Natural ways to relieve an upset stomach
Q: What are some natural remedies for an upset stomach? Joan
My approach in addressing challenging symptoms such as an upset stomach or other digestive issues is always to treat or support what is at the heart of the symptoms – what is causing them. If you regularly experience nausea, bloating or abdominal pain, it’s essential to understand what is causing these symptoms as this will determine what the best path forward for you will be. However, I certainly understand the need to relieve symptoms when they do occur.
Depending on the specific symptoms you experience, there are a few natural remedies that might help. For nausea and vomiting, ginger can be very effective. Ginger can be taken in supplement form, or you might like to try a ginger tea.
Peppermint tea is another natural remedy for digestive discomfort. Peppermint has antispasmodic properties, which means it may help to prevent abdominal cramps, and it can also
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assist with nausea.
I can’t encourage you enough to pay attention to what might be causing your symptoms. For example, does it happen after you eat particular foods or foods prepared in a certain way? Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which foods are leading you to experience challenging symptoms so keeping a food and symptom diary for a few days can be helpful to identify any patterns.
In some cases, reactions to certain components of foods can occur anywhere from six to 48 hours after you’ve eaten the food, so it’s not necessarily the most recent food you’ve eaten that is triggering symptoms such as bloating or flatulence.
However, it may not be the food – stress can also contribute to bloating and other digestive symptoms. Try to notice if your symptoms worsen when you are stressed. When we’re stressed, stress hormones are released in the body and their action diverts our blood supply away from digestion to the periphery, so that we are primed to either run away or fight the threat that our body perceives we are facing.
The stress response also decreases motility of the digestive tract and reduces the secretions that help to digest food. Stress reduction is therefore essential to support great digestion. Any breath-focused practice is wonderful, as extending the exhalation is a way in which we can activate the calm arm of our nervous system. You might like to try yoga, tai chi, meditation or simply breathing diaphragmatically (long slow breaths that move the diaphragm).
If you feel your digestive symptoms are related to stress or anxiety, you might also like to try some chamomile tea. Chamomile is a mild sedative so it may help you to relax, which in turn helps to support digestive processes in the body. Chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties and it may assist with abdominal cramps as it relaxes muscle contractions in the intestine.
If you began to experience symptoms after travelling or after a bout of food poisoning, it’s important to consult with your qualified healthcare professional to check for infective organisms. It’s also very important to see your GP if you experience ongoing or unexplained digestive symptoms, to rule out any sinister causes.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Join Dr Libby for her upcoming Food Frustrations New Zealand tour. For information and to buy tickets, visit drlibby.com
Peppermint has antispasmodic properties, which means it may help to prevent abdominal cramps.