How to Soothe a Sour StomachPublished on Tuesday, August 08, 2023 by
Sour stomach? There are at-home remedies for that!
While it’s true that many tummy troubles are complicated and need professional treatment, the sick-to-your-stomach feeling that sometimes crops up after eating can often be alleviated with simple measures you can implement on your own.
What’s a sour stomach, anyway?
A “sour stomach” might sound like one of the vague ailments your Grandma complained about—and it is a nebulous term. While regurgitating stomach acid backing up into the esophagus can produce a sour taste in the throat, a “sour stomach” is different.
Sometimes called dyspepsia, the term is used to describe an upset stomach or indigestion. Indigestion is a very common condition, affecting 1 in 4 people in the U.S. each year. Its symptoms vary but often include feeling uncomfortably full during or after eating, bloating, and even pain.
When this happens chronically, without an identifiable cause, a physician may diagnose it as functional dyspepsia. While it’s not caused by acid reflux, people experience indigestion with heartburn, and people with GERD often experience indigestion. Other causes can range from overeating to lactose intolerance to peptic ulcer, and certain medications, including antibiotics, can also lead to indigestion.
Preventing a sour stomach
You can help decrease your chances of getting an upset stomach by changing your lifestyle, diet, and eating habits. Some of these measures are the same ones you might already be using to help control reflux since there is some overlap between the two conditions.
- Slow your eating pace - rushing through meals, talking while eating, and not chewing food thoroughly can increase the air you swallow, which can lead to gas and bloating.
- Avoid specific foods that trigger discomfort - these vary by the individual, but acidic fruits, onions, fatty or greasy foods, and spicy foods may trigger indigestion. Work with a Registered Dietitian to identify a meal plan incorporating nutrient-dense foods that will suit your preferences.
- Eat smaller meals - eating large amounts of food at once may be a problem. If so, consider dividing your food intake into 4 or 5 smaller mini-meals instead of having three larger meals.
- Limit gas-producing foods and keep fiber consumption moderate - cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and Limit alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and carbonated beverages.
- Nix the nighttime snacking - giving the body time to digest and move food through the system is helpful. Reclining or lying down shortly after eating increases the chance of having reflux or indigestion.
- Lose weight - some studies have shown a link between being overweight and having GERD. This might logically extend to having frequent bouts of indigestion.
- Loosen Up - Don’t wear tight clothing around the chest or abdomen while eating or afterward.
Settling your stomach with food or drinks
Treatment for indigestion usually consists of preventive lifestyle changes plus over-the-counter and prescription medicines—but what if you’re already suffering from indigestion? Can specific food or drinks make it go away?
Well, when you have a sour stomach, food is probably the last thing you’re thinking about, but there are several options for liquids.
- Drinking a mixture of baking soda and water may help ease “acid indigestion”—not just for an overfull, sour stomach. It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking it since it increases the amount of sodium in your body and can also be dangerous if taken in excess.
- Ginger (ginger soda, ginger tea) is often recommended for nausea. Much of the research on ginger has been done with supplements, not foods. Some research shows ginger capsules increased gastric emptying in people with dyspepsia but did not improve their symptoms.
- Although peppermint tea is touted as helping to alleviate bloating and other indigestion symptoms, there isn’t enough data to say it’s effective. A study with enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules (in combination with caraway oil) yielded positive results with indigestion symptoms. However, peppermint can also trigger acid reflux in some people.
When to seek help
Occasional and transient indigestion is common, but if your discomfort or sour stomach persists past a day or two, give your doctor a call. And if you have any of the following symptoms, consult your physician immediately, as they can be signs of serious conditions:
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain or tightness
- difficulty swallowing
- vomiting/vomiting blood
- blood in the toilet after a bowel movement
- unexplained weight loss
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (2016, November). Definition and Facts of Indigestion. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 17, 2023 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/indigestion-dyspepsia/definition-facts
- Cherney, K. (2021, Feb 1). The Difference Between Heartburn and Indigestion. Healthline. Snyder, C. (2022, April 7). Can You Tell When Steak Is Done Using Just Your Hand? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/heartburn-vs-indigestion
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (2016, November). Treatment of Indigestion. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 18, 2023 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/indigestion-dyspepsia/treatment
- Chang, P., & Friedenberg, F. (2014). Obesity and GERD. Gastroenterology clinics of North America, 43(1), 161–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gtc.2013.11.009
- Medline Plus (2017, April 15). Sodium bicarbonate. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved July 19, 2023 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682001.html#how
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2020, December). Ginger. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 18, 2023 from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ginger
- Hu, M. L., Rayner, C. K., Wu, K. L., Chuah, S. K., Tai, W. C., Chou, Y. P., Chiu, Y. C., Chiu, K. W., & Hu, T. H. (2011). Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World journal of gastroenterology, 17(1), 105–110. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v17.i1.105
- Kligler, B., Chaudhary, S. (2007). Peppermint oil. American Family Physician, 75(7):1027-1030. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2007/0401/p1027.html
- Cleveland Clinic. Indigestion (Dyspepsia). (n.d.) Retrieved July 17, 2023 from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/7316-indigestion-dyspepsia%C2%A0
Kitty BroihierMS, RD, LD