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Recipes for an upset stomach: When you need relief from rich holiday meals

How to give your stomach a break from rich foods during the holidays.

November 28, 2022
A woman drinks a cup of tea.

With the holiday season upon us, you may be enjoying the rich and often decadent meals you don't usually eat during the rest of the year. Of course, if you overindulge in these meals, it can cause you to feel sick or get an upset stomach if you're not careful. Fortunately, there are several simple recipes for an upset stomach that can help you feel better if you overdo it during the holidays.

Why do holiday meals upset the stomach?

During the holidays, it's common to gather with friends and family to share meals, and in the conviviality of the season, it can be easy to eat more than you normally do. Holiday meals can easily exceed 2,000 calories, and leftovers can mean multiple days of going over the recommended daily calorie count. Not only that, but holiday meals tend to be high in sugar and fat, which can irritate the digestive system.

Fatty foods take longer to digest and sit in your stomach while the body forms gas and acid that can cause heartburn or bloat. Stress and travel can make these issues even worse. Stress releases cortisol, which can decrease blood flow to the organs and cause diarrhea. Additionally, travel can throw off normal routines and lead to constipation. All of these factors together can create a perfect storm that could lead to sickness.

What foods can provide relief from an upset stomach?

Although eating more might be the last thing you want to do when you have an upset stomach, some foods can help alleviate the symptoms. It's also important to stay hydrated, as you can lose fluids through diarrhea and vomiting. Fluids can also help with constipation by softening stools. Plain water and electrolyte drinks are a good option, as are herbal teas and clear soup broths.

As far as foods, one recommendation is to follow the "BRAT" diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. These foods are low in fiber, easily digestible and gentle on the stomach. However, they lack essential nutrients such as calcium and protein, so the BRAT diet should be considered a temporary solution. Other foods that can help relieve an upset stomach include:

  • Steamed or boiled vegetables
  • Low-fiber starches such as white bread, saltine crackers or cream of wheat
  • Skinless baked chicken or turkey
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes

If you're recovering from an upset stomach, you should avoid fatty, greasy foods as well as milk and dairy products — with the exception of yogurt and kefir. You should also try to avoid acidic fruits, such as pineapples and oranges because they are high in fiber, and their acidic nature can further upset your stomach.

Recipes for an upset stomach

If you're recovering from an upset stomach, you don't want to eat anything too heavy that could make you feel worse, but you also need more nutrients than the BRAT diet can provide. These simple recipes can help you feel better and ensure you're getting the nutrients you need.

Chicken soup

Chicken soup is a staple for upset stomachs for a reason. It provides vitamins, protein and other nutrients, and it can help keep you hydrated. You don't need to use a lot of different ingredients to get the benefits either. This basic chicken soup recipe can help you feel better in no time. You'll need:

  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds) cut into pieces
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 4 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 4 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 6 medium carrots

Bring the chicken, water and salt to a boil in a large stockpot, skimming the foam from the top. Add celery, garlic and onions, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes, leaving the pot partially covered. Remove the chicken breast and add carrots, and then let the soup simmer partially covered for another 40 minutes. Remove any remaining chicken to cut into bite-sized pieces, and add the desired amount back into the pot.

Ginger tea

If you're not feeling up to eating just yet, a cup of ginger tea can help to settle your stomach and keep you hydrated. While you can buy premade ginger tea, you can also make it yourself with fresh ginger root for a tastier brew. Here's what you'll need:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey, to taste

Peel the ginger and slice it thinly. Add water and ginger to a 1 1/4-quart pot and bring it to a boil for 10 minutes. If you want your tea to be stronger, boil it for up to 20 minutes or more and add more ginger. When it's ready, remove the tea from the heat, strain it and add lime juice and honey to taste.

White rice

Although you can eat white rice on its own to soothe your upset stomach, you can also add chicken to get even more nutrients, or you could add it to your chicken soup if you don't want to use noodles. This simple meal can be whipped up in no time at all, and it only requires a few ingredients:

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the rice and salt, and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the rice is tender and has absorbed all of the liquid. When the rice is done, remove it from the heat, keep it covered for 10 minutes, and then fluff and serve.

Keep these simple recipes in mind this holiday season to counteract an upset stomach, but also try to be mindful of how much you are eating, and give yourself time to digest your food before going for seconds or dessert.

Published:
November 28, 2022
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HCA Florida Healthcare, HCA Virginia Health System

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