Celiacs with an upset stomach have some safe over-the-counter options to treat symptoms. These include:
- Pepto-Bismol – contains no gluten ingredients
- Imodium – gluten-free
- Kaopectate – no gluten ingredients
- Ginger capsules or ginger tea – naturally gluten-free
- Probiotics – read labels, though most are gluten-free
- Fennel or chamomile tea – naturally gluten-free
Of course, the root cause of the upset stomach should always be addressed. For celiacs, gluten exposure is often the culprit. A food journal can help identify problem foods. Consulting a doctor helps rule out other conditions. When treating symptoms, be sure to carefully read ingredient labels for gluten-containing ingredients.
What causes an upset stomach in celiacs?
There are a few common culprits behind upset stomachs for those with celiac disease:
- Gluten exposure – Ingesting gluten triggers inflammation in the small intestines of celiacs. This can lead to diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping.
- Food intolerance – Some celiacs become temporarily unable to tolerate certain foods like dairy, eggs or nuts after gut damage from gluten exposure. This can cause an upset stomach.
- Medications – Some medications like antibiotics can irritate the stomach lining as a side effect.
- Infections – Viral gastroenteritis infections like norovirus can cause acute stomach upset.
- Chronic conditions – Ongoing issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or microscopic colitis may cause chronic stomach troubles.
- Stress and anxiety – Mental health issues and stress can exacerbate gastrointestinal issues.
For celiacs, trace gluten exposure is the most common cause of stomach upset. Accidentally ingesting foods or medications containing gluten ingredients provokes an immune reaction in the small intestines. This leads to inflammation, damage to the gut lining, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
What over-the-counter medications can help an upset stomach in celiacs?
Several over-the-counter remedies may help calm an upset stomach. When choosing medications, carefully read the labels looking for potential gluten-containing ingredients like wheat, barley, rye or malt. Some gluten-free options include:
The popular upset stomach medication Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth subsalicylate as the active ingredient. It helps treat several gastrointestinal symptoms including:
Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets and liquids are gluten-free and generally safe for celiacs when used occasionally. The medication coats the lining of the stomach and can help soothe inflammation from gluten exposure.
Imodium contains the active ingredient loperamide, which works by slowing gastrointestinal motility. This helps treat acute diarrhea. Imodium products do not contain gluten ingredients and are typically well tolerated by celiacs when used for short periods of time.
Kaopectate’s active ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate, like Pepto-Bismol. It helps treat several digestive upset symptoms. The caplets and liquid forms of Kaopectate are gluten-free and safe for most celiacs to use.
Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Ginger capsules, ginger tea, or ginger ale can help soothe mild nausea, gas or indigestion. Look for real ginger root in the ingredients lists. Ginger is naturally gluten-free.
Probiotic supplements contain beneficial live bacteria for the gut. They help promote proper digestion and healthy gut flora. Read supplement labels carefully looking for gluten-containing ingredients, though most probiotics are gluten-free. Talk to your doctor before using probiotics.
Are there any natural remedies for stomach upset?
Several natural remedies may also help provide relief when dealing with an upset stomach. These include:
Fennel tea can help relax gastrointestinal muscles, reducing cramping and bloating. Fennel also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. This caffeinated-free tea is naturally gluten-free.
Chamomile tea contains antioxidants that help calm inflammation. Some find it relaxing, as it may ease anxiety contributing to the stomach upset. Chamomile tea is naturally free of gluten.
Peppermint is known for its ability to help relax stomach muscles. It also has anti-gas effects that may reduce bloating. Enjoy peppermint tea between meals for best results. Ensure the tea is 100% peppermint, a naturally gluten-free herb.
Ginger tea can have similar stomach-soothing effects as ginger supplements. It may ease nausea, gas, bloating and indigestion. Opt for pure ginger tea to avoid gluten-containing ingredients.
Aloe Vera Juice
Pure aloe vera juice has anti-inflammatory effects that may aid gastrointestinal issues. Look for juices that contain only aloe vera and avoid unhealthy additives. Aloe vera has no gluten protein.
Licorice Root Tea
Licorice root preparations may help reduce stomach inflammation. Look for pure licorice root teas to avoid gluten-containing additives. Avoid licorice if you have high blood pressure.
Peppermint essential oil is naturally free of gluten. When diluted and applied topically, it may help ease stomach upset symptoms like nausea and gas. Do not ingest peppermint oil.
Are there any precautions when treating an upset stomach?
It’s important to exercise some caution when treating an upset stomach. Consider the following precautions:
- Read labels carefully and avoid products with gluten-containing ingredients like wheat, barley, rye and malt.
- Follow dosage directions carefully, especially when giving medications to children.
- Watch for possible side effects and medication interactions. Consult a pharmacist if needed.
- Avoid using medications long-term when possible. Use the lowest effective dose.
- See a doctor if symptoms persist for more than 2 days or worsen.
- Get medical care immediately with severe symptoms like bloody stool, fever, dehydration or persistent vomiting.
- Tell your doctor if you have chronic gastrointestinal conditions, take any medications, or are pregnant/nursing before using new medications.
- Drink plenty of fluids when ill to prevent dehydration.
Getting to the root cause of stomach upset is also wise. For celiacs, hidden sources of gluten often trigger symptoms. Keeping a food journal can help identify problem foods. Food allergy testing may help uncover intolerances. Working with a knowledgeable doctor rules out infections, chronic conditions, and other underlying illness.
What foods help an upset stomach?
Adjusting the diet can also help calm an upset stomach. Some beneficial foods for gastrointestinal symptoms include:
Bananas contain potassium and pectin, a soluble fiber. This makes them easy to digest. Bananas help replace electrolytes lost from vomiting and diarrhea.
Look for unsweetened yogurt with live active cultures. The probiotics in yogurt promote gut health and proper digestion. Yogurts made from coconut or almond milk ensure dairy-free options for those with intolerances.
Oats are a bland, gluten-free grain. Their soluble fiber forms a gel, coating and protecting the gastrointestinal tract. Opt for certified gluten-free oats.
Warm, broth-based soups provide hydration and nutrients without aggravating the stomach. Bone broths have gut-healing properties. Opt for homemade soups to control ingredients.
Ginger has a long history of easing nausea and stomach upset. Enjoy ginger tea, use ginger to flavor foods, or take ginger supplements after consulting your doctor.
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory effects that may ease stomach upset symptoms. It also contains antioxidants. Enjoy this relaxing, gluten-free tea between meals.
Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which aids digestion. Drink peppermint tea between meals for maximum effectiveness.
All parts of the fennel plant, including the seeds, may aid digestion. Fennel can relax GI muscles, relieve gas, and improve bile flow. Use fennel seeds to flavor gluten-free dishes.
Papaya contains an enzyme called papain which helps improve digestion by breaking down proteins. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. Ripe papaya is tolerated well by most stomachs.
What foods should you avoid with an upset stomach?
Some foods are more likely to exacerbate GI symptoms and should be avoided during a stomach upset. These include:
- Gluten-containing foods like wheat, barley, rye
- Dairy products if lactose intolerant
- High-fiber foods – they can worsen diarrhea
- High-fat, greasy or fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Gas-producing foods like beans, broccoli, onions
Additionally, steer clear of any foods that seem to worsen your individual symptoms. Keeping a food diary when ill can help identify personal trigger foods.
When should you see a doctor for an upset stomach?
In most cases, mild stomach upset can be safely monitored at home using remedies and diet adjustments. However, contact your doctor if you experience:
- Symptoms lasting more than 2 days
- Bloody stool or vomit
- Inability to keep down fluids due to vomiting
- Severe pain or tenderness in the abdomen
- Diarrhea lasting more than a couple days
- Fever over 101 F (38.3 C)
- Signs of dehydration – dizziness, excessive thirst, dry mouth, infrequent urination
- Recent antibiotic use
- Unintentional weight loss
- Worsening of any chronic digestive conditions
Seek prompt medical attention if you experience any of the above symptoms. An upset stomach can sometimes indicate a more serious condition requiring treatment. Getting a proper diagnosis is key.
How can you prevent an upset stomach?
Making some simple lifestyle changes may help prevent stomach upset in the first place:
- Carefully avoid gluten – read labels, watch for cross-contamination when eating out, only eat certified gluten-free oats
- Identify and avoid any personal food intolerances – keep a food journal
- Manage stress levels – try meditation, yoga, counseling
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Limit consumption of fatty, greasy foods
- Take probiotics to support gut health
- Get adequate sleep and physical activity
- Practice good hygiene, especially when cooking and using the restroom
- Avoid contact with those ill
- See a doctor regularly to rule out underlying conditions
Learning individual trigger foods and avoiding gluten ingestion helps prevent most stomach upset episodes in celiacs. A healthy lifestyle also keeps the immune system strong. Speak with your doctor if stomach issues persist despite your best efforts.
Celiacs have several over-the-counter and natural options to help treat an upset stomach, as long as they read labels carefully to avoid gluten. Products containing bismuth subsalicylate, like Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, as well as Imodium and ginger supplements are typically well-tolerated. Herbal teas with fennel, peppermint, chamomile and ginger may also calm GI symptoms. Adjusting the diet, staying hydrated and getting proper rest is key. Most acute stomach upset can be managed at home, but recurrent or worsening symptoms warrant medical attention. For celiacs, strict adherence to a gluten-free diet helps prevent most stomach troubles.