There's not always a rhyme or reason as to why we experience stomach pain, but one thing is clear—it's pretty darn annoying. Few things can interrupt your day (or week) more than being doubled over in discomfort or dealing with a bout of nausea. To be ready to combat those stomachaches as soon as they creep up, it's important to be informed ahead of time about which foods you should always keep on hand for an upset stomach.
We turned to nutritionist Dana James, certified nutrition coach Candice Seti, and gastroenterologist Dr. Niket Sonpal for their top food recommendations for unfortunate times like these. You likely have some of these healing foods in the house already, and the others you can easily pick up at your grocery store or pharmacy.
Meet the Expert
- Niket Sonpal, MD, is a board-certified physician, internist, and gastroenterologist based in New York. He is also an author and an adjunct professor at Touro College.
- Dana James is a nutritionist and author of the best-seller, The Archetype Diet, where she helps clients find eating patterns, uncover emotional triggers, and helps to improve their body composition. James is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and is the founder of Food Coach NYC.
- Candice Seti is a certified nutrition coach and founder of The Weight Loss Therapist,
Keep scrolling to learn the expert-recommended best foods to help ease an upset stomach.
As light and healthy as a large raw salad might sound, James says this will likely worsen your symptoms during a stomachache because your stomach needs to work harder to digest the tough fibers. "The process of cooking helps break down a lot of the fiber in vegetables, which makes it easier for our stomachs to digest. If you are experiencing gas and bloating, stick to non-cruciferous vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and spinach," James says. Sonpal agrees that while raw vegetables are part of a healthy diet, you should avoid them when your stomach is upset because they can cause diarrhea.
Ginger has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years, and still today few things help an uneasy stomach more than ginger does. "Ginger helps stimulate stomach contractions (peristalsis) that may alleviate symptoms of gas and bloat," James says. Seti adds, "Ginger can help relieve nausea and stomach pain by regulating the associated nervous system signals." Sonpal agrees that ginger "has been effective with nausea/vomiting." You can purchase different ginger extracts and oils, but possibly the easiest (and tastiest) way for you to consume ginger is by buying the fresh root and making tea.
As it turns out, the popular spice isn't only good for your skin, but may also help calm a stomachache. "Oftentimes an upset stomach is caused by an irritant that triggers inflammation in our gut," James says. "Turmeric acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory that may help soothe your stomach lining." Sonpal recommends adding some of the spice to hot tea when you're experiencing discomfort.
Golden milk, one of James's other top picks, combines two of the aforementioned stomach-soothing ingredients ginger and turmeric into one tasty form. Also known as a “turmeric latte,” James says the drink may benefit an upset stomach by targeting both inflammation and a gassy stomach.
"Bone broth is nutrient-dense and packed with minerals and amino acids," James says. "Among these is glucosamine, which has been shown to reduce inflammation. Bone broth is also packed with collagen to help repair the lining of your digestive tract." As a bonus, James says gelatin (from the breakdown of collagen) in the broth promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your colon, which supports adequate digestion, absorption, and elimination. When preparing, be careful to avoid adding too much spice. "Spicy foods are bad [for an upset stomach] because the digestive system has to work harder to process them through the digestive tract," says Sonpal.
You might typically pass on bananas while they're still green, but during an upset stomach, that's exactly what you want to reach for. "Bananas, especially green bananas, are high in fiber, specifically the kind known as resistant starch," Seti says. "This type of starch is not digestible, so it moves through to the colon and signals the bowels to absorb more water. This results in an anti-diarrheal effect."
"Apples contain a plant fiber known as pectin, which is also indigestible and affects the G.I. system similarly to bananas to have the anti-diarrheal effect," Seti says. "It also helps to produce good bacteria in the gut, which can have a protective impact." Instead of going for a whole apple, Seti recommends opting for applesauce instead because the process of digesting the apple skin can be more difficult for an upset tummy.
Try the BRAT method for an upset stomach, suggests Sonpal: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. "This is never recommended as a sustained diet, simply for during and after stomach upset."
Plain Yogurt/Non-Dairy Yogurt
If you're dealing with stomach trouble, one option is to eat some plain yogurt, although it should be unsweetened. "Plain yogurt contains live and active bacterial cultures, which can help with both constipation and diarrhea," Seti says. "Plain yogurt is best because the sugar and artificial sweeteners in flavored yogurt can sometimes cause gas and other gastrointestinal symptoms."
"Yogurt is something I would be more careful with if it is not dairy-free," says Sonpal, who suggests you steer clear of dairy items like milk and cheese when dealing with a stomachache. "Since they are high in fat, it is harder for the body to digest them." He says plain, nonfat yogurt can be okay, "but introduce it into your diet gradually." If you're lactose-intolerant, non-dairy yogurts still have the beneficial cultures without the potential digestive issues, such as Nancy's Probiotic Oat Milk Non-Dairy Yogurt.
"Licorice can help reduce the inflammation associated with an upset stomach," Seti says. But before you go out and buy a whole licorice root, take note that the form of this ingredient that you ingest makes all the difference. "However, licorice root itself contains a chemical that can cause fluid imbalances, so supplementation is preferred," she explains. "DGL (deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) is the preferred supplement to eating whole licorice root."
If you're hungry but you've been dealing with stomach difficulties, try making some toast. "The idea is to keep things bland. This is not a time to be focused on spices, seasonings, or a five-star meal," says Sonpal. Although it might not help to improve your upset stomach, toast won't upset it, either. "Toast falls in the category of bland carbohydrates, which are often more palatable when you have an upset stomach," Seti says. "The primary benefit of toast is that it is simply easy to digest."
"Peppermint, especially in the form of peppermint oil, can help relax the digestive system muscles and soothe ongoing stomach pain," Seti says. Making yourself a cup of hot peppermint tea can be soothing on a distressed stomach. This can also be great for staying hydrated. "After experiencing an upset stomach, if you have had diarrhea or vomiting it is vital to get plenty of fluids (not soda) to replenish what might have been lost," says Sonpal.
Just like chamomile can calm and soothe irritated, inflamed skin, it can do the same for an uneasy stomach. "Usually consumed in chamomile tea, chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties, which help soothe an upset stomach," Seti says. Next time you have an upset stomach, make a cup of chamomile tea to soothe your stomach and drink it out of one of our favorite cups below.
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