stomachache remedies
stomachache remedies

Struggling With Nausea Or Bloating? Find Relief For Your Upset Stomach

Posted on March 28, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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If your stomach doesn’t feel right, it can be hard to get through the day. Whether it’s bloating, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, an upset stomach can leave you out of commission (or running for the bathroom).

But you don’t have to accept tummy trouble as part of life. Learning the possible triggers of digestive issues is the first step, says Rena Daiza, M.D., a family medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. Once you’ve nailed down the culprit, you can determine the best way to get relief.

Why Do I Have An Upset Stomach?

Though it might seem easier to pop some antacids and try to get on with your day, this isn’t always the best approach. “The root cause of stomach upset determines what kind of treatment you need,” says Dr. Daiza. “Using the wrong treatment won’t fix the issue—and could make you feel worse.”

The most common causes of indigestion and upset stomach include:

Hard-to-digest foods

Certain foods make your digestive tract work harder, which can make you feel sick. And sometimes foods you’ve eaten in the past without a problem start to cause you trouble as you get older. “Our sensitivity to foods can change over time,” says Dr. Daiza.

Foods that are more likely to cause indigestion include:

  • Acidic foods like carbonated beverages, coffee and tomatoes
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Fatty meats and fried foods
  • Hot peppers or dishes that are heavy on spice

Medications

Many different medications, from antibiotics to pain relievers, can cause digestive issues. “If your stomach problems started after you started a new medication, your meds could be the culprit,” says Dr. Daiza. “Talk with your provider about any side effects you’re having.”

Stress and anxiety

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Dealing with anxiety, or just had a rough day? It could be why you notice acid reflux, diarrhea and nausea. “Many people don’t realize that their mental health is closely connected to their digestive system,” says Dr. Daiza.

Underlying health conditions

Some health conditions can cause an upset stomach no matter what you eat, such as:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Viruses and infections, such as norovirus (stomach flu) or influenza

Upset Stomach Treatments

Nearly everyone deals with indigestion on occasion, so it’s helpful to have a few remedies up your sleeve. These at-home treatments can help you feel better:

Gentle exercise

When you move your body, your digestive system gets moving, too. “Exercise promotes normal muscle contractions in your intestines, which can relieve gas and constipation,” says Dr. Daiza. “Walking, jogging and swimming are great options, so choose what’s comfortable for you. Certain yoga poses, such as those that pull your knees up toward your belly, can also provide relief.”

Probiotics

If you recently took an antibiotic, your gut microbiome could be out of whack. “Antibiotics kill all the bacteria in your body, including the friendly types that keep your digestion running smoothly,” explains Dr. Daiza. “A probiotic can replenish these beneficial bacteria and help get your gut back on track.”

Rotational core massage

When bloating or constipation brings you down, a belly massage may be just what you need. “Rotational core massage moves in the natural direction of your intestines,” explains Dr. Daiza.

This technique can help your intestines move stuck food and waste out, and you can do it almost anywhere. Here’s how:

  1. Place your fingers under your breastbone near the middle of your upper belly.
  2. Slowly and gently glide your fingers down and around in a clockwise motion, moving toward your left hip bone.
  3. Continue to circle your fingers around toward your right hip.
  4. Circle back up toward your breastbone.
  5. Repeat two to three times.

Stomach-soothing herbs

Peppermint and ginger are age-old tummy remedies for a reason: They often help with nausea caused by foods or stress.

“Ginger and peppermint capsules can calm your stomach, but I don’t recommend peppermint for people with GERD,” says Dr. Daiza. “And if you take any prescription medications, talk to your provider before taking any herbs or supplements.”

Over-the-counter medications

Using antacids, anti-diarrheal medications and bismuth salicylate (Pepto-Bismol®) on occasion is OK for most people. But if you’re using these medications frequently, something else could be going on.

“Regular bouts of diarrhea, heartburn, nausea or other stomach problems can signal an underlying health condition,” says Dr. Daiza. “Medications might help with the symptoms, but they’re not going to fix the root problem.”

When To See A Doctor

While you can manage occasional digestive trouble at home, there are some symptoms you shouldn’t ignore. Contact your provider or seek immediate medical care if you experience:

  • Blood in your vomit or stool
  • More than 8 bowel movements in a day
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Signs of dehydration, such as confusion, dry mouth and not urinating

Getting To The Bottom Of Digestive Troubles

Determining the cause of an upset stomach is the first step to feeling better. Start by keeping a food and stress journal. By writing things down, you can pinpoint or rule out foods or stressors that might be causing the issue.

Dr. Daiza recommends recording:

  • All meals, snacks and drinks and when you consumed them
  • Medications and supplements and when you took them
  • Stress levels or big events each day
  • Symptoms of digestive issues and when they occurred

“Finding the cause of stomach issues is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together,” says Dr. Daiza. “What you eat, when you eat and your mental well-being are major pieces in that puzzle. That information may be what we need to get you on the path to healing.”


Reviewed by Dr. Rena Daiza, is a family medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Health in Bloomfield Township.
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