No matter what the root cause—a bug, food sensitivity, stomach flu, stress, food allergies, constipation, morning sickness, or something else that’s ailing you—when you have an upset stomach, you want it to stop hurting and fast. Although there’s no silver bullet to soothe a stomachache, there are a handful of foods and natural remedies for an upset stomach that may help.
All nine of these are inexpensive and, chances are, you either keep most of these items stocked in your kitchen, or you can easily employ these techniques as soon as you need them.
1. Shoot Apple Cider Vinegar Mixed with Water
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the great neutralizers. Made by fermenting the sugar from apples, ACV promotes alkalinity, and, in turn, alleviates nausea. It can also reduce gas and bloating, and mitigate heartburn.
Mix a tablespoon of ACV into room-temperature water. If you can’t tolerate the sour flavor, use less water, hold your nose so you can’t taste it, and shoot the mixture back in a few seconds. If you enjoy the flavor, use more water and sip it at your leisure.
2. Drink Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera juice helps with acid indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and other stomach issues. Unless you’re challenged with the latter, try drinking 2 ounces at a time—up to 8 ounces in a day—and see how your body reacts. Because aloe vera juice is a natural laxative, drinking too much may cause you to go to the bathroom more.
3. Sip Ginger or Peppermint Tea
Ginger and peppermint are some of the best foods for upset stomach and can help relieve nausea, morning sickness, and abdominal discomfort. A review of six studies of 500 pregnant women found that ingesting 1 gram of ginger daily was linked with five times less nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Researchers have found that peppermint relaxes the muscles in the digestive tract and therefore reduces the severity of intestinal muscle spasms that can cause pain and diarrhea, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome, which is a chronic gut disorder that can cause stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
You can add ginger or mint to a variety of recipes, or you can drink it in herbal tea. Purchase premade tea bags and dunk them in hot water. Or, to make homemade tea with fresh herbs, steep a few chunks of ginger root, or a few mint sprigs, in 8 ounces of boiling water for two to five minutes. If you want to unlock additional oils from the herbs while the tea steeps, press them with a muddler, which is a tool that’s used to release flavors.
4. Apply Heat or Take a Warm Bath
Applying heat to your stomach or immersing yourself in warm water (also known as hydrotherapy) can increase circulation and relax the muscles to reduce tightness or cramps. Use a warm towel or a microwaveable compress—either store bought or make your own by filling a clean sock or pillowcase with uncooked rice—and microwave it on high for a minute or two. If you’re taking a warm bath, add 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt to the water and stay in the bath for 15 to 20 minutes to help draw out any inflammation.
5. Eat Fennel
Not sure what to eat with an upset stomach? Fennel, a flowering plant species in the carrot family, supports digestion, and reduces gas, bloating, cramping, and nausea from an upset stomach. The vegetable has a sweet anise or licorice flavor. It’s indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but it’s grown around the world and you can find it in most grocery stores. Eat it raw, roast it in the oven, steep it in boiling water to make a tea, or crunch on fennel seeds.
6. Be Sure You’re Hydrated
Dehydration impairs digestion, making it more difficult and less effective, which can cause stomach cramping and nausea. Hydration is important for overall health. If you experience an upset stomach during or following exercise, or you have an illness that’s causing you to vomit, it’s especially important to drink more water or beverages that contain electrolytes—sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.
Coconut water, a natural alternative to manmade electrolyte drinks, is high in potassium, and also contains sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. You can also make your own rehydration drink at home by adding 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 4 teaspoons of organic cane sugar to 1 liter of water. Sea salt is rich in electrolytes and trace minerals, and sugar is a simple carbohydrate that helps with quick electrolyte absorption.
Although some say you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to hydration. People who are more active may need to drink more. People with thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems may need to drink less. It’s important to work with your health care practitioner to understand how much water you need each day.
7. Massage Your Stomach While Taking Deep Breaths
Muscle constriction and constipation may cause stomach cramps. Gently massaging your abdomen can increase circulation and encourage elimination. While massaging, focus on the parts of your stomach that feel sore, and take care to not push or rub too hard. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to help relax your muscles and guide your mind away from the pain. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology revealed that deep breathing can alleviate acid reflux.
8. Drink Baking Soda in Water
The primary ingredient in many over-the-counter antacids is sodium bicarbonate, which is more commonly known as baking soda. If you have indigestion or feel nauseated, it’s easy and inexpensive to make your own antacid remedy at home to neutralize pH balance in the body. Simply stir 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into 4 ounces of warm water, and slowly drink the solution as a natural remedy for an upset stomach.
9. Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques
The biochemical and hormonal changes that result from emotional stress can negatively impact digestive health. When you’re under mild, anxiety-induced stress, you might report feeling like you have a “pit in your gut” or “butterflies in your stomach.” With more severe stress, you might experience indigestion, constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Chronic stress may contribute to the onset or worsening of more severe digestive issues, such as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach ulcers.
To help relieve or even prevent stomach challenges, do your best to manage stress through whatever stress-reduction technique works best for you—exercising, stretching, meditating, spending time outdoors, doing something creative, or breathing deeply.
Next time you need upset stomach relief, try one or several of these natural home remedies to soothe your digestive tract and alleviate the pain. If the pain persists, visit your health care practitioner so they can help determine if other stomachache remedies are needed to get you back to feeling your best.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Learn Deepak Chopra's simple, often surprising ways to feel less stressed and more energetic each day with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.