Among the most common digestive complaints are indigestion and upset stomach.
Indigestion involves discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen provoked by eating.
Gastrointestinal infections or food poisoning from contaminated food or drink are characterised by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain or cramps.
So what can you do when you have an upset stomach?
For many people, relief from indigestion is best provided by medicines that counter acid in the stomach, such as simple antacids and proton-punmp inhibitors, but thereare also natural remedies that have some proven benefits:
Even if you are feeling sick, take frequent sips of plain water, herbal teas, diluted juice or clear soups.
This is important for everyone, but especially for babies and young children, older people and those with existing illnesses, who are more susceptible to dehydration and its effects.
Those who are vulnerable should take a sip every 10 minutes or so.
Specific rehydration fluids, available from pharmacies, that replace the correct balance of salts (electrolytes) in the blood are best.
Encourage a baby to carry on feeding from the reast or bottle as usual.
The menthol in peppermınt helps to ease the pain and bloating of indigestion and dispel intestinal gas.
It can also reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
So, when ‘trouble’ strikes, try sucking a peppermint or slowly sipping peppermint tea. Peppermint is also available in capsule form.
However, if you have heartburn due to reflux of stomach acid, peppermint may make it worse, so be sure to test it out cautiously!
If you tend to get symptoms of reflux-acid from stomach contents passing back up the oesophagus, raise your head and then raise your bedhead slightly or using an extra pillow. This can often prevent or ease symptoms.
Products that contain loperamide will bring immediate relief from diarrhoea, but make sure you seek medical advice if the symptoms are not better within 2 days, gotten worse or if other problems develop.
When you start to feel like eating normally, avoid fatty and fried foods, which can make you feel nauseous and worsen diarrhoea.
Avoid citrus fruits, milk and milk products, including cheese and ice cream, and beware of sugar-laden foods or drinks (cakes, biscuits and cola-style drinks).
Continue to comnsume meals which are basically bland, starchy foods. Try bananas, rice, boiled potatoes, toast and pasta.
As symptoms improve, a diet of soft, bland foods will maintain nutrition and reduce symptoms until you are feeling better.
Fear of an attack of indigestion may start to spoil your enjoyment of meals, so it is worth learning how to control the problem :
If simple measures do not solve the problem, see a doctor in case there is an underlying condition that needs treatment.
Your doctor may want to check whether you have a peptic ulcer, which has some symptoms in common with indigestion.
You should seek prompt medical advice if you also develop symptoms such as persistent vomiting, blood in your vomit, black ‘tarry’ faeces, difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss or extreme fatigue.