4 Natural Home Remedies for an Upset Stomach, According to a Dietitian
We've all experienced the occasional upset stomach—pain, bloating, belching or cramping—and we often know exactly why we wound up in the situation. An excessive intake of fried or high-fat meals, drinking alcohol or going to bed too soon after eating: any (or all) of these can cause a stomachache to pop up. Still, while we might know what causes gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, we sometimes find ourselves doing it anyway.
So when an ounce of prevention is long past being an option, what can we do to relieve an already-upset stomach? Many over-the-counter medications offer quick relief, but these tried-and-true home remedies can also be effective go-to solutions. Here are a few different types of stomachaches, plus easy ways to help find relief for each.
The Fastest Ways to Relieve Your Stomach Pain
For Bloating and Gas: Sip Some Seltzer
People commonly assume that carbonated beverages are a leading cause of painful bloating, but that's not necessarily true for everyone. Carbonation often makes us burp, and burping is the fastest way to alleviate stomach pain and upper-abdominal bloating caused by too much-trapped gas. Remember those Alka-Seltzer commercials from the 1970s with the famous "plop, plop, fizz, fizz" tagline? A study published in 2020 in Minerva Gastroenterology confirmed that carbonated water, known as mineral water in many countries, can indeed be helpful for some people with dyspepsia—aka uncomfortable indigestion. For most of us, seltzer will do the trick just fine.
For Acid Reflux: Try Baking Soda in Water
Got acid indigestion, and you've run out of antacids? Try mixing ½ teaspoon of baking soda with 4 ounces of water for a homemade antacid tonic that should help neutralize acid reflux within minutes. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, chemically reacts to acids on contact, neutralizing them and producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. It's important to note that antacids don't stop acid reflux per se, but they help ensure that the pH of the reflux is non-acid, making it a lot less painful.
Related: Natural Ways to Prevent Heartburn
For Nausea: Chew on Ginger
Ginger root is one of the better-studied natural remedies for stomach upset, particularly nausea. It's known that ginger might be beneficial in relieving nausea in pregnancy, chemotherapy patients and people experiencing nausea and vomiting after surgery, per a 2020 article published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Its efficacy for abdominal pain and/or nausea seems to derive from a compound called gingerol, which has antispasmodic and muscle-relaxing effects. This suggests that nausea caused by indigestion can also be eased with ginger.
You can get ginger in the form of tea, ginger chews or real ginger ale— though, without standardized dosing, you may need to experiment with what an effective form and dose are for you. Consult your healthcare provider before supplementing with concentrated ginger extract, especially if you take medications with a blood-thinning effect.
For Over-Fullness: Find Some Fennel
If you frequent Indian restaurants, you may have noticed that many offered candy dishes filled with brightly colored little candied nuggets by the exit. These may have been candy-coated fennel seeds, traditionally used as a natural digestif to alleviate indigestion or bloating—particularly from overeating. Fennel is a vegetable in the same botanical family as carrots and parsley, and its licorice-flavored seeds have long been associated with alleviating post-meal bloating.
Chewing fennel seeds and sipping fennel tea are common remedies in some Asian cultures while heating herbal poultices with fennel and applying them on the skin has been part of traditional Chinese medicine. Candied fennel seeds and fennel teas are widely available for purchase online. Fennel-derived colic remedies may pose a safety issue for infants. Still, they shouldn't be used without a green light from your child's pediatrician, per a 2020 review published in the International Journal of Pediatrics.
Like many traditional remedies, fennel hasn't been studied much in a scientifically controlled manner in human subjects. However, the literature is full of studies of the digestive effects of fennel oil added to cow and broiler chicken feed and rat and guinea pig chow. But a few randomized, controlled human studies in China have investigated various fennel preparations. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Sichuan University found that fennel tea (5 grams of fennel seeds in about ½ cup of boiling water may help with bowel motility. Even more so, a 2020 publication in Surgery found that heated fennel therapy (500 grams of fennel, heated in a microwave, wrapped in a towel and placed on the belly could promote gastrointestinal motility following abdominal surgery.
The Bottom Line
While time might be what you need to find relief from an uncomfortable stomachache, there are plenty of science-backed home remedies you can try out to help you find relief faster. Whether it's acid reflux or nausea causing your stomachache, bloating or a general feeling of being too full, try out these helpful tips for easing your upset stomach.
However, you should be aware that stomach symptoms could indicate more severe conditions. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have consistent stomach pain and other symptoms like nausea and vomiting.