4 home remedies for an upset stomach (plus 6 things to avoid)

An upset stomach is a nonmedical term describing a range of gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.

Next time you’re feeling any of these symptoms, try these home remedies from Nebraska Medicine gastroenterologist Sarah Malik, MBBS, to feel better.

Peppermint oil

For centuries, peppermint oil has been used to treat gastrointestinal ailments. Peppermint oil possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulating and anesthetic activities, all of which may help gut disorders. Peppermint oil can relax painful muscle contractions along your food pipe.

Eucalyptus oil, found in vapor rub

Vapor rub contains ingredients that can provide a soothing effect if rubbed on the belly. It contains eucalyptus oil, which fights against bacteria, improves your immune system and reduces inflammation. It also contains menthol, camphor oil and nutmeg oil, which have been used to relieve pain.


Herbal medicines are also effective for nausea. People have used ginger root to soothe troubled stomachs for the past 2,000 years. Various preclinical and clinical studies also support ginger's helpful properties. Try ginger tea with lemon for a relaxing, comforting drink.

Sports drinks and noncaffeinated sodas

Vomiting and diarrhea with upset stomach can cause dehydration. Sports drinks with electrolytes are the best way to prevent dehydration. If you're having trouble keeping liquids down, try sucking on ice chips and taking small sips of water. You can also drink noncaffeinated sodas, such as Sprite, 7UP or ginger ale.

Take care to avoid caffeinated sodas, since caffeine can make your upset stomach worse. The carbonation from sodas inflates the stomach while increasing its internal pressure. Combining higher pressure and caffeine's effects makes acid reflux more likely.

Certain foods make an upset stomach worse

Some people with chronic stomach discomfort are more sensitive to certain foods:

  1. Caffeinated sodas: Soft drinks can worsen acid reflux symptoms due to caffeine content and carbonation.
  2. Dairy: Patients with lactose intolerance should avoid dairy products.
  3. Spicy foods: Too much spicy food can upset your stomach, leading to constipation or diarrhea.
  4. Fried foods: Fried foods are high in saturated fats, which take much longer to break down in the stomach and slow down digestion.
  5. Alcohol: Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol irritates your gut, which can cause stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
  6. Pain relievers: Ibuprofen, aspirin and antibiotics can increase feelings of nausea.

People with irritable bowel syndrome may want to avoid certain foods that increase flatulence, especially beans, legumes, onions, celery, asparagus, cauliflower, raisins, apricots, prunes, Brussels sprouts, wheat, pretzels and bagels.

7 tips to avoid indigestion for a sensitive stomach

Here are some tips to help you avoid indigestion or upset stomach.

  1. Eat slowly and ensure you are properly chewing your food.
  2. Consume smaller, more frequent meals.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  4. Avoid late-night meals or snacks.
  5. Ensure your diet consists of soluble fiber.
  6. Identify specific triggers and remove them from your diet.
  7. Maintain a bland diet without excessive use of spices.
When to see your doctor for stomach pain

Stomach pain comes in various forms and might range from intermittent pain to dull abdominal aching, stabbing pains that remain constant.

Alarming signs that suggest a more serious condition include:

  • Chronic or severe abdominal pain that makes it difficult to do normal activities
  • Evidence of gastrointestinal bleeding (vomiting up blood, blood in stool)
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe, ongoing diarrhea that lasts for more than two days
  • Nighttime diarrhea that keeps you from sleeping

People who experience frequent stomach issues may have something more going on than just sensitivity. The best thing is to come in for screening, so your health care provider can rule out conditions such as peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a University Health Center appointment.