Nutrition / Food

Have a Stomachache? Here’s What to Eat—and Avoid

Food to combat an upset tummy, nausea, and more.

Most people can sniffle their way through a cold and still squeeze in a 30-minute sweat sesh. However, a bad stomachache has a way of disrupting your work, your workout schedule, and your mood. Whether you ate something funky, you contracted a bug, you were greeted by your monthly visitor, or your digestion is just off-balance, any type of rumbling down under is uncomfortable.

If you’re feeling unable to work up the motivation to exercise, give yourself a rest day—and focus on your diet instead. There are several foods recommended by healthy-eating professionals that work to arm your gut with the nutrients and vitamins it needs to recover. On the flip side, there are ones that will make your sensitive tummy much worse. Here’s what to, ahem, stomach and what to avoid.

Best: Ginger

There’s a reason ginger is an all-star ingredient in so many Asian cuisines. Because many of the flavors in Thailand, China, and Japan tend to fall on the spicy side, this root plant has a way of taming any reactions to the complexity, heat, and intensity of a dish. Nutritional chef Joanna Barajas explains this is thanks to ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ideal cure for a stomachache. Because you probably can’t down too much food right about now, she suggests slicing a bit of fresh ginger into a mug of hot water for optimal results.

Worst: Acidic Foods

Considering that the culprit behind many tummy conditions is far too much acid, it’s probably no surprise that tomatoes or citrus foods are poor choices for a stomachache. “These can trigger acid indigestion, which will only add to the stomach distress,” explains registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist Cassandra Golden. The trick here is to stick to bland food options, as they won’t wreak havoc on your digestive system.

Best: Clear Broth

There’s a reason your mom always made you chicken noodle soup when you were a kid. Barajas explains that when you down organic chicken or beef broth, it helps to replenish your body of any vitamins or minerals you lost while battling the stomach flu. Why does it help? Registered dietitian Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., R.D., F.A.N.D., credits the combination of salt, flavor, and bland protein that soothe the pain.

Worst: Chocolate

Sure, it may be an ideal comfort food when you’re nursing a heartache, but it’s bad news for a stomachache, according to Ayoob. The theobromines, tannins, and antioxidants in cocoa can be troublesome when you aren’t feeling well, making discomfort last longer. There’s good news, though. “Even chocolate-lovers may be irritated by the compounds in chocolate and cocoa. You won’t have to avoid it forever—just until you feel better,” Ayoob says.

Best: Rice or White Toast

Before you get excited about fried rice with pork or veggies, remember that the more basic you can get, the better off your stomach will be in a few hours. Barajas recommends white rice as the perfect low-fiber food to assist in ridding your body of parasites or other irregularities that could be causing your aches. “This starchy food will firm up your stool if you have diarrhea,” she explains. If the idea of making rice—or even ordering takeout—is too much, Barajas says to turn to white toast instead. You may normally throw away a piece of burnt toast. However, Barajas says to nibble on it this time because it can absorb the toxins in your body.

Worst: Milk, Eggs, and Dairy

Because you aren’t feeling too hot, you probably aren’t interested in ice cream or cereal anyway. But if a craving strikes, Barajas says to resist the temptation. Dairy is the hardest for your body to digest, thanks to its high-fat content. It should be avoided until you’re feeling 100 percent better. Instead, stick to water and broth to fill you up and improve your functions.

Best: Fluids—but Not Caffeine

After a night of fighting sleep and attempting to find one semi-comfortable position to allow you to rest, you’ve given up and gotten up. You’re exhausted, sure, but Ayoob says to steer clear of your morning coffee. Because it is a stimulant, it could cause even more issues than you’re already experiencing. You should, however, drink plenty of fluids, even if you can’t eat. Ayoob notes that being dehydrated can cause nausea by itself. Not all fluids are created equal though. His top picks include water, plain and herbal tea, and diluted juice, at whatever temperature you like.

Food Nutrition

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