By Isadora Baum
If there’s one thing that can put an immediate halt on your busy life, it’s an upset stomach.
And, since roughly 80% of your immune system is in your gut, stomach problems also can lead to fatigue, brain fog and more.
Since no one has time for a sour stomach, here are experts’ best tips and go-to remedies, whether you’re having a bout right now or trying to prevent future troubles.
WHAT’S BOTHERING YOU?
Bellyaches come in many forms, and none of them are fun. Nausea, bloating, gas—all of these ailments can be debilitating. And then there’s constipation. Let’s get real for a moment: Some people poop a few times a day, other a few times a week—that’s perfectly normal, unless you’re going more than 3 days without a No. 2. Along with being terribly uncomfortable, chronic constipation can lead to bigger problems. Here are some healthy foods that can help keep your gut in shape.
- Yogurt: Grab some if you’re having trouble going, but also include it in your everyday diet, says nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani. “Having some all-natural yogurt when feeling nauseous can help to restore balance in your stomach,” she says. “It is important to choose plain yogurt that still contains live/active cultures, as these can help to restore the good bacteria in your gut.”
- Fermented foods: Also rich in probiotics, fermented foods help keep the gut healthy. “Probiotics are critical to digestive health and populate our intestines with beneficial bacteria,” says registered dietician Rebecca Lewis. “This helps improve digestion and can also help reduce bloating.” So add some kimchi, miso, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha to your diet (you can even try making your own).
- Fiber: You already know you need your fruit and vegetables for optimal nutrition, but here’s another reason. “Fiber is critical to our digestive health, and not only helps move food through our stomachs, but also slows down hunger cravings by keeping us full for longer. Think whole grains, beans, fruits, and veggies,” says Lewis.
- Chia seeds: These little wonders do so much more than thicken healthy puddings. “They contain soluble fiber, which forms a soothing gel that helps improve elimination and feed the beneficial bacteria living in your gut,” says registered dietician Desiree Neilson. “They’re naturally gluten free, and a 2-tablespoon serving is even low FODMAP, meaning that it won’t aggravate symptoms of irritable bowel, should you have a chronic, digestive condition.”
- Papaya: This tropical fruit “contains papain and chymopapain, enzymes that soothe the stomach by breaking down proteins, which promote a healthy acidic environment,” says Luiza Petre, a cardiologist and weight-management specialist.
- Lemon: If you’re feeling especially backed up or bloated, you might be holding on to extra water weight. “This can happen when our diets have been high in salt,” Lewis explains. A natural diuretic can help get that extra water and gas out, flushing your system and producing a slimming effect. “Lemons are a natural diuretic, which is often why lemon juice is recommended to be squeezed in water during a cleanse,” she says. If you find lemons too sour, try beets, grapefruit, parsley, or asparagus, which are also good food sources to help you pass extra water, she adds.
- Dried fruits: Sure, they’re tasty in trail mix—but they also can help you go, stat, thanks to their high potassium, fiber, and magnesium content, Lewis says.
SOOTHING THE ACHE
Even with an optimal diet, stomach trouble still happens from time to time. These foods can help ease the discomfort.
- Ginger: “Due to the naturally occurring chemicals gingerol and shogoal, ginger can be an antidote to vomiting,” Petre says. Try pairing it with an herbal tea, as both can ease digestive distress and relax the body. You can brew the tea by either putting ginger and water in a saucepan or a teapot and letting it steep for about 10 minutes, or you can buy prepared ginger tea in packets. If ginger’s flavor is too strong for your taste, add some lemon, Lalani suggests.
- Mint: “Mint improves the flow of bile through the stomach, which helps aid digestion. It also relieves pain and discomfort from gas and bloating,” says Petre.
- Toast: Mom was right (as usual). Bland, dry toast is a good choice when you’re feeling sick, since it’s easy to digest. And toasting it helps: “The char from toasting absorbs the gastric acids, adds bulk to your stool and has a settling affect on your stomach,” Petre notes.
- Bananas: Rich in potassium, bananas are great for replenishing electrolytes lost if you’ve vomited, and keeping the body hydrated, which is essential when you’re feeling under the weather, says Petre. Bananas are also starchy and contain pectin, so they can have a binding effect on the digestive tract and firm up stool if you’re experiencing diarrhea, Lalani says.