Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Most Belly Problems Can Be Avoided

You can prevent most belly problems by improving sanitation in the home and community, and by eating healthy food.

Water and Sanitation: Keys to Staying Healthy shows ways to make water safer to drink and to manage human waste to keep people healthy. If your family or neighbors often get stomach aches, diarrhea, or worms, read that chapter. Good Food Makes Good Health is about nutrition and how to eat for good health, which prevents stomach aches, nausea, and other belly problems.

Some other ways to prevent and treat these problems without medicines:

a glass of water
  • Drink plenty of water. Drink at least 8 cups every day, and more when you are working or sweating a lot. This prevents constipation.
  • Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains every day. This prevents constipation and is important for general health.
a woman and small child picking tomatoes


  • Fatty, spicy, or acidic foods can cause belly aches. If your belly hurts, avoid these foods for a few weeks, to see if you feel better.
  • Some people have painful gas or diarrhea when they eat milk or cheese. Try avoiding milk-based foods. (If avoiding a food does not help within a week or two, do not continue to avoid it.)
  • Avoid cigarettes and alcohol. They cause stomach problems.
  • Are you taking any medicines? Aspirin, ibuprofen, many antibiotics, and other medicines can hurt the stomach. For a few diseases, such as HIV, it is important to take a strong medicine for a long time. But for many illnesses, there is usually a different medicine you can take if the one you use causes belly problems. Maybe you do not need a medicine at all.
  • Worry and stress give a lot of people belly aches. Mental Health (in development) gives ideas for how to stay calm when life is difficult.


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