As someone who suffers from an inordinate number of stomach ailments, I can honestly say I’ve tried just about everything to ease my symptoms. Although I’ve been known to toss back some Pepto or pop a few Tums, I often turn to natural remedies to knock down a bout of indigestion or heartburn. If you’re reading this now, it’s likely you’re in need of relief. Maybe you’ve run out of over-the-counter medication, can’t take it because of side effects, or just don’t care for it — whatever the reason, I’m here to help.
Heartburn is not only incredibly common, it’s incredibly unpleasant. Characterized by a painful burning sensation behind the breastbone (often creeping up the throat), heartburn is triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Luckily for frequent sufferers, heartburn can be quashed fairly quickly with a number of natural remedies.
Chewing gum relieves heartburn by stimulating the salivary glands and increasing the flow of saliva, which is an acid buffer. As you chew, you swallow more often, diluting any acid that has built up and washing it away. After a meal, simply pop in a piece of sugar-free gum and chew for 30 minutes to help avoid heartburn.
Baking soda is a base substance — it has a pH higher than 7.0 — meaning it can neutralize stomach acid. If you’re feeling the burn, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water and drink it. Baking soda should only be used for occasional heartburn relief, as it’s high in salt and can cause swelling and nausea.
Ginger Root Tea
Ginger is the holy grail of fixing stomach ailments, so it’s no surprise that it fights acid reflux and heartburn. To transform ginger into a soothing tea, simmer three quarter sized slices of ginger root in two cups of water for 30 minutes. Remove the ginger pieces and pour the brew into your favorite mug. Drink 20 minutes before a meal to help calm your stomach and act as an acid buffer.
Anyone who suffers from heartburn regularly can attest to the fact that it often gets worse when lying in bed. In a prone position, gravity works against you, causing acid and the digested contents of your stomach to back up into your esophagus. To combat heartburn and acid reflux at night, sleep with your head elevated. Sleeping on a gentle incline is best, as piling up pillows can cause you to bend in the middle and make matters worse. Place bricks, books, blocks, or a wedge shaped pillow under the mattress at the head of your bed to raise it about six inches.
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen — it’s pretty much the classic tummy ache. Symptoms include bloating, gas, a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, and vomiting. Indigestion can be triggered by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, stomach infection, smoking, and certain medications. Chronic indigestion can also be the result of stress. If symptoms are severe or last for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor, as this may be the sign of a more serious issue.
As with heartburn, ginger works marvelously when it comes to settling stomach upset and improving digestion. To treat indigestion, drink ginger tea, enjoy it candied, or take it in capsule form.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Though vinegar is naturally acidic, it has the amazing capability to settle indigestion. To sooth an upset tummy, combine one tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, one teaspoon of honey and one cup of water. Drink this solution two to three times a day as needed.
Four Seed Chew
If indigestion has you bloated and gassy, this mix of tasty seeds can offer relief. Mix one teaspoon each of fennel, dill, anise, and caraway seeds. Chew a half-teaspoon of the mixture to help expel excess gas.
Peppermint or Chamomile Tea
A warm mug of herbal tea after a heavy meal is a fantastic way to avoid indigestion. Peppermint or chamomile tea, in particular, are helpful in relieving digestive problems. Peppermint aids in digestion while camomile calms the stomach and soothes the intestinal tract. If indigestion is ongoing, drink a few cups of the tea during the day.
At one point or another, most of us have felt that familiar hot wave of nausea. Often it’s a harbinger to vomiting, but, regardless, it’s a wretched thing to have to suffer through. Nausea can be caused by a variety of situations, including motion sickness, morning sickness, stomach flu, and food poisoning. Other times, it’s a result of a concussion, heart attack, cancer, or chemotherapy. Understanding the cause behind it is incredibly important, as it will help decide the appropriate treatment.
If your nausea is caused by a stomach flu or food poisoning — and you’re having trouble keeping food down — turn to the the BRAT diet.
These four foods are not only easy to digest, they also contain energy rich carbohydrates and nutrients to help you regain your strength.
Seeing a theme here? Ginger is perhaps the best remedy for nausea, as it neutralizes stomach acid, relaxes stomach muscles, and soothes irritated stomach tissue. Sip a warm cup of ginger tea, or if you’re feeling like you can keep food down, try eating a few gingersnaps.
Like ginger, peppermint has a calming effect on the lining of the stomach. While drinking a cup of peppermint tea is always a great option, you can also use peppermint essential oil. You can rub one to two drops onto the back of your neck and bottoms of your feet, or add you can add five to 10 drops to your bath.
Apply a Cool Compress
Combined with any of the above treatments, applying a cool compress to the back of your neck when you’re feeling nauseated is a great way to get relief. An ice pack that’s been sitting out for a few minutes works well, as does a washcloth doused in cool water. If you’re lying down, place the compress under your neck. If you’re sitting, drape it across the back of your neck.
Constipation is equal parts uncomfortable and inconvenient — and it’s a problem millions of people face every day. The most common causes of constipation include a diet low in fiber, dehydration, and stress. If you’re having a hard time (no pun intended) going poo, consider one of the following remedies.
It may seem cliche, but prune juice is a natural laxative. This tasty beverage is high in fiber and contains sorbitol, which softens stools by absorbing water as it passes through the intestines. One eight ounce glass of prune juice should get things moving. Make sure to give it time to work before drinking more, as too much fiber and sorbitol can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Dark-roast coffee contains fiber, oil, and water, all of which stimulate digestion and keep the bowels moving. Drink a cup or two first thing in the morning and matters should be afoot in no time. As with prune juice, watch your intake as more than a couple cups can cause diarrhea.
Pure olive oil works to relieve constipation by stimulating and lubricating your digestive system. One tablespoon of olive oil on an empty stomach should do the trick! You can also mix it with a little bit of lemon juice to lighten the flavor.
Flaxseed oil contains fiber and will help increase the number of bowel movements you have. Mix one tablespoon of flaxseed oil into a glass of orange juice. Drink as needed, but again, give it a few hours to work before having more.
Epsom salt alleviates constipation by drawing water from its surroundings, softening the stool, and making it easier to pass. Furthermore, the magnesium in the salt stimulates contraction of the bowel muscles, which also makes passing easier. Simply dissolve two teaspoons of epsom salt in one cup of water (or fruit juice) and drink it. If you have not had a bowel movement within four hours of the first dose, you may take one more. When preparing this mix for children, only use one half teaspoon of epsom salt.
An acute bout of diarrhea not only makes getting out and about difficult, it can take a lot out of you. Diarrhea occurs when the digestive system isn’t functioning properly, leading to frequent loose or watery stools. Diarrhea is often triggered by viral and bacterial infections, contaminated food or water, food intolerances, and intestinal diseases. Try one (or more) of the following treatments to lessen diarrheal episodes, but remember to be patient — it will take time.
Yogurt with live bacterial cultures — such as lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium — can help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut when you’re in the throes of diarrhea. As little as two bowls of unflavored yogurt per day can offer noticeable relief. For added benefits, eat a banana with your yogurt.
Fenugreek seeds have high mucilage content, which delivers a strong antidiarrheal effect. Eat a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds with a tablespoon of yogurt three times a day for quick relief from diarrhea.
Coming to save the day yet again, ginger calms inflammation in the intestines and eases the symptoms of diarrhea. Drink a cup of fresh ginger tea, or take 500 mg in capsule form every two hours.
No matter what the cause, stomach aches can leave you absolutely miserable. Fortunately, many natural remedies can be found in our pantries or around the house. As with all things health related, consult a doctor or your pharmacist if you have any questions regarding safety, drug interactions, and side effects.
Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.