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If you’ve ever suffered from stomach aches and pains, you know just how uncomfortable, and sometimes debilitating, they can be. It can feel like your digestive system is out to get you! Luckily, there are natural, effective remedies for an upset stomach without reaching for the pepto-bismol or gas-x.
An upset stomach will always have a cause. However, the cause can be triggered by various culprits. So, getting to the bottom of your stomach aches, especially recurring ones, is vital. Determining if your stomach pains are acute or chronic is a good place to start. Acute stomach aches are occasional and far-and-few between. Unfortunately, chronic stomach aches are frequent and likely long-term.
Acute stomach pains can be triggered by:
Often, these kinds of stomach upset are temporary and will heal on their own. That being said, there are natural remedies you can try to quicken the recovery process.
Dysbiosis simply means the balance of bacteria in your gut is out of whack. It occurs when the amount of harmful bacteria outweighs the amount of beneficial bacteria. This causes a ton of health symptoms, particularly those regarding the digestive system, such as stomach upset.
Dysbiosis often leads to gut infections as the harmful bacteria take over the microbiome. Common infections in those with an imbalanced gut include H. Pylori and Candida albicans overgrowth. H. pylori grows in the GI tract and attacks the stomach lining. Candida albicans is a yeast that takes over the gut and can spread throughout the body.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD that causes chronic inflammation on any part of the GI tract. It most commonly affects the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. It occurs when your immune system mistakes harmless bacteria for pathogens and goes on the attack, prompting an immune response. This response leads to chronic inflammation of the digestive system.
Acid reflux occurs when you don’t have enough stomach acid. The burning sensation comes from stomach contents that have not been completely broken down refluxing back up into your esophagus. It might feel like you have too much acid, but it’s actually due to not having enough.
When a food sensitivity is present, the immune system reacts to the proteins in food that cause the release of chemicals called mediators (such as histamine, prostaglandins, cytokines) from the white blood cells in the body. This mediator release causes inflammation, which can lead to stomach upset.
Constipation prevents the body from detoxing effectively and can lead to a host of symptoms such as abdominal discomfort. Even if you are going once a day, but are still suffering from stomach upset, you could be having incomplete bowel movements.
An ulcer is a sore in your stomach lining or your upper small intestine. They occur when the protective layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices is reduced. Ulcers are common in those with H. Pylori infection or those that use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin on a long-term consistent basis.
While the occasional stomach ache isn’t ideal, it’s not typically cause for concern. However, if stomach aches are affecting your day-to-day life, there is likely an underlying cause. And it’s essential that you identify and address it as soon as possible!
Common over the counter medication as a remedy for an upset stomach masks symptoms and ignores the root cause, particularly if you are dealing with chronic stomach discomfort.
Treatments like Pepto-Bismol or antacids actually decrease stomach acid production. Without the acid, when food refluxes into the esophagus, it doesn’t produce the burning sensation associated with heartburn or indigestion. Pepto bismol can also be used as an antidiarrheal agent. As a result, you’ll likely experience temporary relief, but your body will quickly learn to depend on these OTC medicines for any kind of relief.
Medications like these are effective when dealing with acute stomach pain, as the symptoms are reflective of a temporary cause such as a virus. With chronic stomach upset however, regularly taking OTC medication simply puts a bandaid on the symptom rather than actually healing the cause.
An upset stomach does not typically mean you are in immediate danger in regards to your health. For most people, symptoms related to stomach upset should go away in a few hours. However, if you experience stomach upset along with the following symptoms, it’s best to seek medical attention.
If you’re experiencing chronic stomach upset, I encourage you to work with a trusted functional practitioner to help you uncover the cause. But in the meantime, you can utilize these natural remedies for an upset stomach to ease the pain and discomfort.
Due to the fermentation process of apple cider vinegar (ACV), it’s naturally packed with enzymes to aid in digestion. Try adding 1 tbsp of ACV + 1 tbsp of manuka honey to 4 ounces of warm water. Sip slowly when you feel stomach discomfort. You can also use this as a preventive measure by sipping about 30-60 minutes before meals.
Ginger, an ancient remedy for stomach upset, has been used traditionally for centuries. The bioactive compounds in ginger, gingerol and shogaols, are known for easing nausea and reducing gas. For more benefits of ginger, check out our blog post, here.
Bitters is an herbal remedy for indigestion and other stomach issues. As the name suggests, bitters extract tastes bitter. It’s flavors naturally primes and prepares the body for digestion by increasing stomach acid production. Bitters herbs include fennel, gentian, cassia, and more. My personal favorite way to take advantage of bitters is simply chewing on fennel!
You’re likely familiar with the BRAT diet from when you were a kid suffering from the stomach bug. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are known for being bland and boring to avoid any irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. The BRAT diet is especially beneficial during times of diarrhea or vomiting. Specifically, bananas can help reduce diarrhea or loose stools.
If you know me, you know my love for digestion-boosting teas from Pique Teas. Specifically, peppermint tea can work wonders during stomach upset. You can also try ginger tea!
Applying heat to an upset stomach or cramps is a surprisingly helpful remedy. Try applying a heating pad to your stomach or soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath for 20-30 minutes.
Aloe juice helps coat the stomach lining, preventing and soothing irritation. Additionally, it is naturally alkalizing, which can help balance the pH of the gut. Typically, I recommend trying 10ml of aloe juice per day.
When all else fails, natural supplements can be a life-saver. Atrantil is a great tool to ease gas, bloating, and stomach pain. You can also try fennel, ginger, or charcoal capsules. However, it’s important to always check with your health practitioner before trying new supplements.
There are certain foods that have a reputation for causing stomach upset. If you are experiencing an unsettled tummy, it’s best to avoid these foods until it eases up. Or in many cases, you may be sensitive to these foods and it’s best to remove them from your diet altogether.
Stomach upset, both chronic and acute, are undoubtedly an inconvenient and uncomfortable experience. By addressing the root cause of your stomach upset, you can help prevent the aches and pains all together! This is where functional medicine and the help of a trusted practitioner comes into play. Together, you can test for imbalances within the body, like dysbiosis or gut infections. Read more about the signs and symptoms of dysbiosis, here.
For more information on working with me to address your chronic stomach issues, visit my website!
"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."
-Nikki Yelton, RD
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