Sour Stomach – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

It’s extremely common to get a sour stomach, dyspepsia or indigestion after eating or drinking. Usually, this condition is less harmful and can easily be treated at home using bland food items of herbal remedies.

But if it persists for several days then it can be a cause of concern.

Sour stomach is also called as an upset stomach which is characterized by the symptoms of upper gastrointestinal track & caused by multiple reasons including indigestion, spicy food, carbonated drinks, etc. [01]

Sour stomach is not a medically defined syndrome or term so its meaning may vary with regional differences.

What is Sour Stomach?

A sour stomach is a group of symptoms (mostly related to the stomach) that any individuals can experience and feel general uneasiness.

The sour stomach also termed as upset stomach and often accompanied by acid reflux, stomach bloating, stomach pain, excessive belching, etc.

Sour stomach is nothing but deranged health of upper gastrointestinal tract which causes nausea, burning in stomach, belching, sour burps, indigestion, and upper abdominal pain. [02]

Together these symptoms are termed as sour stomach.

Causes

The sour stomach can be caused by multiple reasons. Some of them can be related to other GI tract diseases. While non-functional dyspepsia and acid reflux are the two common ailments that can cause sour stomach symptoms. [03]

List of things that causes sour stomach is exhausting. Anything that irritates stomach cells can cause a sour stomach.

Here are a few things that trigger sour stomach:

  1. Eating Spicy, Greasy & Fatty Food [04]
  2. Excessive drinking Carbonated Beverages, Alcohol, Coffee or Tea, etc.
  3. Eating hastily or overeating. Irregular eating intervals.
  4. Sleeping on back immediately after eating. [05]
  5. Late night parties or reduced sleep
  6. GI tract infection causing diarrhea & vomiting.

If the sour stomach is acute and relieves with the help of home remedies then it won’t be a cause for concern but if it persists for a long time then you must consult the healthcare provider.

Persistence sour stomach may indicate peptic ulcers, chronic gastritis, GERD, hiatal hernia, etc. and demands medical intervention.

Signs & Symptoms

Prominent signs and symptoms of a sour stomach includes:

  • Regurgitation
  • Nausea
  • Stomach bloating, pain
  • Heartburn, Acid Reflux, Belching
  • Gurgling in stomach
  • Sour or metallic taste in the mouth

‘Regurgitation’ as the name suggests is a reflux of stomach content into the esophagus. Many times it may reach up to the throat and cause irritation of esophagus as well as throat. It is not vomiting and never involves reverse peristalsis movement of the esophagus which typically founds in vomiting. [06]

Regurgitation is simply caused by dysfunction of lower esophagus sphincter. Often, it is described as stomach fluid moving up & down the chest accompanied by a sour taste in the mouth.

Nausea is another symptom of sour stomach and defines as the sensation of vomiting rather than actual vomiting.

Stomach pain, bloating and uneasiness are common signs in the sour stomach.

There are several potential reasons that can lead to the sour stomach, so does the treatment. The line of treatment for sour stomach depends upon the underlying cause.

Thankfully, there are several home remedies, a variety of foods and medical treatment available to treat the sour stomach before it starts troubling you.

Not only these sour stomach remedies are useful to relieve your uneasiness but can be found in your kitchen or nearest grocery store.

1. Drink homemade herbal tea & drinks

Herbal tea

Herbal teas are used for hundreds of years. They have a wide variety of health benefits and can vary in tastes. Though they are named as teas, they are not the teas in true sense.

Usually, herbal teas are made using the flowers, herbs, dried fruits, and spices while the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant are used to brew the true teas.

Here are a few herbal teas that can help relieve the sour stomach:

  • Caraway seed tea
  • Cinnamon powder tea
  • Fennel seeds tea
  • Ginger tea
  • Peppermint tea

Caraway Seed Tea

Caraway seeds tea is a popular home remedy for several ailments of the stomach. Apart from its culinary uses, caraway seeds are commonly used by people in Middle Eastern countries for its’s health benefits. [07]

Caraway seeds tea is easy to make, just take one or two cups of boiling water in a glass and immediately add few caraway seeds & cover the glass with a plate for a couple of minutes then filter out all the seeds.

Drink this tea twice a day on an empty stomach which will help you to relieve stomach bloating & pains.

If you are in hurry then you can chew a few caraway seeds once you finish your lunch or dinner.

Why this work?

Caraway seeds are the rich source of essential oils and contain several metabolites like flavonoids, terpenes, coumarins, and phenolic constituents. These chemical compounds have great anti-oxidant properties.

Caraway seeds are known to have an antispasmodic, expectorant and stimulant action and are being used as a home remedy for nausea, stomach ailments, and constipation. It works by promoting the secretion of bile & stimulating the digestive system. [08]

Caraway seed tea helps relieve the sour stomach by working as a carminative, antispasmodic and eupeptic agent. [09]

Cinnamon Powder Tea

Cinnamon powder is a common household and kitchen ingredient. Since centuries, it’s been used for culinary purposes. Apart from its culinary uses, it’s been used for several health benefits.

The ½ tsp of cinnamon powder can be added to caraway seeds tea to enhance the health benefits of caraway seed tea or can be used as a standalone ingredient.

To prepare cinnamon tea adds ½ tsp of cinnamon powder and 1/2 teaspoon of honey to one glass of hot water and stir well. Once this solution becomes cool drink on an empty stomach.

Why this work?

One study on rat indicates that the cinnamaldehyde, a chemical compound found in cinnamon can protect the gastric erosions and enhance the bile production. [10]

Ayurveda literature cited cinnamon for its carminative and digestive actions. It also enhances the glycemic control in non-diabetic adults and helps to reduce the glucose levels after the food. [11]

Cinnamon tea can enhance bile production, reduce stress-related gastric erosion and work as carminative & digestive when added to food.

Fennel Seeds Tea

Foeniculum vulgare is an aromatic, biennial medicinal plant. It is a herb with yellow flowers and tall stems. Its seeds have a distinct flavor.

The fennel plant can grow all over the globe and is a rich source of essential oils. It is being used for centuries due to its medicinal benefits. [12]

Usually, fennel seeds are dried and used in the kitchen for culinary purposes or can also be used to make a strong-smelling herbal tea.

Fennel seeds have several health benefits and known to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Fennel seeds are known to relieve abdominal bloating and being used in traditional medicine to treat the ailments of digestive, respiratory, endocrine and reproductive systems. [13]

It also helps to reduce cramps caused by intestinal muscles and regulate the procedure to pass gas out of the GI tract.

Homemade tea for bloating:

  1. Take half teaspoon of fennel seeds and toast them for a minute.
  2. Add toasted fennel seeds to one cup of boiled water.
  3. Add a small piece of ginger, a pinch of salt and asafoetida to the boiled water. Stir the water 2 to 3 times.
  4. Drink the tea half an hour after the meal.

Why this work?

Hot fennel tea relaxes the muscles including the muscles of the digestive system and reduces the bloating by working as anti-flatulence herb. Due to its digestive muscles relaxing action its herbal tea can help in constipation. [14] [15]

Ginger Tea

Add ½ tsp of grated ginger to one glass of hot water and wait for 10 minutes then filter it out.

Drink this ginger tea on an empty stomach to reduce uneasiness in the stomach and accelerate digestion.

Ginger stimulates the GI tract to produce digestive enzymes which help to reduce gas formation and aids the natural digestive process.

2. Eat fruits

Eat an apple or banana.

Apple adds fibers to your stomach which help to relieve pain.

Banana works as bland food and covers up your stomach wall and minimizes irritation from gastric acid. Banana is a rich source of Potassium and the high level of Potassium naturally work as an antacid, neutralizing the PH of the stomach.

Though the banana help to reduce gastritis and sour stomach, it is not advisable to eat this solid food immediately after vomiting. It is better to wait for 30 to 40 minutes after vomiting to have a banana.

3. Drink Fruit Juices

There are many fruits that actually helps to relieve the symptom of a sour stomach.

Carrot juice along with a banana or spinach can make wonders in acute stomach upset. Carrot juice helps to prevent ‘Gastroparesis’ also known as delayed stomach emptying. This helps to reduce heartburn and acidity.

To make this juice recipe blend a couple of carrots, one banana, one glass of cold water and a few drops of honey together. This refreshing juice will serve as an antacid.

It will prevent gastritis by covering up the stomach lining.

4. Eat bland snacks

Burning pain in an empty stomach can be relieved using bland food.

For those, who fast for long hours and experience the stomach upset, bland food can help reduce gastritis.

Bland food like crackers & toast absorb the gastric acid and helps the sour stomach to settle down. Apart from satisfying hunger, these food items can reduce nausea.

People who do not have lactose intolerance can also drink a glass of cold milk or can have a scoop of ice-cream.

5. Over-the-counter antacid pills

Many people use over-the-counter antacid pills to combat the heartburn and sour stomach.

Ideally, heartburn and sour stomach should be treated by changing lifestyle, eating healthy and reducing the fatty, oily food. But practicing these things might not be possible for everyone.

In some cases, even if you make lifestyle changes to combat the sour stomach, symptoms might not improve as it should be. During such instances, your physician will ask you to take the OTC antacid treatment.

There are three types of OTC pills that can help to treat GERD and upset stomach:

  1. Antacids
  2. H2 blockers
  3. Proton pump inhibitors

Out of these, antacids are used as a primary line of treatment to reduce the heartburn. Common antacid immediately relieves burning but before you take such pill make sure that you are not allergic to it.

How to prevent a Sour Stomach?

The sour stomach can be prevented by adopting some easy to follow lifestyle changes.

Usually, the sour stomach is caused by overeating, spicy-fatty food, carbonated beverages, excessive tea-coffee, reduced sleep or irregular eating and sleep pattern, it is easy to cut down on these activities that eventually prevents sour stomach.

Reducing the spicy-fatty, oily food and increasing the dietary fibers, bland food items, fruits can help.

Drink plenty of water and start drinking juices like carotene juice. Drink a glass of luke-warm water early in the morning every day.

Take 7 to 8 hr sleep every day, this will help your body to refresh and repair the damage. Plan timing to eat and stick to them.

Cut down all bad habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco & late-night parties.

Relax your mind – Spare 20 minutes every day to practice yoga.

Avoid eating fried food products, excessive drinking of carbonated beverages.

When to See a Doctor?

Sour stomach commonly divided into two groups –

  • Acute sour stomach ( Also known as temporary and last for an hour or two and get relieved with treatment. Most of the time, it is caused by changes in food or lifestyle )
  • Chronic sour stomach (Get relieved with treatment but symptom may worse again, most of the time caused by underlying diseases)

If you unsuccessfully tried all possible ways to relieve symptoms of the sour stomach but they remain then you should consult the healthcare provider to see if there is an underlying disorder.

If you suspect your sour stomach is caused by some kind of food poisoning then you should immediately seek the medical attention.

All the above mention home remedies only help you to relieve the symptoms of the sour stomach but do not cure actual cause so it is better to have a visit to your family physician so he can treat the cause.

FAQs about sour stomach

Why do my burps smell like rotten eggs?

Burps that smell like rotten eggs is caused by hydrogen sulfide gas which is produced when gut bacteria break down the food. They are termed as sulfur burps. High-protein food, food that contains lactose, fats and beer may cause the sulfur burps.

They are treated by changing lifestyle, using medications like antacids, probiotics and enzyme lactase products.

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Are sulfur burps dangerous?

No, occasional sulfur burps are not the condition to worry about unless it is accompanied by other serious symptoms or occur excessively.

Stomach bloating and burps are fairly normal but if they are associated with other serious symptoms then it should be reviewed by a healthcare provider.

References:
[01] Schachter H. Indigestion and Heartburn. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 83. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK409/
[02] Upset Stomach Overview. Available from: http://hereforyouhampshire.nhs.uk/UpsetStomach.html
[03] Talley, N. J., Phung, N., & Kalantar, J. S. (2001). ABC of the upper gastrointestingal tract: Indigestion: When is it functional?. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 323(7324), 1294–1297. doi: 10.1136/bmj.323.7324.1294
[04] Khodarahmi, M., & Azadbakht, L. (2016). Dietary fat intake and functional dyspepsia. Advanced biomedical research, 5, 76. doi: 10.4103/2277-9175.180988
[05] “Healthy Sleep Tips.” National Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips
[06] Kahrilas P. J. (2013). Regurgitation in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(1), 37–39. Available from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3975977/
[07] Caraway Seed | Spices Board India, Ministry of commerce & industry, Govt. of India. Available from: http://www.indianspices.com/spice-catalog/caraway-seed
[08] Mahboubi M. (2019). Caraway as Important Medicinal Plants in Management of Diseases. Natural products and bioprospecting, 9(1), 1–11. doi: 10.1007/s13659-018-0190-x
[09] Johri R. K. (2011). Cuminum cyminum and Carum carvi: An update. Pharmacognosy reviews, 5(9), 63–72. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.79101
[10] Masatoshi Harada, Pharmacological Studies on Chinese Cinnamon. II. Effects of Cinnamaldehyde on the Cardiovascular and Digestive Systems. 1975 Volume 23 Issue 5 Pages 941-947 doi: 10.1248/cpb.23.941
[11] Bernardo, M. A., Silva, M. L., Santos, E., Moncada, M. M., Brito, J., Proença, L., … de Mesquita, M. F. (2015). Effect of Cinnamon Tea on Postprandial Glucose Concentration. Journal of diabetes research, 2015, 913651. doi: 10.1155/2015/913651
[12] L. Gori,1 E. Gallo,1 V. Mascherini,1 A. Mugelli,1,2 A. Vannacci,1,2 and F. Firenzuoli. Can Estragole in Fennel Seed Decoctions Really Be Considered a Danger for Human Health? A Fennel Safety Update. doi: 10.1155/2012/860542
[13] Badgujar, S. B., Patel, V. V., & Bandivdekar, A. H. (2014). Foeniculum vulgare Mill: a review of its botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, contemporary application, and toxicology. BioMed research international, 2014, 842674. doi: 10.1155/2014/842674
[14] Manzoor A.Rathera, Bilal A.Dara, Shahnawaz N.Sofia, Bilal A.Bhata, Mushtaq A.Qurishib. Foeniculum vulgare: A comprehensive review of its traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and safety. doi: 10.1016/j.arabjc.2012.04.011
[15] Bagher Larijani, Mohammad Medhi Esfahani, Maryam Moghimi, Mohammad Reza Shams Ardakani, Mansoor Keshavarz, Gholamreza Kordafshari, Esmaiel Nazem, Shirin Hasani Ranjbar, Hoorieh Mohammadi Kenari, and Arman Zargaran. Prevention and Treatment of Flatulence From a Traditional Persian Medicine Perspective. doi: 10.5812/ircmj.23664

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