Chances are you can recall some of the home remedies used to calm your upset stomach when you were a child. If foods like plain toast or clear broth sound familiar, then your family was on the right track. When your GI tract is irritated or inflamed, sticking to plain foods is important to avoid further discomfort. Foods ideal for settling your stomach should provide your body with nourishment while also relieving symptoms. Consult your doctor to make sure what you're consuming is safe for your condition.
Following the BRAT diet may help settle your stomach and is particularly helpful if you've had diarrhea episodes. The diet consists of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. These foods are gentle on the digestive system and also may help you produce firmer stools. Bananas, in particular, are recommended after vomiting or diarrhea episodes because they can replace important nutrients lost during illness, such as potassium. Keep in mind that these foods should be eaten plain. If you try the BRAT diet, wait until you are no longer vomiting before getting started.
Peppermint has long been a remedy for alleviating an unsettled stomach. The stomach tightens when you have GI distress, causing nausea. Sucking on peppermints can help reduce this tightening and support the digestive process. You can also try drinking peppermint tea as an alternative to the candy. It can help reduce abdominal bloating and may be helpful if your stomach discomfort is connected to irritable bowel syndrome, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. You should not use peppermint to relieve indigestion associated with acid reflux, however, because it may worsen symptoms. Don't consume peppermint if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
Other Bland Options
Other plain or bland foods can be implemented into your diet as well. Good choices include clear soups, skinless potatoes, plain pasta, pretzels and saltine crackers. Dry cereal, plain mashed potatoes, and oatmeal made with water are additional bland food options. As for beverages, stick with water, decaffeinated tea and sports drinks that replenish electrolytes you may have lost during your illness. If you decide to drink sodas, stick to non-cola varieties like ginger ale; drinking them flat is recommended because carbonation can contribute to intestinal gas.
When to Eat
When you're dealing with an upset stomach, when you eat is just as important as what you eat. Don't attempt to eat solid foods until you've stopped vomiting for at least six hours, advises the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus. You should be able to start adding bland foods to your diet within one to two days of having diarrhea. It's best to eat small portions throughout the day rather than eating large meals to reduce the risk of further stomach discomfort.
- FamilyDoctor.org; BRAT Diet: Recovering From an Upset Stomach; September 2009
- NYU Medical Center HealthWise; Cancer: Home Treatment for Nausea or Vomiting; Bets Davis, MFA
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peppermint
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Schiffert Health Center: Upset Stomach and Diarrhea
- National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus: Nausea and Vomiting