Dealing with gas, bloating or stomach burning is certainly not the end of the world, but it can make even the simplest tasks far less pleasant. Fortunately, over-the-counter cures and home remedies can help put out the fire once you know what's causing it.
Bland foods, such as white bread and plain white rice, along with clear broth and caffeine-free clear sodas, can often help soothe a burning stomach.
What Causes Stomach Pain?
Stomach pain that recurs but has no obvious cause is so common that it actually has its own name, according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic. Called either functional dyspepsia or nonulcer dyspepsia, this condition can manifest as belching, bloating, burning sensations in the chest, stomach or abdomen, early fullness when eating or nausea. Causes of stomach pain may include:
- Acid reflux
- Celiac disease
Acid reflux, explains Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, means that stomach acid is washed up into your esophagus. This condition is also known as heartburn or dyspepsia.
Indigestion is too much acid in your stomach. Celiac disease results from damage to the fine villi lining your stomach, interfering with your absorption of nutrients, notes Stanford University. Gastritis, according to Cedars-Sinai, is characterized by inflammation of the stomach lining and may lead to ulcers, which are painful sores on your gastrointestinal tract.
Avoid These Foods
While certain conditions, such as gastritis and ulcers, require medical treatment, you can often soothe a burning stomach by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, according to Tufts University. Having heartburn once or twice per week is fairly normal, but if you experience it more often than that, it might be time to consult your physician. Your symptoms may indicate an underlying disorder.
The experts at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center agree that dietary changes can help. There are three basic types of food to avoid.
The first type to cut out is acidic foods. This includes citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit, as well as garlic, mint, vinegar, tomatoes and mustard. The next category is spicy foods, including hot peppers, hot sauces and other foods high in capsaicin. Finally, Roswell says, you should avoid processed foods like chocolate, deli meats, red meats and dairy. Alcohol is off-limits too.
Switch to a Liquid Diet
If you have an upset stomach, it might be best to limit yourself to liquids for a day or two until it settles down, recommends the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M). But not all beverages are created the same. Roswell Park advises against drinking alcohol in any form while you are experiencing stomach pain. Also, avoid caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea and cola-based drinks. Stay away from energy drinks to avoid irritating your stomach lining.
UW-M suggests that you stick to sports drinks that will help with hydration if your symptoms include diarrhea. Clear sodas that contain no caffeine may also help soothe an upset stomach, the university says. Ginger ale is a common home remedy for stomach issues, but a lemon-lime soda or lightly flavored sparkling water may also help. You can flavor sparkling water or club soda at home with a splash of fruit juice — as long as it's not a citrus juice.
Decaffeinated tea or herbal infusions, such as those made with chamomile or ginger, are often soothing. Fruit juices should be diluted in water to ensure that they don't irritate your stomach. To stay safe, avoid citrus juices altogether.
When you are feeling a little more stable, clear soups like broth or bullion can make it easier to add protein to your diet. Another way to stay hydrated is to snack on frozen fruit bars. You can find them in grocery stores or make them at home using fresh fruit juices.
Eat Stomach-Soothing Foods
Getting enough calories and maintaining basic nutrition can be difficult when you're experiencing stomach pain. This is especially true if your burning stomach is also causing diarrhea or nausea.
UW-M points out that there are a few foods that may have less chance of irritating your already sore tummy. These should be enjoyed in small portions throughout the day to ensure that you can tolerate them.
Bland foods are best to start adding back into your diet, the university advises. Fruits should be avoided, though applesauce generally doesn't irritate the stomach and can also help you stay hydrated. This is quite often recommended for children experiencing gastrointestinal difficulties. Bananas offer potassium, a mineral that helps keep fluid and sodium levels in a healthy range and regulates blood pressure.
When reintroducing solid foods, choose soda crackers or saltines, eaten plain. Toasted white bread with a dab of honey or jelly but no butter is easy to digest.
Plain white rice may not seem all that appetizing, but it's filling and gentle on your stomach. Drizzle it with a bit of honey for a simple, sweet treat. These snacks will offer some calories in the form of simple carbs that are easily digestible and unlikely to stir up too much stomach acid.
Watch Out for Warning Signs
Most of the time, an upset stomach doesn't indicate something serious, such as stomach cancer, but there are certain symptoms you must take seriously, cautions the University of Iowa, because it is always best to diagnose problems as early as possible. Reach out to your health care provider if you cannot manage to keep anything in your stomach and it goes on for more than 24 hours. The same applies if you have severe diarrhea or notice blood in the urine or stool.
The urge to urinate more often than usual and experiencing pain during urination may indicate several conditions that require medical treatment, such as a virus or a bladder infection.
A fever is almost always an indication that your immune system is fighting off some sort of invasion and should be checked out. Loss of appetite, especially if it results in sudden weight loss, can also be a sign that there is something more than just a tummy ache going on, says the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Emergency Room expert Dr. Troy Madsen of the University of Utah agrees. If you are experiencing a burning sensation in your lower abdomen, it might be cramps caused by menstruation or exacerbated by diarrhea, but it could also be one of the early warning signs of appendicitis. If you are an older adult, it could be diverticulitis.
The best way to be sure is to see a health care professional who will ask enough questions to determine which tests and treatments are required to get your belly back to normal.
- Mayo Clinic: "Nonulcer Stomach Pain"
- Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: "How to Stop Acid Reflux"
- Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center: "Burning Questions About Soothing Acid Reflux"
- Stanford University: "Grains of Truth - Who Actually Needs to Go Gluten Free"
- Cedars-Sinai: "Gastritis"
- Tufts University: "Fight Heartburn and GERD - Diet and Lifestyle Can Make a Difference"
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Upset Stomach"
- University of Utah: "An ER Doctor's Diagnosis - Severe Stomach Pain"
- University of Iowa: "Stomach Pain"