Stomach issues can cause dull, sharp, throbbing, or cramping pain. These stomach aches are often unbearable and can ruin your day if left untreated.
But some remedies work better than others. The popular BRAT diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast is no longer advised.
This article discusses common causes of stomach aches and five natural home remedies that can help you feel better.
Causes of stomach ache
An ulcer, for example, can be caused by taking medication on an empty stomach.
Acute stomach aches last two to three days and don’t necessitate a doctor’s visit. Here are some causes of acute stomach aches:
- Bloating and gas
- A food allergy reaction
- The GI flu
- Consuming spicy food
- Taking certain medications empty-handed
- Anxiety, stress
- Appendicitis (Acute but deadly condition. Seek medical attention if you suspect appendicitis.)
Chronic stomach pain may indicate a more serious underlying condition, so make an appointment with your doctor. Serious stomach aches can be caused by:
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Gastritis is another
- Gallbladder stones and inflammation
- Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) is caused by an inflamed digestive tract.
- Chronic inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract are caused by ulcerative colitis.
- Stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and kidney cancer.
Best stomach ache remedies
Bedford says many patients benefit from natural or over-the-counter remedies. Here are five pain relievers.
1. The spice ginger
Ginger is an ancient natural remedy. Ginger is thought to have been used medicinally by Indian and Chinese people 5000 years ago.
Ginger is still widely used as a remedy today, and Bedford recommends it to his patients suffering from nausea and stomach pain.
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and can help with stomach pain. Also, Bedford says ginger can help relieve nausea and vomiting, and you don’t have to chew raw ginger to benefit. Bedford says any ginger is good for you.
Ginger can be eaten in many ways:
- Chewing on fresh ginger root
- Ginger ale (Ginger ale is high in sugar, so if you’re trying to avoid sweets, steer clear.)
- Tea with ginger
- Ginger chews up
- Ginger capsules
Bedford says peppermint relieves stomach aches, gas, and bloating. Because peppermint’s main ingredients, menthol and methyl salicylate, are antispasmodic, they relieve spasms, like those associated with IBS.
“Stomach aches are often caused by spasming of the small bowel, colon, or stomach walls, and peppermint oil seems to relax those muscles,” says Bedford.
Overall, these properties relax the stomach and surrounding muscles, reducing spasms and relieving stomach ache, gas, bloating, and nausea.
Studies on peppermint and stomach aches have mostly focused on IBS, with promising results. For example, a 2019 BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine meta-analysis looked at 12 studies with 835 participants. The meta-analysis found peppermint oil capsules to be more effective than a placebo at relieving symptoms with minimal side effects.
Peppermint is commonly consumed as peppermint oil capsules or peppermint tea.
3. Apply heat
Bedford says a heating pad or hot water bottle can help relieve stomach pain. To avoid burns, place a barrier between your skin and the heating pad or water bottle. Place it on your upper or lower abdomen, depending on where the pain is.
The heat relaxes your abdominal muscles, reducing pain from muscle cramps and gas. Heating pads are great for stress-induced stomach aches. A heating pad can also help relieve menstrual cramps, which cause abdominal pain.
Moreover, researchers at the University College London discovered that applying heat to the skin can block internal pain receptors, reducing the body’s perception of the original pain. The mechanism works at a molecular level, like pain medications. The heat blocks P2X3 receptors, which send pain signals to the brain.
Note: Aside from a heating pad, a hot bath can have a similar effect. Pregnant women should never use a heating pad on their stomach because too much heat can cause birth defects.
4. Rehydrate yourself
Dehydration can cause a mineral imbalance in the body, causing abnormal bodily functions and symptoms like stomach pain.
If your pain is due to dehydration, make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. Even mild illness, diarrhea, or vomiting can cause dehydration.
The myth of eight glasses of water per day is debunked. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advise women to drink 91 fl. oz. and men to drink 125 fl. Caffeine can be found in water and food.
5. Distilled apple cider vinegar
If you have a stomach ache due to gas or indigestion, apple cider vinegar may help. Bedford says the typical homeopathic “recipe” is:
- One cup of hot water
- One teaspoonACV (apple cider vinegar)
- One tablespoon honey
The acidity of undiluted apple cider vinegar can irritate the throat and erode tooth enamel. Plus, mixing it with water and honey can help it taste better.
This is mostly anecdotal evidence, and more research is needed to determine if it works for most people.
Different stomach ache remedies work. The same may not apply to you. So it may take some trial and error to find the best remedy for you.
Bedford recommends seeing a gastroenterologist if your symptoms are persistent, not responding to home remedies, and interfering with your daily life.
Seeing blood in your bowel movements, coughing or vomiting blood, or having a stomach ache could be signs of more serious conditions like diverticulitis, ulcers, colon cancer, or rectal cancer.