The 9 Best Foods For an Upset Stomach, According to Doctors
Can anything make an upset stomach feel better?
There are few things in this world that are worse than an upset stomach—especially when it's accompanied by nausea and vomiting. And whether it's due to a stomach bug or food poisoning, you have one main goal: to feel better ASAP.
Unfortunately, there's no real cure for either stomach issue—most docs will tell you the best treatment is to just wait for your symptoms to run their course. But some foods (yes, even when you can't even look at food) can make you feel a bit better while you're on the road to recovery. Here, doctors recommend TK foods to help soothe your upset stomach so you can finally get back to normal.
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Bananas are the first item in the "brat" diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), which has been used by generations to soothe bellies.
Why are bananas at the top of the list? They contain potassium, which you may need if you're dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, says Robynne Chutkan, MD, assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.
They also contain sugar so you get calories at a time when you're probably not eating much. But they're not so sweet it will make you even more nauseous, says Dr. Chutkan.
Rice—the "R" in the brat diet—along with other starchy foods such as potatoes and oats, helps coat the lining of the stomach, easing digestion and having an overall soothing effect, says Dr. Chutkan.
Starchy foods also don't sit in the stomach for long periods of time, nor do they stimulate acid reflux, which would make you feel even worse, says Amit Bhan, MD, service chief of gastroenterology at Henry Ford Health System, in West Bloomfield, Mich.
If you haven't caught on yet, Applesauce is the "A" in the brat diet, and is generally calming for the stomach because it's easily digested, relieves diarrhea, and provides calories.
Even more: Apples themselves contain pectin (especially in the skin), which can provide roughage if you're constipated. "If the cause of distress is constipation, then an apple can help," says Dr. Chutkan. But "when someone is having diarrhea, you want the applesauce," since more roughage will only exacerbate your need for the bathroom.
The fourth and final component of the brat diet is just as bland as the first three items: Toast. It's beneficial because it won't cause acid reflux, and it doesn't sit in the stomach like a high-fat meal, which would make you feel increasingly uncomfortable. Just leave off the butter and jam—both of which could only irritate your stomach more—until you're feeling better.
Broth, in particular, is great for an upset stomach. Both the liquid and a high salt content can keep you hydrated. "Salt, when it's in the bloodstream, helps draw fluid in," says Dr. Chutkan. Of course, if you have high blood pressure, look for low-salt varieties so you'll still get the liquid benefit.
"Soup or broth, if not cooked in fat, is very easily digested. It's well-tolerated and you don't get nauseous or have reflux," says Dr. Bhan.
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Crackers fall into the same category as rice. "They're easily digestible and soothing. There's not a lot in them that can hurt you," says Dr. Chutkan. In fact, they're often recommended for women who have morning sickness. Some report that crackers can also absorb stomach acid, but it's unclear if that's true or not, she says. As long as you don't have high blood pressure, plain old saltines may be the way to go (although low-salt versions of saltines are now available).
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Herbal teas (those without caffeine, which can stimulate acid reflux) can also help tame a troubled tummy. Chamomile is a favorite because it is thought to reduce inflammation, although pretty much any herbal brew is a great way to get liquid into your body.
But stay away from peppermint tea. While mint can help soothe an upset stomach, it can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid and other stomach contents to splash up into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
Coconut water may not have all the magical properties manufacturers would like you to believe, but it can help soothe tummies—and it's a favorite of gastroenterologists. "I'm a big fan of coconut water," says Dr. Chutkan. That's because it has natural sugar to provide calories, as well as electrolytes like potassium. It also contains a good amount of vitamin C.
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Ginger has long been touted as a way to calm upset stomachs, but doesn't have the strong evidence to back up the claim. "I don't think there's any hard scientific data to support [ginger]," says Dr. Bhan. But that's not to say it's harmful: "It's a spice [that's] generally well tolerated," he adds.
Some people find ginger helpful and may even soak it in water or make ginger tea to quell queasiness, says Dr. Chutkan.
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