acute pain and severe nausea and vomiting.
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