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The first meal after an upset stomach is a tricky one because you don’t want to eat anything that will further aggravate your digestive tract. Luckily, there are some rules of thumb you can follow when picking what to eat.
For registered dietitian Lauren McNeill, the most important thing is sticking to foods that are high in soluble fibre and low in insoluble fibre.
“This is because soluble fibre may be helpful when we are experiencing diarrhea, whereas insoluble fibre can aggravate diarrhea and make it worse,” she said.
“When considering foods that are higher in soluble fibre, we also want to stick to more bland foods. This is because strong smells can make nausea worse.”
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In the hours after a severely upset stomach, it’s important to focus on getting plenty of fluids to “replenish what we might be losing in vomit or diarrhea.”
“Ensuring that you are drinking enough water, herbal teas or warm, broth-based soups is important,” said McNeill.
She also recommends foods that will help you replenish electrolytes.
“This can be as simple as choosing bananas — which are high in potassium — a vegetable soup or avocado on toast with some salt.”
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However, this does not mean sports drinks, McNeill says, because they’re high in sugar. Sports drinks, along with caffeine, are known to aggravate diarrhea and upset digestion.
Despite the age-old adage, ginger ale isn’t a good option, either. It doesn’t have much actual ginger in it — and that’s the ingredient that helps treat nausea, registered dietitian Amanda Li previously told Global News.
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How much you eat depends on a host of factors, including “the type of gastrointestinal issue you’re experiencing, the length of time you’ve had the issue, your appetite level as well as your likes and dislikes,” said Shahzadi Devje, registered dietitian and host of The Morocco Real Food Adventure.
The next time you have an upset stomach, reach for these foods instead.
Ginger is Devje’s go-to spice when it comes to a sore stomach because it’s been used “for thousands of years for medicinal purposes.”
“We typically know of ginger as the go-to spice to help ease symptoms of nausea,” she said. “It’s thought that specific compounds found in ginger may ease irritation of the gastrointestinal tract.”
Fennel has also been shown to “calm an upset stomach and ease symptoms of gas and bloating.”
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Peppermint is one of the most popular remedies for stomachaches, but Devje is skeptical.
“Whilst peppermint has been shown to tame certain digestive issues — like indigestion, gas and bloating — it may aggravate others, like heartburn,” she said.
“Peppermint’s impressive ability to soothe conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and nausea is well documented.”
If you’re in the mood for something on the sweet side, there are two fruits in particular that can help soothe your stomach: bananas and apples, when blended into a sauce.
“It’s fair to say bananas offer benefits beyond their potassium content,” Devje said. “With a high fibre content, bananas are a good choice to help manage symptoms of diarrhea.”
As well, Devje says pectin — “the thickening fibre” — has been shown to prevent the over-stimulation of the bowel, thus slowing “the frequency of diarrhea.” Applesauce also offers a high pectin content.
“Toast isn’t an age-old myth,” said Devje. “Besides bananas and applesauce, rice and toast are included in what’s referred to as the BRAT diet — an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.”
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Devje said the diet is a mix of “nourishing and bland foods” to help ease an upset stomach.
Other plain foods you can add to your list would be potatoes, oatmeal and crackers.
“These types of bland foods are generally easier to tolerate and don’t put added stress on your gastrointestinal system,” she said.
Soup is a good option, but stick to those with a broth base as opposed to a cream one.
“This will help keep you hydrated if you have low appetite or you’re struggling to keep food down,” said Devje.
Foods like yogurt may not be your first pick when you have a stomachache, but probiotics could bring relief.
“They can help to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, which can control symptoms of an upset stomach,” Devje said.
“Probiotic-rich foods such as fermented vegetables, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut decrease the number of bad bacteria — which can cause inflammation and discomfort — in your gut.”
— With files from Laura Hensley