By Dr. Ro
Ever get that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach for seemingly, no reason at all?
You’re not alone. Although many people experience inexplicable stomach upsets that have no complicated medical diagnoses, researchers say the symptoms that often follow –nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive upsets, occur in women about six times more frequently than they do in men. No worries! There is help in your kitchen.
A true story:
I grew up in inner city Washington, D. C. But my mother, a single parent was from a small town in Virginia, in Orange County, and like many Black families who had migrated to the north, we visited our Virginia roots every weekend and each summer. My mother was an entrepreneur – the first African American female in the nation’s capital to own her own taxi business bearing her name! She maintained the taxi business during the week and on weekends she owned and operated a juke joint. If the term “juke joint” doesn’t resonate with you, think about Miss Celie, Shug Avery, and the after hours spot they frequented in “The Color Purple.”
Across the yard from the juke joint sat my grandma’s house and the most beautiful and robust garden. During my summer visits, I spent most of my time on the heels of my grandmother who served dinner from garden to table every day. But whenever I complained of a stomachache, she would trot me straight out to her garden, filled with all manner of produce, including about a dozen varieties of mint.
At my grandma’s insistence I would chew a few leaves of her mint choice and my stomach pains would subside. It was there, in my grandma’s garden that I first learned that many a remedy to what might ail any of us is often found in foods we consume. This is perhaps my first glimpse into the work I do today as a nutrition coach. So in the spirit of my grandmother – Mary Brock, the gardener also known by her neighbors and family as a “prayin’ woman,” I offer you a few remedies for your stomach upsets because “food is medicine.”
Try my food prescription (Dr. Ro’s Food Rx) when that queasy feeling takes root in your tummy.
* Fennel or Caraway seeds – these seeds can work wonders to improve digestion and to ease gas and bloating. Add 1 tablespoon of caraway or fennel seeds to 1 cup boiling water, cover and steep for 10 minutes, strain, and drink 3 cups a day on an empty stomach for best results. You may also chew on the seeds after a meal to prevent upset stomach.
* Papaya – often used to treat digestive upsets such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and heartburn because of its natural digestive enzyme, papain, and breaks down foods that may be irritating to the stomach. A half of thinly sliced fruit will do the trick.
* Apples – (best baked if you have a particularly sensitive stomach), are good for fighting a queasy stomach because they are rich in enzymes and the soluble fiber, pectin, which help to break down stomach irritants from other foods and as a bonus, also lower cholesterol.
* Cinnamon – the spice known for treating morning sickness and diarrhea, is also good for chasing gas bubbles away. It stimulates the digestive system, which moves foods along the digestive tract smoothly. Sprinkle cinnamon on other stomach-settling foods like apples, bananas, and herbal teas such as chamomile or ginger. You may also make a cinnamon tea by adding ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder to 1 cup of hot water, let stand for 5 minutes then drink.
* Ginger – anyone who’s ever had an upset stomach may have heard that ginger ale was the remedy to settle an upset stomach. Well there’s a good reason. Ginger contains chemicals believed to work primarily in the stomach that may reduce nausea and inflammation. If you don’t like “the fizzies” that come with the carbonation of ginger ale, try ginger tea, or fresh ginger soaked for a few minutes in water.
* Mint and Thyme – both herbs help to ease gas, bloating, and stomach cramps by stimulating digestion and moving food smoothly through the digestive tract. Each can be used to make a simple tea to ease stomach cramps and to relieve pressure caused by gas and bloating. You may also chew on mint leaves for relief.
* Plain crackers – work well to settle an upset stomach, because they are low in fiber and easy to digest.
Bottom line? Stay away from hi-fat and fried foods because the demands on your stomach to digest them are too high and will cause undue stress. Opt for clear vegetable or chicken broth to ease back into a diet of vegetables, fruit, and lean protein if you have been unable to tolerate solid foods for a while.
Rovenia Brock, Ph.D. is a medical advisory board member and contributor to the “Dr. Oz Show,” where she helped more than a half-million Americans lose more than 5 million pounds.