Naturally Prevent and Treat an Upset Stomach
“Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea!” The ridiculous Pepto commercial always comes to mind when I think about upsets in the digestive system. I have an incredibly sensitive stomach, and am prone to getting esophageal spasms (usually they kick up with my heartburn). These issues have prompted me to research ways to prevent, and also treat them naturally.
Preventing Digestive Problems
What You Eat Matters
What you eat is crucial to your digestive health, especially if you are sensitive to foods.
Cut Back on Grease and Fats: This is a must for people with digestive problems. Try replacing greasy foods with lean meats and grains. Adding a small amount of fiber to your diet is helpful as well, but should be added gradually.
Maintain a Predictable Diet: Your body will often adjust to certain eating habits. Sudden changes in schedule, or the types of food you eat, can throw the entire digestive process off. That’s why adding supplements like fiber should also be done gradually.
Eat Slowly, Chew Well, Stop When You Are Full: Stuffing your stomach is a sure-fire way to stir up all kinds of unwanted internal trouble. Don’t shovel your food. Take time to eat slowly and chew well. Eating too quickly doesn’t give your stomach enough time to tell you when you are full. People often feel bloated, tired and slightly nauseated when they eat this way.
Measure Your Results: If you are having a lot of digestive problems, it’s worth taking a few weeks to keep a daily diary of WHEN you eat and drink, WHAT you eat and drink, your bowel movements and any digestive problems you have experienced.
Some things you should avoid, or use carefully include:
- Pepper: Black, Red, all kinds
- Spices: You will most likely need to figure out if, or what spices irritate your stomach. Some people aren’t bothered by these at all, it’s up to you to test and research.
- Careful with Veggies: if you have problems with gas, you should be careful in selecting your veggies (especially broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage).
- Beans: Beans are notorious for causing gas, but their potential for doing so can be decreased if you throw out the water you used to soak them in overnight, and cook them in clean water.
- Fruits are also stomach irritants for many people. Select your fruits carefully, and test what varieties are safe for you to eat (Apples and Melon are known to be harder on your system).
What You Drink Matters
What you drink is equally as important to digestion as what you are eating.
I NEED Coffee: If you are anything like me, the concept of passing up coffee completely, is an unlikely one. I refuse to ditch my morning brew, so I have researched this issue from many sources.. Speaking with my doctor, reading, and testing for myself…
My doctor explained that caffeine is not the problem with coffee, but that temperature and acidity are usually the culprits of coffee-related heartburn and upset stomach. I took this tip seriously, and began experimenting with different coffee routines. I’ve personally found that drinking a few cups in the morning does not bother me, but that late afternoon cup is always the one that kills me.
I have also found that cheaper brands seem to cause significantly harsher problems. In fact, even some expensive brands (such as Starbucks) have had far worse results. An avid coffee drinker can usually taste a more acidic/heavy blend of coffee. I have personally had great success with Eight O’Clock brand; it is mild with a great flavor.
Carbonation: Again, after speaking with my doctor, I was surprised to find that caffeine is not the major problem with drinking soda. Problems usually stem from the carbonation (this goes for any carbonated drink). I again paid close attention to the effects of carbonation on myself, and can promise you that the main cause of my esophageal spasms stemmed from drinking things that were carbonated, or too hot/cold.
Temperature: The temperature of a drink can severely effect digestion. Very hot, or very cold drinks can stir up heartburn, instigate esophageal spasms and slow or speed digestion. Try to drink liquids when they are moderately warm. If your drink is scalding your tongue or freezing your teeth, it’s probably not ready to digest yet.
Alcohol and Smoking: I’m an avid smoker, so I’m well aware of how frugal it is to bring this up, but be aware that drinking and smoking will both cause heavy irritation to your throat and stomach. If you can stop, it is best to do so (for a multitude of reasons).
Drink Your Water: Dehydration is a common cause of constipation and various other digestive problems. Get those 8 glasses of water every day; your body will thank you for it.
Prescription Meds: Make sure to ask your doctor if any prescription medication he or she prescribes are known to cause stomach problems. Also pay close attention when starting and stopping medications. This will help you measure their effects.
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Drugs containing aspirin are known to cause stomach ulcers. If you already have problems with acid and indigestion, avoid OTC drugs that have aspirin in them, and opt for something milder. Also watch how frequently these types of drugs are used. If you are having repeated problems with pain, you should see a doctor, don’t resort to making over-the-counter drugs a part of your daily diet.
Avoid Laxatives: If you are constipated, add a gentle fiber to your diet. Don’t resort to laxatives: they will ultimately enhance your problems.
Don’t O.D. on Antacids: Taking antacids for several days will cause side effects (see the label). If you have severe heartburn and indigestion, consider natural ways to reduce the problems (as discussed here), or see a doctor if it is long lasting, or frequent.
Stress Reduction: Stress is absolutely one of the main causes of my heartburn. When I go through stressful periods I usually feel sick eating just about anything. Try to keep your cool and reserve quiet time for reducing stress. Personally, I like to make a cup of tea (warm, but not hot), relax in a soft chair, turn on some music, and light a few candles. Whatever method works for you; make stress management one of your top health priorities.
Exercise: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress (by boosting endorphins), manage weight (which is a main cause of many digestive problems), and make you feel good about yourself!
Treating Stomach Upsets
Caraway Seeds or Fennel Seeds: Chewing on Caraway or Fennel seeds (during the day when your stomach is empty) aids digestion. If you prefer, you can make a tea with them instead by placing a teaspoon of seeds in a cup with boiling water. Let them sit in the water for 10 minutes, strain and drink up. This can be done 3 times a day if needed.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a great stimulator for the digestive system. Make a cinnamon tea by adding 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to a cup of hot water. Let it stand for about 5 minutes and drink.
Ginger: Ginger is great for soothing irritated stomachs and moving digestion along. Make a ginger tea by adding 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger to a cup of hot water, let it stand for up to three minutes, strain and drink.
Mint: Spearmint or Peppermint are excellent for easing stomach cramps (drink on an empty stomach). To take mint, mix a teaspoon of dried mint in a cup, add boiling water, cover the cup and let it stand for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to three cups a day.
Thyme: Thyme stimulates the digestive tract, relieves stomach cramping and eases gas pressure. Place 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves in a cup, fill the cup with boiling water and let stand (covered), for 10 minutes. Strain and drink on an empty stomach up to three times a day.
Crackers: If you haven’t eaten all day, and your stomach is burning, try slowly munching on some crackers. This is a bland snack that will settle the acids in an empty stomach.
Banana: Eat a banana every day. Research has proven that eating a banana or plantain daily, significantly aids digestion.