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How to settle an upset stomach

Most of us experience an upset stomach occasionally. The discomfort is usually temporary and not serious. Here are some tips on what to eat when you are suffering from stomach ache.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 19, 2010 14:05 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Most of us experience an upset stomach occasionally. The discomfort is usually temporary and not serious. You usually get a mildly upset stomach from eating too much, too soon. But if the trouble starts after consuming food and is accompanied by diarrhoea or vomiting, the causes could be food poisoning or viruses.

Causes and symptoms
An upset stomach could be caused by food poisoning, a virus infection, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and certain medications. A chronic upset stomach can be caused by allergies to foods like wheat and milk, ulcers, certain cancers, Crohn’s disease, etc. Severe stomach-ache can be due to appendicitis and pancreatitis.

Gastro intestinal reflux can sometimes cause heartburn and severe abdominal pain. These cause symptoms such as nausea, constipation, vomiting, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhoea, and dehydration.

Soothing foods
The following foods have a soothing effect on the stomach:
Peppermint: It is one of the most soothing foods for an upset stomach and also helps calm nausea. Peppermint tea provides relief for women suffering from morning sickness.
Cardamom seeds: It controls intestinal gas and relieves stomach ache.
Coriander seeds: It helps to relieve indigestion and gas.
Fennel seeds: It relieves a bloated stomach, indigestion and gas
Ginger: It prevents stomach ailments and can be taken raw or in the form of ginger tea.
Banana: It promotes a feeling of satiety, is light on the stomach and replenishes essential nutrients lost due to stomach ailments.

Don’t skip meals
We all tend to skip food altogether while suffering from an upset stomach. Unfortunately, skipping meals not only depletes our energy levels but also weakens our immune system, which needs to be strong in order to fight infection.

However, if we make the right choices and avoid foods that act as triggers, we can cope up with stomach problems better.

Follow these tips
Avoid dairy products, caffeine, spicy foods, nuts, tomatoes, meat, alcoholic beverages and, most importantly, raw food (salads and fruits except bananas and grated apples).

Eat in moderation. Try to avoid long gaps and fasting as acid accumulation can cause stomach ache.

Avoid vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbages when you have an upset stomach.

Do not skip breakfast. Eat a couple of bananas for breakfast instead of skipping it.

Switch to green or herbal tea from normal tea or coffee.

Add buttermilk to your diet as it helps the friendly bacteria that promote digestion in your stomach.

Rehydrate your system with coconut water or lime juice with rock salt.

If you have an acid stomach (or a burning sensation in your stomach), try eating half a cup of overcooked rice with curd. It can soothe your stomach immediately.

Avoid drinking beer as it will double the stomach acids. A salty broth of chicken or vegetables is recommended if you have nausea. The salt is especially good to restore electrolytes (if you are vomiting), so that you don’t get dehydrated.

Avoid raw vegetable juices and raw fruit juices, especially citrus fruits.

Avoid high fibre bran biscuits and cereal if you have an upset stomach as you may not be able to tolerate fibre.

Besides these, yogurt, oatmeal, soft fruits and vegetables are other options to relieve stomach upset. If symptoms persist with no improvement for more than a day, and are accompanied with diarrhoea, severe stomach cramps and fever, consult your physician immediately.