How To Stop Diarrhea Cramps, Nausea, and Tips for a Sensitive Stomach

From urgent bathroom breaks to nausea, gastrointestinal woes like diarrhea and upset tummies can throw our bodies for a loop. So what is diarrhea and upset stomach? Diarrhea is a digestive issue that kicks our digestive system into overdrive.

It pushes food out of our system too fast, causing loose or watery stools. On the other hand, an upset stomach is a queasy sensation usually experienced with bloating and abdominal pain. While these digestive dilemmas are common, their unpleasantness often leaves us scrambling for relief. 

If you’re wondering how to stop diarrhea cramps, you’re in the right place. This articleIn this article, we will expand on the causes of these digestive discomforts, their symptoms, diagnosis, how to treat upset stomach and diarrhea, and more.

What to do for upset stomach and diarrhea?

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Dealing with an upset stomach and diarrhea can seem daunting. But you can take steps to help ease symptoms and feel better. Let’s look at some practical ways on how to treat upset stomach and diarrhea below:

  • BRAT diet and hydration

Frequent fluid intake, such as water, clear broth, or electrolyte drinks, can prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea. Sip these liquids slowly to avoid overwhelming your stomach.

Stick to bland, easy-to-digest foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT diet). These foods can help firm up stools and soothe your stomach (18).

  • Avoid certain foods

Steer clear of spicy, greasy, or fried foods that irritate your stomach and worsen diarrhea.

You should also cut down on your caffeine, alcohol, and dairy product intake until your stomach recovers and you’re back to a standard poop type and schedule (19).

  • Rest

Rest and avoid strenuous activities, especially those that strain your core or buttocks. This will allow your body to recover naturally and ease stomach discomfort.

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication options

OTC medications such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) can help reduce diarrhea symptoms. Loperamide slows down gut movement, while bismuth subsalicylate soothes the stomach lining. 

These medications may alleviate stomach pain and discomfort caused by indigestion and frequent stools. These medications should only be used in a limited capacity, and talk to your medical provider or pharmacist about the best way to use these medications.

  • Hygiene

Wash your hands thoroughly and more frequently to prevent infections from spreading and causing symptoms. Avoid sharing towels, utensils, or food with others to lower the risk of spreading germs (20).

These simple steps teach you how to settle an upset stomach and diarrhea. However, you must remember to listen to your body and seek medical help if required.

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What helps diarrhea cramps?

When those pesky diarrhea cramps strike, finding quick relief becomes a top priority. Diarrhea cramps, which are similar to stomach cramps, can be alleviated with natural or pharmaceutical options. 

Some of the most effective choices include: 

  • Proper hydration

Research shows that diarrhea causes the body to lose water and salt (21) from the body, leaving the gastrointestinal tract with less fluid. This lack of fluid disrupts digestive processes and leads to dehydration-related abdominal pain (DRAP) (22). Taking small sips of water after each restroom visit can help reduce the severity and frequency of cramps.

  • Warm compress

Studies show that using a warm compress can effectively relieve muscle spasms (23) in the abdominal area of menstruating women. This approach may also help alleviate diarrhea cramping, as the muscle spasms are similar.

Applying an electric heating pad or hot water bottle at low to medium heat for 15–20 minutes can soothe the abdominal area. Warm compresses have also shown promise in improving symptoms such as flatulence, indigestion, and diarrhea (24) in patients experiencing abdominal distension or constipation.

  • Breathing exercises

Deep breathing exercises can be beneficial for soothing stomach discomfort. Diaphragmatic breathing gently massages the intestines and stomach, easing cramps (25) and bloating. This is achieved by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response (26), which can calm the digestive tract. 

Remedies and treatments for nausea

Nausea is often described as an uneasy sensation in the stomach that can trigger the need to vomit. It can be treated with home remedies or pharmaceutical treatments. Some options include:

  • Ginger

Research shows that ginger has antiemetic properties, which can help control nausea and vomiting (27). It can be consumed in its fresh raw form, as ginger tea or ginger candies, or in other forms, such as capsules or powdered ginger.

  • Hydration

Drinking clear, cold fluids like water can help relieve nausea. You can try sipping a small amount (about a tablespoon) every 15–20 minutes, gradually increasing to ¼ cup every 15 minutes, Then ½ cup every 30 minutes. Drinking too much water too quickly can trigger vomiting, so it’s essential to go slow with this solution.

  • Peppermint

Peppermint has calming properties that can help soothe the digestive tract and reduce nausea (28). You can try peppermint tea or suck on peppermint candies. Inhaling peppermint essential oil may also provide relief.

  • Acupressure

Acupressure is a technique where you apply pressure to specific points on the body to relieve symptoms of different health conditions. For nausea, pressing the P6 point (found on the inner wrist, three finger-widths below the base of the palm) can help subside feelings of nausea (29). Gently massage the area for a few minutes to see if it eases the nausea.

  • Bland foods

When you experience nausea, sticking to bland, easy-to-digest foods (30) can help settle your stomach. Try eating small portions of foods like crackers, toast, rice, bananas, or applesauce. Avoid rich, spicy, or greasy foods, which might worsen nausea.

  • Medicine options

Over-the-counter medications can help manage nausea by affecting specific parts of the brain that control these sensations (31). Standard options include antihistamines such as meclizine (Dramamine) or dimenhydrinate (Benadryl) and antiemetic medications such as promethazine (Phenergan). Keep in mind that these medications can cause drowsiness, so you should stay home when using them. 

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Tips to avoid indigestion for a sensitive stomach

If you have a sensitive stomach and want to avoid indigestion, there are several tips you can follow to help prevent discomfort:

  • Eating rules

Try consuming smaller, more frequent meals rather than large ones simultaneously. This helps avoid overloading your digestive system. Eating slowly and chewing your food well before swallowing is also helpful. Doing this will aid digestion and allow your stomach to break down food more efficiently.

  • Identify and avoid triggers

Identify and avoid foods and drinks that trigger your indigestion. Common culprits include spicy, fatty, acidic, fried foods, caffeine, carbonated, and alcoholic beverages. Avoiding these foods and drinks can limit bloat. 

Bloating can contribute to indigestion, creating pressure and discomfort in the stomach and intestines. This pressure can interfere with the normal digestive process, leading to symptoms such as a feeling of fullness, pain, and difficulty digesting food properly.

  • Keep hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is a standard solution to digestive issues. Water helps the digestive system function more effectively (32), lowering the possibility of indigestion. However, you must avoid drinking large amounts of fluids during meals, as this can dilute stomach acid and hinder digestion.

  • Posture

Avoid lying down or slouching after meals. Keeping good posture or staying upright for at least 30 minutes can help prevent acid reflux and indigestion.

  • Stress management

Studies show that stress can make the gut more porous, allowing bacteria to enter (33) the bloodstream and trigger inflammation. This inflammation leads to digestive issues like indigestion, so finding healthy ways to manage it is crucial. Some good stress management options include meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. 

  • Probiotics

Studies suggest probiotics can reduce acid reflux and heartburn (34), two culprits of indigestion. They also help balance gut bacteria (35), aid digestion, and reduce the likelihood of indigestion creeping up.

Foods to eat and avoid

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The right food choices are essential to successfully managing diarrhea, cramps, and stomach upset. When experiencing gastrointestinal issues such as these, you must select foods that are gentle on the stomach and easy to digest. 

These choices can help soothe the digestive system and promote healing. If you’re wondering how to settle an upset stomach and diarrhea through nutrition or diet, here’s a list of foods on the green light list and those not.

Foods to eat:

  • Bananas: These fruits are gentle on the tummy and provide essential nutrients like potassium. Potassium is a key electrolyte that the body loses during diarrhea.
  • Rice: Plain-boiled white rice is easy to digest and helps bind stools.
  • Applesauce: Provides the body with pectin, a natural thickening substance found in fruits that can help firm stools.
  • Toast: Plain white toast is gentle on the stomach and can help absorb excess fluids.
  • Boiled potatoes: They are easy to digest and provide energy without irritating the stomach.
  • Clear broths: Broths like chicken or vegetables can help provide hydration and nutrients without adding too much bulk to the digestive system.
  • Oatmeal: A gentle, fiber-rich option that can help bulk up stools and soothe the stomach.
  • Crackers: Plain, saltine crackers can be easy on the stomach and help absorb excess acid.
  • Lean protein: Skinless chicken, turkey, or fish can provide essential nutrients without upsetting the stomach.
  • Yogurt: Look for plain yogurt with live active cultures, which can help restore gut health.

Foods to avoid:

  • Fatty, greasy, or fried foods: These can be difficult to digest and may worsen diarrhea or an upset stomach.
  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods can agitate the stomach and intestines, potentially worsening symptoms.
  • Dairy products: Some people may be temporarily lactose intolerant during episodes of diarrhea. It’s best to avoid milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
  • Caffeinated beverages: Coffee, tea, and some sodas can stimulate the digestive system and may worsen diarrhea.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol drinks can irritate the stomach lining and worsen dehydration linked to diarrhea.
  • Carbonated beverages: These can cause gas and bloating, which may add to your discomfort during diarrhea episodes.
  • High-fiber foods: While fiber is generally healthy, high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, and certain vegetables can be too harsh on the digestive system during an upset stomach.
  • Sugary foods and drinks: High sugar intake can worsen diarrhea and should be avoided.
  • Nuts, Seeds, raw fruits, and vegetables: These can be hard to digest and may irritate the digestive system.

What causes diarrhea and upset stomach?

The way our digestive system or gut works is not something we think about every day. This is because they seamlessly operate in auto-pilot mode, processing the food we consume to fuel our bodies. 

However, when we experience the discomfort of diarrhea or an upset stomach, we often wonder about the cause. Research shows that diarrhea and an upset stomach can stem from several issues (1). 

One common disruptor is gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu. This condition can stem from viral (2) or bacterial (3) infections and cause stomach and intestine inflammation. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Below, we list other possible causes of these digestive issues. Looking at them closely can help you figure out how to stop diarrhea cramps and settle an upset stomach.

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Diarrhea causes (4)

  • Bacterial and viral infections

These infections are common causes of diarrhea. They usually infect the intestinal tract, cause inflammation, and disrupt normal digestive processes. These infections can spread from person to person due to bad hygiene or contaminated food or water. Examples include bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, as well as viruses like rotavirus and norovirus (5).

  • Food intolerance

Some individuals may experience diarrhea due to intolerance, sensitivity, or an allergy to certain foods. Some examples include sensitivity or allergy to nuts, gluten, or lactose intolerance (6).

  • Medications

Certain medications, like antibiotics, can cause an imbalance of gut bacteria. This can lead to side effects such as diarrhea (7).

  • Digestive disorders

Digestive conditions like celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease can cause chronic diarrhea. These conditions interfere with how the stomach and intestines work, causing swelling in the gut (8). This swelling can irritate and harm the lining of the intestines, causing symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea, and discomfort.

Stomach upset causes

  • Food poisoning

Consuming food or beverages contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites can cause irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to stomach upset (9).

  • Indigestion

Eating too quickly or overeating overwhelms the digestive system, causing indigestion. This can lead to incomplete digestion and a buildup of stomach acid, causing discomfort and stomach upset (10). 

  • Gastritis

Gastritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the stomach lining. It’s typically caused by drinking too much alcohol, prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, or the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. It can cause an upset tummy, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (11).

  • Acid reflux

Acid reflux is when belly acid flows back into the esophagus (a tube that carries what we consume from the throat to the stomach). This causes an irritating, burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn. This irritation can lead to stomach upset, regurgitation, bloating, and nausea (12).

  • Things that cause nausea

Certain foods or activities can trigger stomach upset and discomfort. These include consuming overly spicy or greasy foods, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, experiencing motion sickness, exercising (13), or being exposed to strong odors.  

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Serious symptoms and diagnosis of diarrhea 

Recognizing and diagnosing diarrhea is usually straightforward and doesn’t require intense self-observation or invasive medical procedures, which is quite reassuring. Let’s explore the symptoms and diagnostic process in more detail below:

Symptoms

Diarrhea symptoms can vary in intensity, ranging from mild and manageable to severe and unmanageable. Diarrhea is defined as four or more loose or watery stools in 24 hours (14).

 On the milder end, we have symptoms that include occasional loose stools or a slightly upset stomach. This type of diarrhea is referred to as acute due to its sudden appearance but short-lived symptoms, typically lasting and typically only lasting a few days. 

In contrast, chronic or persistent diarrhea falls on the more severe end of the spectrum and lasts more than a week (15). Certain symptoms can be in both acute and chronic diarrhea, such as fever, nausea or vomiting, or abdominal cramping.

It is important to seek medical attention when the following symptoms do not go away after a few days. Symptoms include (16):

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe abdominal cramping
  • Blood or pus or mucus in stools
  • Dehydration, feeling thirsty, tired, or dizzy
  • Urgent, frequent, watery bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding or black, tarry stools at any time
  • Lingering stomach pain after bowel movements that interfere with activities

Diagnosis

It may surprise some, but the diagnosis of diarrhea is not just about confirming you have the “runs.” It’s about getting to the bottom of what’s causing your tummy trouble. The diagnosing steps often involve (17):

  • Initial questioning: When you visit your doctor, they’ll ask about your symptoms, medical history, and recent diet.
  • Treatment prescription: Your doctor may prescribe treatment based on evaluation and history for mild to moderate cases.
  • Stool sampling: In more severe cases, your doctor may ask for a stool sample. It’s not exactly comfortable to poop in a cup, but it helps check for blood, bacterial infections, parasites and more.
  • Additional tests: Your doctor may order blood or imaging tests to rule out certain conditions and ensure proper treatment. They could also perform a hydrogen breath test to check for lactose or fructose intolerances and bacterial overgrowth.
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How long should diarrhea and stomach cramps last?

Diarrhea and stomach cramps typically last a few days to a week. However, if symptoms persist for longer or become severe, seek medical advice to rule out underlying causes and receive appropriate treatment.

Why is liquid poop coming out like water?

Liquid poop, or watery diarrhea, occurs when the intestines don’t absorb enough water, resulting in loose and runny stools. Causes include infections, food intolerances, medications, and underlying health conditions affecting digestion.

What 12 foods stop diarrhea?

Foods that may help stop diarrhea include bananas, rice, applesauce, toast (BRAT diet), boiled potatoes, plain yogurt, oatmeal, cooked carrots, chicken, white fish, smooth peanut butter, and crackers. These foods are bland, easy to digest and help firm up stools.

Can I eat eggs if I have diarrhea?

If you have diarrhea, it is advisable to avoid eggs because they can be hard to digest and may worsen symptoms. Instead, opt for plain, easily digestible foods like rice, boiled potatoes, and bananas until symptoms improve.

How to relieve stomach pain from fried food?

To relieve stomach pain caused by fried food, try drinking ginger tea, taking OTC antacids, or consuming bananas or yogurt to soothe the gut and stomach. Avoid fried or spicy foods until your stomach discomfort subsides.

Summary

Dealing with diarrhea cramps, and an upset stomach can be uncomfortable, but it is manageable. Start by understanding what is diarrhea and upset stomach, and their possible causes. This will help you learn how to stop diarrhea cramps and how to treat upset stomach and diarrhea effectively. 

Proper hydration, a bland diet, and over-the-counter medications are vital strategies. Combine these methods with rest and patience. Consulting a healthcare professional is the best next step if your symptoms persist, worsen, or become unmanageable.

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Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

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