In this article, we’ll discuss common home remedies for stomach aches, as well as how to know when you should see a medical provider.
Ginger is a long-standing remedy for an upset stomach. It is anti-inflammatory, safe to use in children and during pregnancy, and can even support better digestion. Research has found that ginger can provide relief for different types of stomach upset, including pregnancy sickness, motion sickness, and nausea caused by chemotherapy.
You can use ginger for a stomach ache in many ways:
- As a tea or carbonated beverage
- In supplement form
- As a lozenge or chewable candy
- In pickled form
Chamomile is a soothing herb that has been used for hundreds of years to calm stomach aches. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can promote muscle relaxation, which can be helpful for stomach pain caused by tension, cramping, or other digestive discomfort.
Chamomile tea can be consumed throughout the day as needed.
Peppermint is a frequent fix for stomach pain and nausea. The menthol found in peppermint may help to relieve pain and decrease nausea. It can be consumed as tea, gum, or candy. Inhaling peppermint essential oil can also have stomach-soothing effects.
The BRAT diet — which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast — is an effective way to soothe an upset stomach. It can also improve nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. BRAT works because it is low in fiber, which can irritate a digestive tract that is already unsettled. It is also low in salt and spice, which can make digestion harder.
The foods included in this diet can also loosely follow the categories. For example, “rice” can include cooked white rice, unsalted rice cakes, or rice crackers. The applesauce category can also include apple juice or baked apples, and toast can include plain bread and unsalted crackers.
You can follow a BRAT diet for several days if stomach ache is due to viral illness. If nausea or stomach upset persists, or you are unable to eat any foods, check in with a medical provider.
Depending on the cause of the stomach ache, some strains of probiotics may be effective at reducing or preventing stomach ache.
When stomach upset was caused by irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, constipation, antibiotic-caused diarrhea, or included generalized abdominal pain, some evidence suggests that probiotics can help. However, other studies show that they may be ineffective, highlighting the nuances in the specific cause of the stomach ache as well as the specific strains in the probiotic supplement.
Probiotic supplements are generally well-tolerated and come with few side effects, but it’s still best to check with a medical provider before starting dietary supplements.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be an effective digestive aid. It can help to calm stomach discomfort associated with indigestion, reflux, bloating, or fullness. While studies have not been done to analyze how ACV works, the acidic nature of apple cider vinegar and other types of vinegar may support better stomach pH.
You can dilute apple cider vinegar by mixing a tablespoon with a cup of water. If the taste is too strong, add a teaspoon of honey. You can sip it slowly or drink it quickly.
A heating pad applied to the abdomen when you have a stomach ache can provide relief. This is especially useful if symptoms are caused by cramping, tense muscles, or anxiety. Heating pads will not be helpful to relieve nausea.
Be sure to leave a layer or clothing or fabric between bare skin and the heating pad. Never go to sleep with a plugged in heating pad, and always take breaks, using heat for 20 minutes and then giving your skin a break.
Hydration is an important part of feeling well. Whatever the cause of a stomach ache, drinking clear fluids is important for preventing dehydration and may even help to relieve an upset stomach.
When dealing with a stomach ache, choose water or clear juices, like apple or white grape. You can also sip on sparkling water or lemon-lime soda to help soothe a nauseous stomach.
If vomiting occurs as part of a stomach ache, it is even more important than usual to drink fluids. Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly deplete the body of fluids and electrolytes, which can result in more severe illness.
OTC Nausea Medication
There are many options for over-the-counter nausea medication:
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) coats the stomach and protects the lining. This can ease pain and stomach upset for a variety of reasons, including from indigestion or from illness.
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) is an antihistamine that works as an antiemetic medicine. It is used to prevent vomiting. It can also reduce nausea and may be effective for motion sickness.
- Dextrose, levulose, and phosphoric acid (Emetrol) is an antiemetic medicine that is used to decrease vomiting and nausea. It works by reducing stomach contractions, which can decrease pain, cramping, and stomach upset.
Depending on the cause of stomach ache, a medical provider may recommend other OTC options.
Acupressure stimulates certain points in the body by utilizing moderate — but not painful — amounts of pressure. It has been studied for its potential ability to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy, and can effectively decrease nausea severity.
Acupressure can be done manually, either on yourself or by an acupuncturist. You can also wear an acupressure band around the wrist, which stimulates points associated with nausea and stomach upset. Acupressure wrist bands are sold at many pharmacies and may be effective for reducing nausea and vomiting in some cases.
Avoid Large Meals
If you are prone to indigestion, reflux, or other digestive problems, eating large meals can lead to stomach pain and painful bloating. By eating smaller, more frequent meals, you can decrease the pressure in the stomach and small intestine and allow food to digest more effectively.
Eating too quickly and not thoroughly chewing food can contribute to stomach pain. Eating irregular meals, which can lead to a large amount of food intake at one time, can also worsen stomach discomfort.
When to See a Medical Provider
Stomach problems are common and can occur for many reasons. But if you find that stomach upset, nausea, or other types of stomach aches are common or happen on a daily basis, you should see a medical provider. In some cases, chronic stomach pain can indicate more serious health problems.
If stomach ache is accompanied with vomiting or diarrhea, you should check in with a medical provider if it persists for more than a few days or if you are unable to keep fluids and foods down for more than a few hours.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials. (2020).
Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. (2000).
Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. (2011).
Antiemetic activity of volatile oil from Mentha spicata and Mentha × piperita in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. (2013).
Systematic review: probiotics in the management of lower gastrointestinal symptoms – an updated evidence‐based international consensus. (2018).
Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect. (2006).
Bismuth subsalicylate. (2016).
Effectiveness of acupressure on the experience of nausea and vomiting among patients receiving chemotherapy. (2018).
Effect of Acupressure on Nausea-Vomiting in Patients With Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia. (2016).
Association of Symptoms with Eating Habits and Food Preferences in Chronic Gastritis Patients: A Cross-Sectional Study. (2020).