What Is an Upset Stomach a Symptom Of?

Reviewed on 6/11/2022
Woman sitting on a couch, holding stomach in pain
Common causes of an upset stomach include overeating, consuming fatty and greasy foods, eating meals too quickly, too much caffeine, alcohol, or chocolate; nausea, vomiting, food poisoning, heartburn, indigestion, stomach flu, stress, and others.

An upset stomach, or stomach ache, is pain and discomfort in the abdominal area. 

An upset stomach is a symptom of many different conditions. 

Common causes of upset stomach include:

More serious conditions that can cause an upset stomach can include:

What Are Symptoms of an Upset Stomach?

Upset stomach symptoms may include: 

  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • Heartburn
  • Burping
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full quickly after eating
  • Nausea

How Is an Upset Stomach Diagnosed?

An upset stomach is usually mild and can be treated at home. More serious cases of stomach upset can be diagnosed with a patient history and a physical examination of the abdomen, which may include checking for tenderness, enlarged organs, or masses, and listening to the abdomen with a stethoscope for bowel sounds. A pelvic and/or rectal examination may also be performed. 

Imaging studies used to diagnose the cause of an upset stomach may include: 

Pregnancy should be ruled out in all females of childbearing age with an upset stomach.

What Is the Treatment for an Upset Stomach?

Most of the time, an upset stomach can be treated at home. Treatment for an upset stomach may include: 

  • Consuming clear liquids in frequent, small amounts
  • Drinking plenty of fluids so urine is a pale yellow or clear color
  • If vomiting occurs, start with small sips of water or sucking on ice chips and if these are well tolerated, try:
    • Sports drinks
    • Clear, non-caffeinated sodas such as ginger ale, 7-Up, or Sprite 
    • Clear soup broth or bouillon
    • Diluted juices such as apple, grape, cherry, or cranberry (avoid citrus juices)
    • Decaffeinated tea
    • Popsicles
  • If fluids are well tolerated, slowly add bland solid foods such as the BRAT diet
    • Bananas
    • Rice (white)
    • Applesauce
    • Toast (plain or with only jelly or honey if desired)

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help ease some symptoms associated with an upset stomach. Talk to your doctor to find out which medicine is right for you. 

If an upset stomach is caused by a specific medical problem, such as an ulcer, treatments for the underlying condition can help relieve symptoms. 


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Reviewed on 6/11/2022
Image Source: iStock Images