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Have an Upset Stomach? 5 Natural Ways That May Provide Relief

By Dr. Candace Mathers, ND

In this article:


We’ve all been there at one time in our lives. You decide to have a small snack and find that you’ve overindulged quite a bit more than you intended. Or maybe the new cuisine that you’ve been dying to try doesn’t seem to agree with you. Perhaps, you’ve been dealing with an upset stomach for such a long period that you’re not even sure what caused it anymore.

An upset stomach, also called dyspepsia or indigestion, usually refers to pain and discomfort in the upper abdominal region. It can often include a burning sensation in the chest and throat, bloating in the upper abdominal area, feeling full although you haven’t eaten much of your meal, nausea, and even vomiting.

An upset stomach usually occurs after overindulging in rich foods or drinks, like alcoholic beverages, but this isn’t always the case. An upset stomach can result from a pathogen like a virus or bacteria and has also been linked to stress, an improper balance between harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome, and even sleep disturbances.

While having an upset stomach can be uncomfortable and disheartening, fortunately, some natural ways may help alleviate the pain and discomfort. These include gingerpeppermintdigestive enzymesfennel, and avoiding food triggers.

‌‌‌‌Ginger

When it comes to natural upset stomach relief, ginger stays near the top of the list. Ginger, a member of the Zingiberaceae family, represents an aromatic, pungent flowering herb routinely used as a spice in dishes from many cultures.

While it has been used for centuries to make foods taste delicious, research has shown it to have a much more potent application: reducing nausea and vomiting. For example, research suggests that specific compounds in ginger, known as gingerols and shogaols, prevent activation of the serotonin pathways in the gut.

When the serotonin pathway gets activated in the gut, serotonin is released, stimulating the vagal nerve. That leads to an increase in nausea and vomiting. Ginger helps to prevent serotonin activation, which, in turn, prevents vagal nerve stimulation. That leads to less nausea and vomiting, a common complaint among those suffering from an upset stomach.

Ginger also has been shown to help improve gastric motility, the time in which your stomach breaks down the food you eat and moves it along throughout your digestive system. Improved gastric motility reduces the sense of discomfort and fullness that often accompanies an upset stomach.

An upset stomach has also been associated with low-grade inflammation, especially when considered chronic or occurring over a long period. Ginger represents a potent anti-inflammatory that helps to reduce the discomfort associated with an upset stomach.

While ginger preparations come in many different forms ranging from fresh to juiced and can be helpful, dried ginger may have the most benefit for an upset stomach. Using ginger as a spice in your meals can also support a calm digestive system.

Ginger The Mighty Root: Read more.

‌‌‌‌Peppermint

There’s nothing quite as soothing and refreshing as peppermint, especially when you have an upset stomach. Peppermint, a member of the Lamiaceae family, or mint family, has been used for ages in traditional medicine for relief from gastrointestinal ailments and with good reason.

Studies show that ingesting peppermint oil can be extremely helpful when it comes to upset stomach relief. Studies show that consuming peppermint oil can be extremely helpful for upset stomach relief, likely due to powerful compounds found in the plant called flavonoids. These compounds like menthol, menthone, and carvone have a wide range of benefits ranging from antiviral and antibacterial properties to reducing inflammation and facilitating smooth muscle relaxation.

For example, ingesting peppermint oil reduces abdominal pain due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and upset stomach. Peppermint oil relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive system, reducing pain caused by abdominal smooth muscle spasms. Similarly, peppermint tea offers a soothing response.

Peppermint is a gentle anti-inflammatory that helps to calm the irritation associated with an upset stomach. The cooling properties of menthol remain especially soothing for those suffering from gastrointestinal distress.

Both aromatherapy and oral peppermint oil have been proven to reduce mental and emotional stress that contributes significantly to an upset stomach.

Peppermint Oil—For IBS and More: Read more.

‌‌‌‌Fennel

Fennel has been used for centuries in folk medicine for everything from respiratory illness and hormonal disorders to helping lactating mothers produce more milk for their nursing infants. Fennel also has a solid tradition in herbal medicine for addressing gastrointestinal issues like an upset stomach.

Fennel represents a flavorful plant in the Apiaceae family that includes other edible plants like celeryparsley, and carrots. While used to make delicious dishes globally, this unique plant also has a role in upset stomach relief.

Fennel has potent compounds like anethole, limonene, and fenchone that help in upset stomach relief.

Research suggests that fennel helps relieve an upset stomach by reducing abdominal smooth muscle spasms. Fennel helps inhibit a chemical messenger molecule called acetylcholine, which causes smooth muscle spasms in the stomach and intestines. By working in much the same way as peppermint, fennel may help to reduce smooth muscle spasms and reduce the pain caused by an upset stomach.

Fennel also has promising research that suggests it may play a key role in protecting stomach tissues from alcohol-induced damage, which would be beneficial for anyone whose overindulgence has led to an upset stomach.

Often enjoyed as a relaxing herbal tea, fennel can also be ingested in other forms, like fennel seeds or supplements like capsules.

Here Are 15 Natural Ways to Tackle Your Digestive Issues: Read more.

‌‌‌‌Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes represent a great way to help relieve an upset stomach naturally. Often, an upset stomach occurs due to delayed gastric emptying. That means that the food that you have eaten takes longer than typical to break down in your stomach and pass into the small intestines on the next phase of its digestive journey.

Delayed gastric emptying contributes to that feeling of fullness and discomfort so often associated with an upset stomach. It can also lead to acid reflux. Sometimes, gastric emptying gets delayed due to a lack of digestive enzyme production or lowered digestive enzyme function. That is especially true in the older population.

Digestive enzymes help to break down the food you eat at each stage of digestion. A lack of digestive enzymes makes it harder for your body to break down food and turn it into energy. As we age, the body may produce fewer or less potent digestive enzymes, leading to an upset stomach due to poor digestion.

Studies suggest that taking digestive enzymes regularly can help reduce the symptoms of an upset stomach. One study showed abdominal pain and flatulence (gassiness) decrease in older people when taking digestive enzymes daily.

A Quick Guide to Digestive Enzymes: Read more.

‌‌‌‌Avoiding Food Triggers

One of the best ways to deal with an upset stomach is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. This can be done by avoiding certain trigger foods that you may be sensitive to or that you know cause an upset stomach. Certain foods, like processed factory-made foods, are more likely to contribute to an upset stomach. This could be due to low levels of fiber, the increased amounts of sodium, or the number of preservatives present in processed foods.

Foods high in saturated fat also get commonly linked to upset stomach symptoms like nausea and abdominal discomfort. Studies even suggest that wheat-containing foods, like bread, crackers, and pasta, may be linked to a higher incidence of upset stomach in people who do not have Celiac disease but may have undiagnosed wheat or gluten sensitivity.

Alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate also play a role in indigestion for those who are sensitive to these foods. One study found that caffeine consumption through coffee invoked symptoms of an upset stomach in 53% of participants who already suffered from chronic stomach pain.

Highly acidic foods, like citrus and tomatoes, or spicy foods, like jalapeños, have also been found to aggravate an upset stomach and increase heartburn incidence. Avoiding foods that you know are more likely to cause an upset stomach can help prevent any future stomach pain or discomfort.

Whether you’ve had an upset stomach for a short while or you’ve been suffering for longer, the pain and discomfort caused by an upset stomach can take the enjoyment out of your life. When you’re suffering from an upset stomach, the pain, discomfort, bloating, nausea, and vomiting can seem endless, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Fortunately, there are natural ways to find relief from an upset stomach. Incorporating ginger, peppermint, digestive enzymes, fennel into your diet, and avoiding known food triggers can help to greatly reduce the symptoms of an upset stomach and may bring about much-needed relief.

References:

  1. Labanski A, Langhorst J, Engler H, Elsenbruch S. Stress and the brain-gut axis in functional and chronic-inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases: A transdisciplinary challenge. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2020;111:104501. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104501
  2. Shin A, al e. The Gut Microbiome in Adult and Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2019;17(2):256-273.
  3. Zhen-Peng H, al e. Correlation between sleep impairment and functional dyspepsia. Journal of International Medical Research. 2020;48(7).
  4. Hu M. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17(1):105. doi:10.3748/wjg.v17.i1.105
  5. Enck P. Functional Dyspepsia. Nature Reviews Disease Primers. 2017;3.
  6. Mao Q, Xu X, Cao S et al. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods. 2019;8(6):185. doi:10.3390/foods8060185
  7. McKay D, Blumberg J. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research. 2006;20(8):619-633. doi:10.1002/ptr.1936
  8. Khanna R, MacDonald J, Levesque B. Peppermint Oil for the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014;48(6):505-512. doi:10.1097/mcg.0b013e3182a88357
  9. Duboc H, Latrache S, Nebunu N, Coffin B. The Role of Diet in Functional Dyspepsia Management. Front Psychiatry. 2020;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00023
  10. Duncanson K, Burrows T, Walker M, Talley N. Food and Functional Dyspepsia: A Systematic Review. Gastroenterology. 2017;152(5):S303. doi:10.1016/s0016-5085(17)31301-x
  11. Sudha K, Kumar V, Bennur S, Dhanasekar K. A prospective, randomized, open-label, placebo-controlled comparative study of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30,6086 with digestive enzymes in improving indigestion in geriatric population. J Family Med Prim Care. 2020;9(2):1108. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_922_19
  12. Badgujar S, Patel V, Bandivdekar A. Foeniculum vulgareMill: A Review of Its Botany, Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, Contemporary Application, and Toxicology. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:1-32. doi:10.1155/2014/842674

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