What To Eat When Stomach Is Upset

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The best foods to eat when your stomach is upset

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what to eat with an upset stomach

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  • For an upset stomach that involves diarrhea or vomiting, you should start by drinking clear liquids.
  • Spices like ginger or chamomile can soothe stomach discomfort.
  • And for easy-to-digest foods that are gentle on the stomach, try fruits like bananas and simple carbs like crackers and white rice.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Most of us have experienced an upset stomach, whether it’s from food poisoning, a stomach virus, or a medical condition like irritable bowel syndrome.

An upset stomach doesn’t just come with a sense of nausea. It can include other symptoms like diarrhea, cramping, and vomiting. But depending on what you eat, you can either help or make those symptoms worse.

While having an upset stomach can be painful and uncomfortable, you can usually treat it yourself at home. Here are some guidelines on which foods are best for settling an upset stomach.

If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, start with clear liquids

Clear liquids are the easiest things for your body to digest because they don’t leave any undigested residue behind in your intestines. Plus, they’re an easy way to stay hydrated if you’re experiencing fluid loss from diarrhea or vomiting.

For something to count as a clear liquid, it can have a color, but you have to be able to see through it.

Some clear liquids you can try are:

  • Clear broth, such as bouillon (avoid cream-based soups until you feel better)
  • Clear sodas like seltzer
  • Diluted apple or grape juice
  • An electrolyte salt drink like Pedialyte
  • Tea
  • Herbal teas like peppermint and chamomile, which can also calm nausea

Other, more solid, options that will be easy on the stomach are:

  • Jell-O
  • Popsicles with no milk or fruit pulp

You can start by slowly eating or drinking small amounts of clear liquids. As the symptoms improve and you’re able to keep food down, you can gradually increase the amount.

Keep in mind that you should not stay on the clear liquid diet for more than a few days, as it does not give you enough calories or nutrients. If you are still unable to keep food down, you should visit your doctor.

Try spices like ginger for symptoms relief

Ginger has been used for centuries to treat digestive issues, and it works especially well to ease nausea and vomiting. Some studies even suggest that ginger can work as well as a prescription anti-nausea medication.

You can find ginger capsules at stores that sell herbal supplements. Most clinical studies use between 250 and 500 mg of ginger to control nausea. You can also buy ginger tea or add sliced ginger root to boiling water to make your own ginger tea.

Chamomile is another natural remedy for norovirus symptoms. Chamomile has been shown to reduce vomiting, but it doesn’t work as well as ginger to control nausea.

Stick to simple carbs like white rice and crackers

If you aren’t vomiting or having serious diarrhea, you don’t necessarily need a liquid diet, but you should still aim for easy-to-digest foods. This means you’ll want to eat foods low in fiber since fiber can worsen diarrhea and nausea.

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There are two types of fiber:

  1. Soluble fiber. This type of fiber includes foods like oats, beans, and carrots. Soluble fiber is not a good option for an upset stomach because it makes your stomach empty more slowly.
  2. Insoluble fiber. This includes whole-wheat flour, nuts, and potatoes. It’s best to avoid insoluble fiber when your stomach is upset, as it can make diarrhea worse.

Whole grains, like oats and brown rice, are generally great for health because they contain both types of fiber. However, this is not what you want when you’re trying to relieve an upset stomach.

“Simple refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, or crackers are often better tolerated” by the digestive tract, says Smith. This is because refined grains are low in fiber and they pass more quickly through your digestive tract. This means refined grains won’t sit in your stomach for long periods of time, which can trigger nausea.

Some examples of simple carbs that you can eat on an upset stomach are:

  • Pasta
  • White bread
  • Crackers, such as saltines

Add easy-to-digest fruit like bananas

Simple carbohydrates are easy to digest but don’t provide the vitamins and minerals your body will need to heal from an upset stomach. Adding fruit to your diet can be a great option to get more nutrients.

When choosing fruits, it’s best to stick with lower-fiber options, as fiber slows your digestive process and leaves residue in your digestive tract, which can irritate your bowels and make diarrhea worse. The peels and seeds in fruit generally hold the most fiber.

Smith recommends choosing peeled or skinless fruits such as a banana or applesauce. “These are usually easier to digest and offer ample vitamins and minerals,” Smith says.

Bananas in particular may be a good option, as they are rich in potassium, and diarrhea can cause you to lose potassium.

Eat small meals

When your stomach is upset, you should avoid eating big meals. “Typically, small frequent meals are better tolerated with an upset stomach,” says Kristen Smith, MS, RD, a dietician and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is because small meals empty from your stomach more quickly – when food sits in your stomach too long, you are more likely to become nauseous.

You may also want to temporarily cut down how much you eat overall, Smith says. It may help to eat about half the food you would normally eat, and eat often throughout the day until you start to feel better, Smith says.

“Listen to your stomach and hunger cues to help determine the amount of food you can individually tolerate,” says Smith.

Below are some foods that may help ease upset stomach symptoms.

Avoid fried foods and dairy until fully healed

When you start to feel better from an upset stomach and want to expand your diet, there are certain foods you should stay away from until you’re fully healed.

“Dairy-rich and fried foods are definitely food groups you want to avoid when you experience stomach discomfort,” Smith says. This is because these food groups are generally high in fat, which can slow down your stomach emptying.

When your stomach empties slowly, you are more likely to have symptoms like nausea and stomach pain.

If your stomach is feeling upset, be careful with what you eat and drink and make sure to listen to your body’s hunger cues.

“Don’t stress if your food intake is decreased for a few days,” Smith says, “However, you should seek the guidance of a physician if you notice yourself eating significantly lesser amounts of food for more than a week.”

Related articles from Health Reference:

  • The best natural remedies for a stomach ache, according to agastroenterologist
  • What over-the-counter medicine you should take based on the kind of stomach ache you have

Madeline Kennedy

Madeline Kennedy is a health writer for Insider covering a wide range of topics including reproductive and sexual health, mental health, nutrition, and infectious disease. Before joining Insider, Madeline worked as a health news writer for Reuters, and a domestic violence therapist. She has a master’s degree in social work from UPenn and is interested in the intersection of health and social justice.

What to Eat (or Not) When Your Stomach Hurts

What to Eat

When your stomach hurts, cramps, or you feel like you might throw up, the last thing you want to do is eat something that makes it worse. It can be even harder to know what to try if you’ve been vomiting or have diarrhea. But some foods can give you nutrients you need without making you feel worse.

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Start With Liquids

Start With Liquids

2/15

If you can’t keep solid food down, there’s no point in trying to eat. Things like sports drinks, clear broth, or coconut water have minerals you need like potassium, calcium, and sodium (salt).

Try: Bananas

Try: Bananas

3/15

They’re easy to digest and have lots of potassium — an important mineral you may start to lose if you have diarrhea or have been vomiting.

Try: Rice

Try: Rice

4/15

Make sure it’s plain white rice. Wild, brown, or black rice — generally healthy — are harder to digest, especially on an upset stomach. Starchy, low-fiber foods like white rice also can help firm up your stool and stop the diarrhea that can come along with stomach trouble.

Try: Applesauce

Try: Applesauce

5/15

It’s easy to digest and has plenty of nutrients, including pectin — a kind of fiber that dissolves in water. It can add bulk to your stool and help get rid of your diarrhea.

Try: Toast

Try: Toast

6/15

Simple white-bread toast is better than fiber-rich whole grains when you have an upset stomach. Whole grain has a kind of fiber that’s good when you’re not sick, but it can make an unhappy tummy worse, especially if you have diarrhea or nausea.

Next Steps

Next Steps

7/15

If those foods stay down, you can start to branch out to things like baked potatoes and maybe some boneless, skinless chicken breast. Once you’re feeling better and haven’t thrown up or had diarrhea in 24 to 48 hours, you can try to add in some fruits and vegetables.

Don

Don’t Eat: Dairy

8/15

Milk, cheese, and ice cream are all no-no’s with an upset stomach. They’re hard for your body to digest, in part because they’re high in fat. Plain, nonfat yogurt may be OK sometimes, but start with a little and see how it goes.

Don

Don’t Eat: Fried Foods

9/15

These have lots of oil and fat, so they’re harder to digest. Fried foods aren’t great for you even when you’re healthy, but they can make an already upset stomach even worse.

Don

Don’t Drink: Soda

10/15

The bubbles can be a problem because gas gets into your digestive system. And if lots of sugar hits you all at once, it can make diarrhea worse. Small sips of a flat soda may be OK.

Don

Don’t Eat: Spicy Food

11/15

It’s probably the last thing you feel like having with an upset stomach — and there’s a reason for that. Your digestive system may have to work harder to digest it, and that can make your rumbly tummy worse. Stick to the bland stuff until you feel better.

Don

Don’t Eat: Raw Fruits and Vegetables

12/15

They’re great when you’re healthy. But when you have an upset stomach, the fiber in them — which normally makes your poop easy to pass — can make things worse. It’s best to wait until you feel better to add them back into your diet. Start with small portions of cooked vegetables and juices.

Keep Your Belly Happy

Keep Your Belly Happy

13/15

A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help keep your digestive system healthy and your immune system strong and ready to fight off bugs that might upset your stomach. And watch for triggers — anything from foods that have acid like tomatoes, to fizzy drinks, to stress at work.

If You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease

If You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease

14/15

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions are based in your immune system and involve a lot more than an upset digestive system, though that can be one of the symptoms. Food doesn’t cause IBD, and there’s no single diet that helps everyone with IBD. But it can help to keep a food journal so that you learn what your trigger foods are, then you can avoid them.

When to Call Your Doctor

When to Call Your Doctor

15/15

Everyone gets an upset stomach from time to time, but talk to your doctor if you’re losing weight without trying, you don’t have much of an appetite, you’re fatigued or have cramping, bleeding, pain, or other symptoms, or it goes on for too long.

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Cleveland Clinic: “Gastrointestinal Soft Diet Overview.”

Familydoctor.org: “BRAT Diet: Recovering From an Upset Stomach.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action network: “What is diarrhea and when does it occur?”

Mayo Clinic: “Indigestion.”

National Cancer Institute: “What to do when you have loose stools

National Heart Association: “Angina (Chest Pain).”

National Health Service Choices: “Good foods to help your digestion.”

Virginia Tech Schiffert Health Center: “Upset Stomach and

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: “Diet, Nutrition, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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