Cooking to Cure: Stew-pendous stomach serum


Skye Connors

A stew-pendous bowl of Chicken Tomato Tortilla stew, equally full of fiber and flavor. Photo by Skye Connors.

What does that shady discount seafood place around the corner have in common with presentation day in COMM 1000? Someone’s gonna get a “stomach ache.”

You get them, I get them, we all hate them. The stomach ache is an agonizing plague on the human digestive system. The national percentage of people afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is 15%, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The national percentage of college students afflicted with BS is more than double, 34%, according tothe National Library of Medicine. This discrepancy made me wonder: Why is the fraction of the population that tends to be fitter and healthier experiencing worse digestion and more stomach pain than the average population? And, furthermore, how can I help?

One reason that college students more commonly suffer from IBS is due to their sky-high stress levels. Managing complicated college coursework and navigating the ins and outs of adult life—potentially for the first time—puts students under a lot of pressure. Sometimes the body takes on that pressure in the wrong way. Hence, the gurgling noises during lecture.

But, don’t fret! I’m here to tell you that—you guessed it—there’s a cure. You won’t even need a prescription, a CVS coupon, or even a genie. All you need is to make a few modifications to your daily diet.

Here are two breakfast options that are nearly indistinguishable. While one bowl contains Froot Loops and full-fat milk, the other bowl provides a hearty serving of Cheerios with nonfat milk. Choosing the latter can eradicate all the stomach-churning pain that makes you cringe and clutch your abdomen in class and out.

There are several diets that have been proven to reduce IBS symptoms, like the gluten-free diet, low-fat diet and high-fiber diet. However, if you can’t fully commit to changing your dietary lifestyle, there are a variety of foods for which you can increase and decrease your intake while still reaping the benefits of better digestive health.

For breakfast, opt for whole-grain bread and cereals, like muesli, bran flakes and oatmeal. These are all high in soluble fiber.  This type of fiber is helpful because it delays digestion so that essential nutrients have sufficient time to absorb through your intestines, according to Healthline.

Other foods that contain abundant amounts of soluble fiber include peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, avocados, figs, pears, kiwis, chia seeds, dried fruit and sweet potatoes. Fiber is also known to soften stools, which can eradicate constipation-caused discomfort.

For lunch and dinner, there are lots of hearty and healthy options like chicken, fish, clear soups (i.e., made with broth, not cream), beans, lentils, leafy greens, sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts (you can’t hate them until you’ve had them done right…stay tuned!).

You should avoid fast foods and fried foods, full-fat dairy, creamy soups, chocolate, potato chips and other processed foods. The high-fat content in fried foods and most full-fat dairy can make them hard to digest and can cause diarrhea.

Here is a recipe that is fiber-full, warm, well-seasoned and mouthwateringly delectable. A chicken and black bean stew, which can be made with leftover roast chicken and beans you forgot were in your cupboards.

Adding kale makes it extra healthy (and extra flavorful), but it’s not necessary for those with leafy green phobias. Black beans and kale are chock full of fiber and chicken contains protein and the amino acid tryptophan, “which has been linked to higher levels of serotonin in our brains,” according to WebMD.

Tomatoes provide essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K. Tortilla chips are usually fried, but you can find baked tortilla chips at most health-food stores or online. Finally, spices like cumin, chili flakes, and cilantro aid in digestive health.

Chicken Tomato Tortilla Stew


2-4 tablespoons olive oil 

1 large white onion, diced 

4 garlic cloves, diced

Zest of one lime 

1 bunch of cilantro, leaves and stalks separated (stalks finely chopped)

1 tablespoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon of salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1 400-gram can of chopped tomatoes

2 400-gram cans of assorted beans (I used one can of black beans and one can of cannellini)

6 cups of chicken broth

1 bunch of kale

1 pound of pre-cooked chicken, chopped or shredded (use your leftovers!)

4 ounces sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled

Tortilla chips, to serve (try to find baked)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a pot. 
  2. Add the diced onions and caramelize, stirring often. 
  3. When the onions are translucent, soft and browned, add the diced garlic. Stir. Add the lime zest and a large handful of diced cilantro stalks. Sautee until aromatic and soft. 
  4. Add the chicken broth, cumin, chili flakes, salt and pepper. 
  5. Bring to a boil, then add the tomatoes and beans. Lower heat to a small simmer.
  6. Once the soup has thickened slightly, add the chopped or shredded chicken. 
  7. As the broth begins to resemble a heartier stew, add the cilantro leaves and kale. 
  8. Season with salt and pepper, as needed. (Depending on the chicken broth you used, you’ll need much more salt.)
  9. To serve, dollop the stew into bowls. Generously crumble tortillas chips on top. Then, add a good amount of crumbled feta cheese. Finally, top with a lime wedge. Squeeze it on too, for an extra kick.

Bon Appetit!