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Stomach Pain? Our Top Remedies for the 6 Main Kinds of Upset Stomach

6 min read

Stomach problems are one of the most common customer complaints at Peach Vitamins. From reflux, to gas, indigestion, constipation, and more, we hear about all kinds of upset stomach issues. People often expect there to be a single “best” natural solution for an upset stomach, but really, the best remedies vary based on the individual and their specific symptoms.  Here are some of the best natural solutions for common stomach problems:

1. Gas/Bloating

  • Activated Charcoal

    • Activated charcoal traps toxins and contaminants, making it useful for food poisoning, gas, and bloating. 500 mg of activated charcoal used an hour before a gas-producing meal and followed by a glass of water to help it bind to the gas-producing elements, could help reduce gas pains.
  • Fennel Seed

    • Fennel is a carminitive, meaning it helps reduce gas. It relaxes the intestinal muscles, allowing gas to dissipate. To use, chew half a teaspoon or so fennel seeds when you get gas, or make a cup of fennel tea.
  • Chamomile Tea

    • Chamomile contains essential oils that soothe the walls of the gut, calming nervousness, relaxing the stomach muscles, and eliminating gas. Because chamomile is also relaxing to the nervous system, it is perfect for cases of gas or upset stomach associated with anxiety. Chamomile is best enjoyed as a tea (steeped for 10-15 minutes, covered), and is safe and tasty for people of all ages. However, people with ragweed allergies should be careful– since chamomile is also in the ragweed family, some people have allergic reactions to it.

2. Constipation

  • Triphala

    • Triphala, from the Ayurvedic tradition, is a blend of three fruits. Each fruit has an effect on a different dosha in Ayurveda; the three combine to make a wonderful bowel tonic that is especially beneficial for gently cleansing the gastrointestinal tract. It works best taken daily for slow, gentle rejuvenation of the digestive system; it is good for chronic constipation. You can consume powdered triphala mixed into water (hot or cold) or take triphala pills.
  • Cascara Sagrada

    • Cascara sagrada comes from the aged bark of a tree in the buckthorn family. It stimulates bowel movements by increasing peristaltis, which moves gut contents through the body. Cascara can be taken as capsules.
  • Cape Aloe

    • Cape aloe is a larger, more robust species of aloe than the aloe vera plant. In addition to it being a strong laxative, it has some benefits over other laxative herbs such as senna. Aloe is very soothing and healing to the gut lining. It helps speed transit through the gut, so it is a very effective remedy for acute instances of constipation. However, like many laxatives, cape aloe (either the latex or the whole plant) can cause diarrhea, cramping, and, if used long-term, potassium depletion, so do not use it for extended periods of time.

3. Diarrhea

  • Probiotics

    • Probiotics, the friendly flora that live in your gut, can be helpful for both acute and chronic diarrhea. Any unusual changes in bowel movements (especially if occurring after a round of antibiotics) can potentially be a sign that your gut flora are imbalanced. There are many good quality probiotics on the market that come as pills, liquids, and powders. The number of CFUs (colony-forming units) you need depends on your body, but you will want to look for one containing a number of CFUs in the billions.
  • Dietary changes

    • Acute Cases: Acute cases can be caused by viruses, so if the diarrhea doesn’t pass within a day or two, make sure you seek medical attention. Other cases might be caused by food poisoning or a food sensitivity.
      • BRAT diet:
        • Bland, thick foods can be helpful during acute bouts of diarrhea. The standard recommendation is to eat bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT) to help bind the stool without further upsetting the stomach. Plain rice, oatmeal, potatoes, carrots, and chicken would be other good foods to eat when you have diarrhea.
      • Avoid fatty foods, dairy, spices, caffeine, alcohol
      • Drink plenty of fluids, and make sure to get some salt, sugar, and electrolytes to replenish nutrients lost. Dehydration as a complication from diarrhea can be very serious and require medical attention.
    • Chronic Cases: Chronic cases of ongoing diarrhea are likely a sign of a larger issue, such as of an inflammatory bowel condition. Be sure to see a specialist if you suspect you have IBD so they can work with you to figure out the best diet for your diarrhea. In mild cases, the following solutions could help:
      • Increase soluble fiber: Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that gets sticky and dissolves in water. For example, oats and many other grains are high in soluble fiber. Fiber can have a binding effect on stool.
      • Avoid too many raw foods and stop drinking ice water. These foods can “dampen your digestive fire,” a principle that comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and lead to poor digestion and loose stools.
      • Keep a food diary. Track what you eat and changes in your bowel movements. Over time, you should get better at finding patterns and can adjust your diet accordingly.

4. Acid Reflux/GERD

  • DGL

    • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is licorice from which the glycyrrhizin has been removed, eliminating the risk that the licorice could raise someone’s blood pressure. Chewable DGL tablets soothe and moisten inflamed esophagi that have been irritated by GERD, and can also be useful for heartburn and ulcers.
  • Aloe Juice

    • Aloe juice made from the inner leaf of the aloe vera plant is a bit different than the cape aloe mentioned above. While it can have a very mild laxative effect, it also helps with nutrient absorption, and the main benefit is that it cools and reduces inflammation throughout the GI tract. Without the aloe latex, which is stored just inside the ‘skin’ of the leaf, the aloe will not have a strong laxative effect, and it will work as a soothing anti-inflammatory on all the tissues it comes in contact with inside your gastrointestinal passageways.
  • HCl with Pepsin

    • Hydrochloric acid is the acid in your stomach that helps break down your food. Pepsin is a protein-digesting enzyme also found in the stomach. A supplement containing both substances can help digest food more effectively. While taking an acid to counter an acidic condition like GERD flies counter to conventional antacid treatments, it makes sense once you learn that GERD is often the result of too little, rather than too much, stomach acid. Oftentimes suppressing stomach acid with higher and higher doses of antacid tablets only makes the body produce more acid to restore natural balance to the stomach. How much HCl with Pepsin you take will depend on how much protein is in the meal, how much you are eating, and your unique system. Do some research or speak with a knowledgeable person to guide you to the right dosage for you.
  • Dietary changes

    • As most people with GERD or acid reflux know, certain foods can cause flares. Keep a food diary to figure out which foods trigger acid reflux symptoms. Common food triggers for GERD are: spicy foods, acidic foods, mint, onions, chocolate, fatty foods, coffee and caffeinated drinks, and carbonated beverages.

5. Nausea

Photo by Evil Erin
  • Ginger

    • Ginger is one of the classic nausea remedies. The volatile oils in ginger help settle an upset stomach, and it also can help relax smooth muscle tissue, like the gastrointestinal muscles, when they are tensed or spasming. Plus, since ginger tastes good, it is easy to get down, even when someone is nauseous. Try ginger tea (as bags or from fresh sliced ginger), ginger candies, or ginger syrup. Ginger is warming, so it would be best to use this if the nauseous person has cold sweats or in winter.
  • Peppermint

    • Peppermint‘s volatile oils are also responsible for some of its ability to help with stomach woes. Peppermint and other aromatic plants in the mint family have a dispersing action that can help clear things like gas and nausea. Since peppermint is cooling, it is a good choice if one’s nausea feels ‘hot’ and acidic, or in summer, maybe as a cold infusion tea.
  • Note: Sometimes you won’t be able to stop nausea because there is something in the stomach the body needs to expel. When you need to throw up, allow your system to empty your stomach, then use some stomach-soothing herbs.

6. Trouble Digesting Foods

  • Herbal Bitters

    • Bitter flavors, such as those present in gentian root, artichoke leaf,  dandelion root and leaf, and angelica root, stimulate the liver’s production of bile, which helps aid digestion. This can be useful for “sluggish digestion,” which may appear as a poor appetite, constipation, or bloating after meals, among other things. Tasting the bitter flavor is important, but luckily there are tasty herbal concoctions on the market that combine bitter flavors with tastier aromatics like orange, fennel, cardamom, etc. Take a small dose (about 1/4 teaspoon) 15 minutes before each meal, when you experience bloating, or even shortly after a meal if you forget to take them first.
  • Digestive Enzymes

    • If you regularly have indigestion or undigested food in your stool, you might benefit from using digestive enzymes. Your body produces its own enzymes in the pancreas and small intestines, but some people are low in these enzymes. Most digestive enzyme products have a combination of different enzymes to help you break down your food. You can take a capsule shortly before each meal or with the first bite of food.