By Isadora Baum
If there’s one thing that can put an immediate halt to your life, it’s an upset stomach. Bellyaches come in many forms, and none of them are fun: Nausea, bloating, gas — and then there’s constipation. Along with being terribly uncomfortable, chronic constipation can lead to bigger problems. What’s more, since roughly 80% of your immune system is in your gut, stomach problems can also lead to fatigue, brain fog and more.
That’s why we asked experts for healthy foods to help keep your gut in shape and to soothe discomfort. Here are 10 foods that will help ease an upset stomach.
Grab some if you’re having trouble going, but also include it in your everyday diet to restore balance in your stomach, says nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani. Just be sure to choose “plain yogurt that contains live, active cultures,” she notes.
2. Fermented Foods
Rich in probiotics, fermented foods help keep your 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. Or, you can even try making your own.
3. Chia Seeds
These little wonders do so much more than thicken 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.”
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.
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, like lemons, can help get that extra water and gas out. 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.
6. Dried Fruit
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.
“Due to the naturally occurring chemicals gingerol and shogoal, ginger can be an antidote to vomiting,” Petre says. Try brewing an herbal tea, which can ease digestive distress and relax the body. You can brew tea by 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 packets. If ginger’s flavor is too strong for your taste, add some lemon, Lalani suggests.
“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.
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.
Rich in potassium, bananas are great for replenishing electrolytes 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 your stool if you’re experiencing diarrhea, Lalani says.