If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that stomach pains are the worst. Nausea, bloating, diarrhea, gas—whatever gastrointestinal ailments you’re prone to, none of them are fun. Because when you aren’t feeling well in the tummy region, you can’t sleep, you can’t think, and, most importantly, you can’t really eat.
However, there are certain foods that, if you manage to choke ‘em down, will actually help ease those stomach pains. Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, D.O., gastroenterologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells SELF that everyone’s gastrointestinal (GI) tracts are different. This means that certain foods will help some more than others, and you’ll have to go through a bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for you. But overall, she says, a good rule of thumb is to avoid foods with lots of fiber (for obvious reasons), and foods with a lot of salt, sugar, or spice, as those can tend to stimulate your GI tract in an offensive way. Opt for one of these six foods instead.
Ganjhu points to this tropical fruit because it carries an enzyme called papain, which is known to aid digestion. However, if you aren’t in love with the taste of papaya, she says this might not be the best option for you. If you still want the benefits from that digestive enzyme, look for papain pills at your local health food store.
Ganjhu explains that “peppermint acts as an antispasmodic of the GI tract,” which means that it calms your stomach muscles and improves digestion. This is why you’ll often find that restaurants will serve peppermints at the end of a meal. She recommends drinking peppermint tea if you’ve got a stomach ache, but you can also take peppermint oil pills if you aren’t about that tea life. And if your store is fresh out of peppermint, fear not. She says spearmint, or any kind of mint will get the job done just as well.
3. Licorice, Fennel, and Caraway Seeds
Ever wonder why Indian restaurants serve fennel seeds at the end of dinner? The reason is not so different from why other restaurants polish off a meal with mints: Ganjhu says that fennel, as well and licorice and caraway seeds, contain oils that have been shown to help relax the GI tract and aid digestion.
This ingredient should come as no surprise to anyone who grew up drinking ginger ale for stomach aches. Ganjhu explains that the reason ginger is so great is that it helps with the motility of the GI tract. That just means that it keeps everything down there moving smoothly, which can help alleviate nausea. She likes to get her fill on this through teas or even with candied ginger.
5. Bland Carbs
“White rice, pasta, crackers, and oat brans don’t need a lot of work to breakdown so they’re really easy to digest,” Ganjhu explains. Plus, these foods are inoffensive in taste and smell which makes them easy and soothing to eat, even when it’s hard to stomach much else.
Bananas are one part of the well-known, nausea-combating BRAT diet (that’s bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast), which Ganjhu says is popular amongst children because those foods are all easy to tolerate, both in terms of flavor and digestibility. And while she doesn’t totally recommend eating applesauce—as it’s high in fiber and sugar—she says the electrolytes in bananas will help you rehydrate, especially after vomiting or diarrhea.