Home Remedies for Upset Stomachs
It has been estimated that 15-20% of us experience indigestion and stomach upsets at least once a year.
For some of us, however, the symptoms of stomach pain, bloating and excess gas are a far more common occurrence.
Under these circumstances our quality of life can begin to suffer, which may explain why so much money is spent each year on digestion-calming pharmaceuticals.
Oddly, bearing in mind how common indigestion is, doctors are still unclear as to the specific causes. Indeed, it has been suggested that a whole battery of potential conditions may be experienced in the form of an upset stomach. This can therefore make an accurate diagnosis - and treatment - far from easy.
After all, what works for one person may have no impact on others, depending on the root cause of digestive troubles. That said, the internet appears to be filled with “home remedy” articles that are based upon little more than hearsay. Our intention in this article is therefore to focus on those remedies that actually have some scientific backing.
In other words, we'll be focusing on treatments that have been rigorously tested in a clinical environment. While this guide may therefore offer rather fewer options than some competing articles, the information provided should be more accurate and beneficial for your needs.
Activated charcoal has been used for years to treat a range of different conditions. For example, as odd as it might sound, many people swear by the use of activated charcoal toothpaste to help give them a whiter smile.
However, within the confines of this article there is also scientific evidence that activated charcoal may serve as a beneficial home remedy for the treatment of indigestion.
One extensive study selected 276 patients suffering regularly from indigestion and provided them with either a daily treatment that included activated charcoal, or a placebo capsule. After a four week study period each participant was assessed for a range of indigestion-associated symptoms including bloating, stomach ache and acid reflux. The experts found that the activated charcoal treatment had a significant impact, overall leading to a 70% improvement.
Similar studies comparing activated charcoal with a placebo have found further promising results. Over a period of three months another group of 132 volunteers experienced a significant decline in symptoms. Asked about the occurrence of either “moderate” or “severe” indigestion, only 6.78% of those taking charcoal reported issues, while this figure sat at 21.43% - more than three times as high - in the placebo group.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, activated charcoal has been assessed by the rigorous standards of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), who decide what claims can and cannot be made about specific food supplements like activated charcoal.
After detailed analysis even EFSA has concluded that activated charcoal “contributes to reducing excessive flatulence after eating.” This, in turn, can of course lead to reductions in the discomfort experienced by indigestion sufferers.
Peppermint is another potential home remedy for indigestion which has been studied in the laboratory. It is believed by experts that peppermint oil works by gently relaxing the digestive tract, reducing the muscle spasms that can cause discomfort after eating.
Peppermint has been tested repeatedly as a natural remedy for digestive troubles. One such experiment that involved 96 sufferers who each took one 90 mg peppermint oil capsule twice a day reported significant improvements after a treatment period of 28 days. The intensity of stomach pain after eating fell by 40% among those participants taking peppermint, while feelings of bloating or being too full reduced by an even more dramatic 43%.
Doctors were then asked to assess the level of digestive problems experienced by the participants and claimed that while only 22% of the placebo group showed marked improvements in their condition, 67% the volunteers using peppermint were either “much improved” or “very much improved”.
Ginger has long been used for a range of medical conditions, from pain relief to easing joint pain. Of importance here, however, there is also scientific evidence to support the use of ginger in cases of indigestion.
One study provided 1200mg of ginger extract one hour before eating, then observed the impacts of the treatment on digestion. The researchers in question found that ginger significantly increased the rate of “gastric emptying” - or how quickly food leaves the stomach after arrival.
This can be useful for cases of indigestion in which we feel “bunged up” or bloated, by helping to naturally ease our meals along the digestive tract. Despite such experiments, possibly the most hopeful impact of ginger on cases of stomach upset are its seemingly miraculous ability to reduce feelings of nausea and sickness.
Indeed, so effective has ginger proven to be that it is now routinely used as a natural remedy for women suffering from morning sickness. Scientists carried out what is known as a “meta-analysis” where the results of numerous previous studies are pooled.
Such investigations are considered the “gold standard” of scientific research because the help to remove any outliers that may have impacted any single study. A meta-analysis of ginger's impact on feelings of nausea pooled the results from six different studies, involving a total of 675 volunteers. In each case consulted, ginger was considered to be superior to placebo and in two cases it was equally effective as the standard anti-nausea medication most commonly taken.
Furthermore, the researchers highlighted “the absence of significant side effects”, helping to underline just how safe this treatment really is.
Possibly the most intriguing home remedy for indigestion comes in the form of red pepper (capsicum). Scientists have long studied the medicinal benefits of hot chili peppers, whose active ingredient capsaicin has demonstrated pain-relieving properties when applied topically to arthritic joints.
At the same time, spicy foods like chili peppers have also been regularly implicated in cases of acid reflux and other digestive complaints. Red peppers, in contrast, may contain lower levels of capsaicin, but tend not to cause digestive problems.
Indeed, if one study is to be believed then the impact of red pepper on cases of indigestion could be positively beneficial. In this experiment, a group of patients suffering from upset stomachs and/or irritable bowel syndrome were advised to consume 2.5g of red pepper powder per day, while completing a journal of any digestive symptoms experienced.
After a period of five weeks the researchers discovered that the volunteers experienced a 60% reduction in feelings of stomach pain, bloating and nausea. This was some 30% higher than the placebo group. The experts believe that even the low level of capsaicin found in sweet peppers is therefore beneficial for digestive complaints.
The working theory as to why it works so well is that capsaicin desensitizes the C-fibres within the gut - a group of nerves that transmit discomfort to the brain. By rendering these nerves temporarily out of action, feelings of discomfort associated with indigestion simply cease to be transmitted.
Earlier in this article we discussed the difficulties associated with identifying the cause of indigestion.
One possibility considered by the medical community has been that our lifestyle may be having an impact. In order to assess the most likely “risk factors” a number of studies have been completed, asking large numbers of sufferers about everything from their diet to their exercise regime and even their state of mind.
One fascinating example involved 30 volunteers, each of whom underwent a battery of different psychological tests. The results showed that people reporting greater levels of stress, a weaker social life or depressive symptoms were much more likely to experience indigestion.
Another similar study, involving a larger number of participants, also found links between digestive troubles and anxiety. With the links between stress and digestive complaints becoming better established in scientific journals a subsequent far more widespread survey was carried out - involving an astonishing 12,653 patients. Just like the previous study this one also sought to identify links between lifestyle and digestive troubles. Once again the most common relationship, experienced by 45.6% of respondents, was that “feelings of continued stress” tended to be linked to indigestion.
When we think of “home remedies” it is natural that our mind turns to plants, herbs and other treatments that can be swallowed with a glass of water.
At the same time, however, it is all too easy not to consider the link between body and mind - and how our external environment might be contributing to our symptoms. The message here is that people with more negative feelings - be that stress, anxiety or depression - seem more prone to digestive upsets. Perhaps under these circumstances, another home remedy would be to consider your ongoing mindset.
If you find that you regularly suffer from negative emotions then seeking a positive solution might be just as effective as any more traditional treatment.
The previously-mentioned study may have found links between feelings of stress and digestive troubles, but this was far from the only pattern observed. The results also demonstrated links between indigestion and “eating greasy foods at least once every two to three days” and “drinking coffee almost daily”.
While coffee and high-fat foods are linked to worsening digestive symptoms, foods that we think of as “healthier” have been shown to have quite the opposite and to improve indigestion. For example, another study found an inverse relationship with the consumption of fruits and vegetables. They also found that the more slowly people ate; the less likely issues are to arise.
Cutting out the junk food and focusing on what dieticians might call a “balanced diet” involving plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and healthy fats are therefore likely to support a more effective digestive tract.
At the same time, lay off those foods and drinks that you know aren't doing you any good - such as saturated fats and high-caffeine beverages.
A Warning: Don't Ignore Professional Medical Advice
While many of us would rather rely on natural home remedies to treat problems like stomach upsets, this may not always be the best idea. Researchers working in the field of indigestion (or “dyspepsia” as it is often known in the scientific community) have identified dozens of potential medical conditions that may present themselves in the form of stomach upsets. Several of these require proper medical treatment to resolve.
Consequently, if you find that you regularly suffer from indigestion you should be sure to seek qualified medical assistance rather than simply self-medicating at home. Indeed, while supplements and home remedies certainly have their place, any recurring medical condition should be referred to your doctor, no matter how minor it may seem to you.
Better to be safe than sorry.
Indigestion isn't a normal part of everyday life, and you shouldn't accept it as such. Fortunately, there are a host of different home remedies that you can try. From taking ginger to relieve nausea to activated charcoal for excessive gas, there are ever more treatments that show positive results. The key now is to take action rather than simply sitting at your computer. Learn more about the supplements mentioned here: