You and the wife celebrated your promotion with dinner at your favorite barbecue joint. You've been working hard for months, you think, so you deserve to cut loose a little. On the way home you groan and mutter that you wish you had stopped after that first barbecue platter. Your wife shrugs her shoulders. You both know the price for your revelry will be a painful night of bloating, gas and heartburn.
But sometimes your tummy can turn on you even when you haven't been making one too many trips to the buffet table. It's important to know what normal tummy trouble is, and what's something to take more seriously.
There are two kinds of stomach problems. A chronic, long-term upset stomach is fairly serious and should be discussed with your doctor. Temporary stomachaches are usually less serious and tend to be caused by something you ate. There are some simple dietary changes you can make to avoid gas; and if you do find yourself with a bellyache, luckily, there are some simple home remedies you can use to alleviate discomfort. In this article, we'll offer 18 tips that may help.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Avoiding unpleasant gas attacks just takes a little planning and some careful choices. Making educated decisions about what foods you eat, when and how you eat them and what you do after can make a huge difference in reducing stomach upset.
Here are a few suggestions to get started:
Track your diet. If you've been experiencing temporary stomach upset fairly often, try keeping a food diary for a few weeks to see if you can identify any links. Different foods bother different people. If you can identify the foods that you seem to be sensitive to, you can limit or avoid them -- along with the trouble they cause you.
Pass on pepper. Red and black pepper are frequently identified as gastrointestinal irritants, so try skipping these to see if your stomach feels better. As far as spices, limit these only if you're bothered by them. Some people can eat spicy foods without ever experiencing unpleasant side effects, and if you're one of them, depriving your taste buds isn't necessary.
Opt for less fat. If your stomach has been acting up, reach for foods that are easy to digest, such as whole grains and lean protein. Avoid foods that are fried or high in fat, which can cause or aggravate stomach upset.
Increase fiber gradually. A high-fiber diet is good for your health, but don't go too high too fast. A gradual change of diet, with a slow but continual addition of fiber, will help your system adjust gradually.
Choose veggies carefully. You may love broccoli, but if you're having a problem with gas, cut back. Too much of certain vegetables, namely broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, can aggravate stomach woes. Cabbage can also cause trouble.
Limit problematic fruits. Some people experience stomach discomfort from eating apples and melon. Pay attention to whether your stomach upset follows eating either of these.
Eat moderately. Take time to enjoy your meal and allow your food to digest properly. Stuffing your stomach can irritate it. But don't skip meals -- it allows acid to build up in your stomach and can leave you with an aching tummy.
Cook gasless beans. If you throw out the water in which you've soaked the beans overnight, then cook them in fresh water, you'll significantly decrease their gas-causing potential. Rinsing canned beans also helps reduce gas.
Don't count on milk. Milk often hinders rather than helps stomachs because many people can't digest it easily. Though many people think milk can soothe an aching tummy, it actually may do more harm than good. People who are lactose intolerant have trouble digesting milk and end up with bloating, gas and cramping.
Ease up on coffee, alcohol and smoking. They irritate the stomach lining. Even decaf coffee bothers some people. And if you smoke, you can add this to the very long list of reasons to quit.
Drink plenty of water. Aim for six to eight glasses of water a day to keep your stomach and intestines running smoothly.
If you've recently started taking any new medication, whether prescription or over the counter, or increased the dose of your regular medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it could be causing your stomach upset. Many medications can trigger digestive discomfort, especially during the early days of treatment. A lower dose or different drug may be easier on your stomach, although it's possible that drug-related stomach upset will resolve on its own in a few days as your body adjusts to it.
Other things to try:
Switch antacid brands. Sometimes, a different brand of antacid may prove more effective than your old favorite.
Don't take an antacid too long. Side effects from antacid use usually don't appear unless a person has taken the medication for several days. But if your stomach problem has persisted that long, it's time to call the doctor.
Avoid laxatives. If constipation has your digestive system out of whack, go the more natural route and take bran or a commercial bulking agent such as Metamucil (with plenty of water) to get things moving again.
Lay off the aspirin. Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can irritate the stomach and have been known to cause ulcers. Choose acetaminophen or enteric-coated aspirin instead and make sure you are aware of over-the-counter warnings for analgesics.
Relax. Stress can cause or exacerbate gastrointestinal ailments such as indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhea. Relieve stress by reducing the commitments in your schedule, going on vacation, learning to meditate, exercising or taking up a hobby.
Exercise your body. Even a brief stroll, particularly after meals, may aid in digestion and help an overstuffed or crampy stomach feel better.
Check your calendar. Morning sickness is one possible cause of stomach upset in women who are capable of bearing children, so before you consider reaching for any medication or making any major changes in your diet to ease your stomach woes, you may want to make sure that pregnancy isn't the culprit.
These seeds act very similarly to fennel seeds. They help with digestion and gas. You can either make a tea from the seed or you can do what people in Middle Eastern countries have done for centuries -- simply chew on the seeds after dinner.
Caraway seed tea: Place 1 teaspoon caraway seeds in a cup and add boiling water. Cover the cup and let stand for ten minutes. Strain well and drink up to three cups a day -- be sure to drink on an empty stomach.
This aromatic spice stimulates the digestive system, helping things move along the digestive tract smoothly. You can make a cinnamon tea by stirring 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder into 1 cup hot water. Let the tea stand for up to five minutes and drink.
This remedy is one of the most prescribed for gas and stomach cramps by medical herbalists. Try a fennel tea for your stomach: Place 1 teaspoon fennel seeds in a cup and add boiling water. Cover the cup and let stand for ten minutes. Strain well and drink up to three cups a day -- be sure to drink on an empty stomach.
Ginger is a long-time helper for stomach ailments of all types -- particularly nausea and gas. Ginger helps food flow smoothly through the digestive tract, allowing the body to better absorb nutrients. Drink a cup of ginger tea to get your stomach back on track. To make your own ginger tea: Add 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger to a cup of hot water, let stand for up to three minutes, strain and drink away.
A folk remedy for indigestion, mint (in the form of peppermint or spearmint) can soothe a troubled tummy. Mint helps food move through the intestines properly and eases stomach cramps.
Sip a cup of mint tea to let the herb work its magic: Put 1 teaspoon dried mint in a cup and add boiling water. Cover the cup and let it stand for 10 minutes. Strain and drink up to three cups of the warm tea a day. Be sure to drink it on an empty stomach.
Thyme stimulates the digestive tract, helps with stomach cramping and relieves gas pressure. Try some thyme for your tummy trouble: Place 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves in a cup. Fill the cup with boiling water and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain and drink on an empty stomach up to three times a day.
Make your own antacid with baking soda. (Remember to read the antacid instructions on the baking soda label before you take this home remedy.) Mix 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in 1/2 glass water and drink away. Also remember that baking soda is a sodium compound (sodium bicarbonate), so if you have high blood pressure or are on a sodium-restricted diet, don't use this remedy.
You haven't eaten anything all day, and you can't understand why your stomach is churning and burning. The answer is probably overactive stomach acids. And your best bet is to eat something, but to stick with something bland, such as nibbling on crackers.
Adding fiber to your diet will help alleviate stomachaches and keep your digestive system healthy. One study of fiber's effect on the tummy discovered that people who ate fiber-rich foods at the first sign of a tummy ache cut their chances of getting a full-blown upset stomach in half. If you haven't been eating much fiber, be sure to start slowly. Jumping in with loads of fiber-rich foods after living on burgers and fries will give you a mean case of gas. Add fiber gradually over a few months and drink plenty of water to avoid overloading your system. To get started, grab an apple and nosh away, but remember to eat the peel -- that's where you get most of your roughage.
If you have a sensitive tummy, bland foods such as bananas seem to ease the pain. One study found that half the people who took banana powder capsules every day for two months eased their tummy pain. You can get similar results by eating a banana -- or better yet, a plantain -- every day.
Soda pop, particularly ginger ale or lemon-lime and other noncaffeinated varieties, helps settle stomachs. This trick is especially useful if you've eaten too much. The carbonation in the soda causes you to burp, which is the quickest way to get relief from an overfull belly.
If you have the stomach flu (which is not really a flu, or influenza, at all but generally some type of microbial infection, like food poisoning) and it's accompanied by diarrhea or vomiting, fruit juice will help resupply the potassium and other nutrients your body is losing.
Antacids can help neutralize stomach acids, which can cut that burning sensation you feel when you have an empty stomach. Antacids are very effective in soothing stomachs, but they can have side effects. For example, magnesium-based antacids can cause diarrhea, while calcium-based antacids can cause constipation. Antacids with aluminum hydroxide can also cause constipation.
The dose in an antacid tablet is lower than in liquid preparations and therefore may be less likely to contribute to secondary problems.
Heat some water on the stove and pour it into a hot water bottle. Put the soothing heat on your stomach after you eat to help increase circulation to the abdominal area. The improved circulation should help improve digestion.
To learn more remedies that can quell stomach cramps, stimulate digestion, and help calm inflammation, see Herbal Remedies for Digestive Problems or see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat on the Home Remedies page.
HowStuffWorks takes a look at how to safely use a neti pot.