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Foods to Soothe Sour Stomachs

By David Grotto, RD, LDNJune 25, 2013
From the WebMD Archives

I don’t know about you but when I experience an upset stomach, I will do everything in my power to calm things down in there. My grandmother’s cure to tame a rumbly tummy was to down some effervescent Brioschi that was mixed with lemon lime soda.  My father’s trick was to mix a bit of baking soda into warm water and guzzle it down as fast as you can. And my all-time favorite, which I couldn’t bring myself to do under any circumstance, was my college friend’s “sure-fire cure” for any upset stomach/hangover, which was to eat one large refrigerated fried chicken breast followed by an extra spicy Bloody Mary cocktail. I can assure you that my friend was not a medical student.

But before we go any further talking about remedies, my first bit of advice for you is to try to avoid the problem altogether by using caution with what I call the “Hell Belly” foods, beverages, and situations that may lead to a sour stomach:

  • fried and other high fat foods
  • large meals
  • alcohol
  • carbonated beverages
  • spoiled food
  • overly spicy dishes
  • stress
  • rushing through your meal
  • swallowing too much air when you eat (rushing your meal again)

When tummy troubles do strike, there are a few food remedies that might help. Keep in mind that these suggestions may not be “sure-fire cures” but they are certainly worth a try.

Dad’s pantry fave – Baking soda is not a food per say but often used as an ingredient in baking. Otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is very effective for lowering the acid content of the stomach. The sodium in baking soda helps draw digestive juices into the stomach to ease passage into the small intestine and right on down the line. Just mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda into one cup of slightly warm water.

Apples or applesauce – The fiber in apples help move offending foods though the digestive track. Apples are also an excellent source of plant nutrients called polyphenols located mainly in the skin of the apple. These polyphenols help protect the inside lining of the stomach called the gastric mucosa which can become damaged from NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs) and pathogenic bacteria such as H. Pylori, a major contributor to hell belly conditions like ulcers.

Artichoke leaves – Artichokes contain plant nutrients that have been found to be beneficial in short and long term dyspepsia (indigestion) and gastritis. Research also supports that it is quite helpful in reducing the spasticity that goes along with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Ginger or candied ginger – Ginger has been used for the past 2,000 years in China to help treat stomach upset and nausea.  Ginger is not rich in any one nutrient but it is packed with the phyrochemicals called gingerols, shogaols and zingerones which help battle conditions from morning sickness to everyday nausea.In a study of subjects with upset stomachs, ginger capsules were found to significantly speed up the time it took for the sour contents of the stomach to get through the digestive tract. There was even a study showing that simply smelling ginger could help reduce the nausea experience after coming out of anesthesia!

Papaya – Papaya is rich in the protein digestive enzymes papain and chymopapain. In addition to the fruit form, papaya enzymes are also available in a chewable supplement for the occasional upset tummy. Besides helping proteins digest, papaya has long been known for its anti-inflammatory attributes. A randomized study using a fermented version of papaya for 14 weeks showed that papaya was very effective in reducing C-reactive protein and uric acid, both indicators of inflammation.

Peppermint tea/candy – Peppermint has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes; it helps slow movement of the stomach muscles and/or spasms, which contribute to nausea or vomiting. There are a variety of peppermint choices to choose from if you’ve got that queasy feeling: peppermint fresh herb; powder; oil; tea or candy.  Try a hot cup of peppermint flavored tea before peppermint hard candies as sometimes the sugary sweet taste may spur on more queasiness. The caffeine free aromatic tea will help soothe in a natural way without calories. Peppermint helps the entire digestive highway as research supports its benefits in IBS, too. But those who suffer from chronic heart burn may be better off without it, as peppermint can lower pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, which keeps the contents of your stomach where they belong.

White or Brown Rice – Rice is the cornerstone of the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Tea and Toast) diet that has been moms’ friend for making diarrhea and queasy stomachs go away. In a study that looked at optimal foods for digestive disorders, rice was found to be an ideal carbohydrate source for its ease of digestibility and its soothing properties.

I hope these simple food remedies help the next time you are in digestive turmoil. And, of course, if any of your stomach problems persist or increase in intensity, head to the doctor.

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