Almost everyone gets an upset stomach from time to time.
Common symptoms include nausea, indigestion, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
There are many potential reasons for an upset stomach and treatments vary depending on the underlying cause.
Thankfully, a variety of foods can settle an upset stomach and help you feel better, faster.
Here are the 12 best foods for an upset stomach.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of an upset stomach.
Ginger, a fragrant edible root with bright yellow flesh, is frequently used as a natural remedy for both of these symptoms (1).
It’s often taken by women suffering from morning sickness, a type of nausea and vomiting that can occur during pregnancy.
A review of 6 studies including over 500 pregnant women found that taking 1 gram of ginger daily was associated with 5 times less nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (3).
Ginger is also helpful for people undergoing chemotherapy or major surgery, since these treatments can cause severe nausea and vomiting.
Ginger can even be used as a natural remedy for motion sickness. When taken beforehand, it can help reduce the intensity of nausea symptoms and speed of recovery time (7).
How this works is not entirely understood, but it’s hypothesized that ginger regulates nervous system signaling in the stomach and speeds up the rate at which the stomach empties, thereby reducing nausea and vomiting (7, 8).
Ginger is generally considered safe, but heartburn, stomach pain and diarrhea can occur at doses above 5 grams per day (9).
Summary Ginger can help reduce nausea and vomiting, especially when associated with pregnancy, surgery, chemotherapy or motion sickness.
Chamomile, an herbal plant with small white flowers, is a traditional remedy for upset stomachs.
Chamomile can be dried and brewed into a tea or taken by mouth as a supplement.
Yet despite its widespread use, only a limited number of studies support its effectiveness for digestive complaints.
One small study found that chamomile supplements reduced the severity of vomiting after chemotherapy treatments, but it’s unclear whether it would have the same effects on other types of vomiting (10).
An animal study found that chamomile extracts relieved diarrhea in mice by reducing intestinal spasms and decreasing the amount of water secreted into the stool, but more research is needed to see if this applies to humans (11).
However, since chamomile is combined with many other herbs in these formulas, it’s difficult to know whether the beneficial effects are from chamomile or from a combination of the other herbs.
Although the gut-soothing effects of chamomile are widely recognized, research has not yet shown how it helps to relieve stomach upset.
Summary Chamomile is a commonly used remedy for stomach and intestinal discomfort, but more research is needed to understand how it works.
For some people, upset stomach is caused by irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. IBS is a chronic gut disorder that can cause stomach pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
While IBS can be difficult to manage, studies show that peppermint may help reduce these uncomfortable symptoms.
While the research is promising, additional studies need to determine whether peppermint leaf or peppermint tea have the same therapeutic effects (18).
Peppermint is safe for most people, but caution is advised for those with severe reflux, hiatal hernias, kidney stones or liver and gallbladder disorders, as it may worsen these conditions (18).
Summary Peppermint, especially when consumed as peppermint oil, may help reduce stomach pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
Licorice is a popular remedy for indigestion and may also prevent painful stomach ulcers.
Traditionally, licorice root was consumed whole. Today, it’s most commonly taken as a supplement called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).
DGL is preferred over regular licorice root because it no longer contains glycyrrhizin, a naturally occurring chemical in licorice that can cause fluid imbalances, high blood pressure and low potassium levels when consumed in large quantities (20, 21).
Animal and test-tube studies show that DGL soothes stomach pain and discomfort by decreasing inflammation of the stomach lining and increasing mucus production to protect the tissues from stomach acid (22, 23).
This may be especially helpful for people suffering from an upset stomach caused by excessive stomach acid or acid reflux.
DGL supplements may also help relieve stomach pain and indigestion from stomach ulcers caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria known as H. pylori.
Overall, licorice is a soothing herb for the intestinal tract, and can help reduce inflammation and infections that may contribute to an upset stomach.
Summary Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root (DGL) can be useful for relieving stomach pain and indigestion caused by ulcers or acid reflux.
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a small, fibrous seed that can help regulate bowel movements and relieve constipation and abdominal pain.
Constipated adults who took about one ounce (4 ml) of flaxseed oil per day for two weeks had more bowel movements and better stool consistency than they did beforehand (30).
Another study found that those who ate flaxseed muffins every day had 30% more bowel movements each week than they did when they were not consuming the flax muffins (31).
Summary Ground flaxseed meal and flaxseed oil can help regulate bowel movements and relieve constipation in humans. Animal studies suggest they may also prevent stomach ulcers and intestinal spasms, but more research is needed.
Papaya, also known as pawpaw, is a sweet, orange-fleshed tropical fruit that is sometimes used as a natural remedy for indigestion.
Some people do not produce enough natural enzymes to fully digest their food, so consuming additional enzymes, like papain, may help relieve their symptoms of indigestion.
There has not been a lot of research on the benefits of papain, but at least one study found that regularly taking papaya concentrate reduced constipation and bloating in adults (36).
Summary Papaya concentrate may help relieve constipation, bloating and stomach ulcers, while the seeds may help eliminate intestinal parasites.
An upset stomach caused by an infection or food poisoning is often accompanied by diarrhea.
The powerful antidiarrheal effects of green bananas are due to a special type of fiber they contain known as resistant starch.
Resistant starch cannot be digested by humans, so it continues through the digestive tract all the way to the colon, the final portion of the intestines.
While these results are impressive, more studies are needed to see if green bananas have the same antidiarrheal effects in adults.
Additionally, since resistant starches are converted to sugars as a banana ripens, it’s not known whether ripe bananas contain enough resistant starch to have the same effects (50).
Summary An upset stomach can sometimes be accompanied by diarrhea. Green bananas contain a type of fiber called resistant starch, which is very effective at relieving this type of diarrhea in children. More research is needed in adults.
When a stomach bug or foodborne illness causes diarrhea, pectin supplements can help speed up recovery.
Pectin is a type of plant fiber found in high quantities in apples and citrus fruits. It’s often isolated from these fruits and sold as its own food product or supplement (51).
Pectin is not digested by humans, so it stays within the intestinal tract where it’s very effective at firming stools and preventing diarrhea (12).
In fact, one study found that 82% of sick children taking daily pectin supplements recovered from their diarrhea within 4 days, compared to only 23% of children not taking pectin supplements (47).
Pectin also relieves stomach upset by promoting the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Sometimes, people develop uncomfortable symptoms of gas, bloating or abdominal pain due to an imbalance of bacteria in their intestines.
While pectin supplements are effective at relieving diarrhea and promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria, it’s unknown whether natural foods rich in pectin would have the same benefits. More research is needed.
Summary Pectin, a type of plant fiber found in apples and citrus fruits, may help shorten the duration of diarrhea and promote healthy gut bacteria when taken as a supplement.
Some people have trouble digesting carbohydrates known as FODMAPs: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.
Many people with digestive troubles, especially those with IBS, find that avoiding foods with high levels of FODMAPs can help relieve their gas, bloating and diarrhea.
While not all people with digestive issues have trouble digesting FODMAPs, working with a nutritionist may help you determine whether any of them are causing problems for you.
Summary Some people have trouble digesting fermentable carbohydrates known as FODMAPs, and feel better when consuming a low-FODMAP diet.
Sometimes an upset stomach can be caused by dysbiosis, an imbalance in the type or number of bacteria in your gut.
Eating foods rich in probiotics, the bacteria that are good for your gut, may help correct this imbalance and reduce symptoms of gas, bloating or irregular bowel movements (58).
Probiotic-containing foods that benefit gut health include:
- Yogurt: Several studies have shown that eating yogurt containing live, active bacterial cultures can relieve both constipation and diarrhea (59, 60, 61).
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk can help alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and may also help relieve constipation (62,63,64,65).
- Kefir: Drinking 2 cups (500 ml) of kefir per day for one month can help people with chronic constipation experience more regular bowel movements (66).
Other foods that contain probiotics include miso, natto, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, but more research is needed to determine how they affect gut health.
Summary Probiotic-rich foods, especially fermented dairy products, may help regulate bowel movements and provide relief from both constipation and diarrhea.
Bland carbohydrates like rice, oatmeal, crackers and toast are often recommended for people suffering from upset stomachs.
While this recommendation is common, there is little evidence to show that they actually help relieve symptoms.
While bland carbohydrates may be more palatable during an illness, it’s important to expand your diet again as soon as possible. Restricting your diet too much may keep you from getting enough of the vitamins and minerals your body needs in order to heal (69).
Summary Many people with an upset stomach find bland carbohydrates easier to tolerate than other foods, but there is little evidence to show that they actually relieve symptoms.
When an upset stomach is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, it’s easy to become dehydrated.
Vomiting and diarrhea cause your body to lose electrolytes, the minerals that maintain your body’s fluid balance and keep your nervous system functioning correctly.
Mild dehydration and electrolyte losses can usually be restored by drinking clear liquids and eating foods that naturally contain electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
If dehydration is severe, drinking a rehydration solution containing an ideal ratio of water, sugars and electrolytes may be necessary (71).
Summary Drinking enough fluids and replenishing lost electrolytes is important for anyone suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.
There are many foods that can help relieve an upset stomach.
Herbs and spices like ginger, chamomile, mint and licorice have natural stomach-soothing properties, while fruits like papaya and green bananas can improve digestion.
Avoiding high-FODMAP foods helps some people eliminate gas, bloating and diarrhea, while probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir can help regulate bowel movements.
When an upset stomach is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, be sure to hydrate and replenish electrolytes. You may also find bland carbohydrates easier to keep down.
While it’s very common to experience an upset stomach from time to time, eating these foods can help you feel better and get on the road to recovery.