An upset stomach is an uncomfortable and unpleasant feeling in the abdominal region that can involve symptoms like nausea, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. While an upset stomach is usually caused by something minor like eating too much or eating spoiled food, the symptoms can be quite disruptive to daily life. Many people reach for home remedies like ginger ale, peppermint tea, or Pepto-Bismol to find relief. But could something as simple as eating a pickle be an effective upset stomach cure?
What Causes an Upset Stomach?
There are many potential causes of an upset stomach, including:
- Food poisoning from bacteria or toxins
- Viral infections like the stomach flu
- Indigestion and acid reflux
- Medication side effects
- Stress and anxiety
- Food allergies or intolerances like lactose intolerance
- Consumption of greasy, spicy, or rich foods
- Menstrual cramps
- Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
Most of the time, an upset stomach is caused by a minor illness that will pass in a day or two. But frequent or severe symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out a more serious medical condition.
The Benefits of Pickles for Upset Stomach
Pickles are cucumbers that have been preserved in a solution of salt brine, vinegar, or both. They are low in calories and contain useful nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, copper, and magnesium. There are a few reasons why pickles may be helpful for an upset stomach:
- Fluid and Electrolytes – The liquid content and minerals in pickles like sodium and potassium can help replace fluid and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea.
- Probiotics – Fermented pickles can contain beneficial probiotics that support healthy gut bacteria and digestive function.
- Fiber – The fiber in pickles could help absorb excess stomach acid and soothe inflammation.
- Low Calories – The low calorie, high water content of pickles makes them easy on the stomach when you have low appetite.
The salty, sour taste of pickles may even signal to your body to produce more gastric juices to improve digestion. So while pickles are not a medical cure for stomach problems, they provide nutrients and fluids that may aid in soothing an upset stomach in a natural way.
Types of Pickles
There are a variety of pickle types that may provide stomach relief:
|Made by fermenting cucumbers in a brine with dill, garlic, and other spices
|Bread and Butter Pickles
|Sweet, thin slices made with sugar and spices like turmeric and mustard seeds
|Kosher Dill Pickles
|Cured in brine with garlic and dill according to kosher guidelines
|Cured in vinegar brine, creating a very sour and tart flavor
|Similar to bread and butter pickles but with more sugar for a candied flavor
|Small, immature cucumbers pickled in vinegar with spices
|Cured by lactic acid fermentation in a salt brine, creating probiotics
Any of these popular pickle varieties can provide hydration, nutrients, and stomach-soothing relief when you’re not feeling well. Fermented pickles offer the bonus of gut-healthy probiotics. Just avoid heavily spiced or flavored pickles if you have a sensitive stomach.
Selecting and Eating Pickles for an Upset Stomach
Here are some tips for choosing and consuming pickles to ease stomach distress:
- Opt for refrigerated pickles rather than shelf-stable ones, as they tend to be less processed with fewer preservatives.
- Look for raw, unpasteurized pickles for the most probiotics.
- Avoid heavily sweetened or flavored pickles, which can irritate the stomach.
- Start with small servings like 1-2 pickle spears to see how your stomach tolerates them.
- Drink the brine as well for extra hydration and nutrients.
- Consume pickles as a snack or side dish, not on an empty stomach.
- Pair pickles with bland foods like rice, toast, or crackers.
Other Foods and Drinks for an Upset Stomach
While pickles can certainly help soothe an upset stomach, they are not a cure-all. Other foods and beverages that are gentle on the stomach include:
|Reasons It Helps
|Settles the stomach and has anti-nausea effects
|Calms the stomach with its antispasmodic properties
|Relaxes intestinal muscles to ease cramping and bloating
|Easy to digest without exacerbating diarrhea
|Supports healthy gut bacteria to improve digestion
|Blends, soothing texture eases irritation
|Binding effect helps solidify loose stools
|Replaces fluids and electrolytes lost from vomiting/diarrhea
|Chicken Noodle Soup
|Provides hydration and nutrients from the broth
Following the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) is also recommended when recovering from a stomach bug. Avoiding dairy, caffeine, alcohol, greasy foods, and sugary drinks can also help calm an irritated GI tract.
When to See a Doctor for an Upset Stomach
While pickles and other home remedies may provide temporary upset stomach relief, it’s important to see a doctor if symptoms are severe or persist more than a couple days. Seek medical care for:
- Bloody or black stool
- Persistent vomiting
- Inability to keep fluids down
- Signs of dehydration like dizziness or dark urine
- Fever over 101 F
- Severe abdominal pain
- Diarrhea lasting more than 2 days
Signs of a more serious illness requiring medical treatment may be present if your stomach remains extremely upset. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if your gut just isn’t getting better despite home treatment.
Pickles can be a safe and effective home remedy for an upset stomach when used sensibly. The liquid, probiotics, fiber, and nutrients in pickles can help replace lost fluids, improve digestion, and soothe stomach irritation. While pickles won’t cure an underlying illness, they can provide relief alongside other stomach-friendly foods and beverages. Pay attention to any worsening symptoms and don’t hesitate to seek medical treatment if your upset stomach isn’t improving within a couple days.