How to settle your stomach (when your gut is out of whack)

Here's what could be causing your gut to be upset.
Here's what could be causing your gut to be upset.

Stomach trauma has an endless list of culprits: Hangovers, spoilt food and overindulgences, to name a few. But it’s possible to tame a temporarily disgruntled gut fast with the right course of action.

White-hot pain scorches your torso during happy hour.

You’re thinking… Help! Something’s wrong with my lungs.

The real issue… You probably have heartburn. Alcohol can weaken your oesophageal sphincter and let caustic stomach acid creep into your GI tract. Certain postures can exacerbate it, so stop slouching.

Your gut fix: Stomach acid is tricky – you want to keep it in its place, not eradicate it. Beat the heat with sodium bicarbonate aka baking soda. Mix half a teaspoon into 120ml water and swallow (repeat in two hours, if needed).

You feel like you need one of those airsick bags by the time you get to work.

You’re thinking… Do I have morning sickness?

Your real issue… Relax, it could just be motion sickness. Yes, even a jostling train or car commute can scramble sensory input to your brain, leading to nausea or vomiting.

Your gut fix: Well, you could walk everywhere. Or you could stash some ginger (in any form) in your handbag. The herbal remedy has been used for centuries to quell roiled tummies.

Uh-oh – major below the- belt rumblings hit you in the middle of a big night out.

You’re thinking… But I ordered super-healthy food at dinner!

Your real issue… Certain legumes and veggies (beans, broccoli) get an A+ in nutrition but can give your colon a fierce workout, the by-product of which can be… gas. (Eating too quickly makes it worse.)

Your gut fix: Try enzymes. Better yet, pop one before digging into a new-to-you meal, just in case. Take small bites, avoid carbonated drinks and don’t use a straw – it only ups the amount of air you swallow. 

Sharp stomach cramps attack shortly before a big presentation.

You’re thinking… I knew those pad Thai leftovers were a bad lunch idea.

Your real issue… Stress. Any kind of anxiety can send distress signals to your gut’s enteric nervous system, slowing down stomach digestion while causing intestines to contract. Ouch.

Your gut fix: Put down the double espresso. Loads of stimulating caffeine can heighten cramps. Instead, sip plain water (or chamomile tea, a calming digestive aid) to aid a churning stomach and calm your tummy ache. 

You’re miserable, clammy and crampy – and sprinting to the ladies’ room every 30 minutes.

You’re thinking… Influenza. Thanks for nothing, flu shot.

Your real issue… Could be food poisoning. When you unwittingly swallow food that contains pathogens (e.g. E. coli), your gut revolts with flu-like symptoms, including diarrhoea, fever, headache and chills.

Your gut fix: There’s no quick fix; you can only hydrate and wait it out. On the bright side, the ailment – which can show up within six hours of eating the bad food – runs its course much faster than the flu. You should feel better tomorrow.

This article was originally published on

Image credit: iStock 

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