Gut health is a hot health topic all around the world. But different cultures treat the issue differently. In the West, gut issues are considered rather taboo, and Europeans consider the intestine, our largest gut organ, little more than a simple digestive system. But gut health is a central theme in Asian medicine, which recognises the abdomen as the location of the soul.
But over the past few years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of gastrointestinal disorders among Indians. The symptoms of a perpetually upset stomach, reduced appetite, recurring diarrhea or constipation are things we have been living with every day. We turn to modern medicine to help keep up but we definitely do not relinquish our penchant for food that constitutes poor gastrointestinal diet. Medicine will only take you so far when you don't address the root cause. Many a time, we do not realize or refuse to recognize the fact that these symptoms may indicate gastrointestinal problems such as persistent constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastric ulcer, and acute gastritis and may require consultation with a medical practitioner.
So, here is your guide to the common gastrointestinal problems and how to face them — and keep them at bay
Constipation: More than just an uncomfortable feeling
Many of us might have silently identified with the relentless constipation problems suffered by Bhaskar Banerjee in the recent hit Bollywood flick, Piku.
About 14 percent of people in urban India suffer from chronic constipation in comparison with 10 percent worldwide. Not just that, about 60 percent of the people who suffer from chronic constipation in the country are likely to opt for home remedies as the most preferred treatment option for relief. Not many of us realize that when ignored, constipation can lead to other serious medical complications like piles, hemorrhoids, ulcers, abdominal pain, and fissures.
Do try home remedies, like drinking more water and eating foods that are fiber-rich, but don't accept gut discomfort as a part of life. Consult your family doctor before the complications begin.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Manage it for a fulfilling life
Another common gastrointestinal ailment in India is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The symptoms are so generic and common that many of us may even have been living with IBS for years without realizing it. It is characterized by reduced appetite, frequent abdominal pains, constipation or diarrhea or alternating constipation/diarrhea, fatigue, bloating of the abdomen, and maybe even stool with mucus. It is almost like living with a constant stomachache and therefore, a huge irritant.
Though experts are yet to ascertain the real cause of IBS, there seems to be a link between the urban lifestyles and IBS. Frequent travel, increased working hours, stress, irregular meals, and regular consumption of fast foods are deemed responsible for the surge in the number of IBS cases in the country.
Though there is no permanent solution to the problem, the good news is, you can control this by making a few dietary changes in your lifestyle. The key is to stay away from foods that trigger the symptoms of IBS. Common triggers include foods high in fermentable sugars, spicy food, carbonated drinks or dairy products. Go for light fiber-rich meals at regular intervals and avoid stress to avoid the onslaught of IBS.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Don't Let Stigma Control Your Life
India is recording a growth in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and experts believe that it is only going to increase. The prevalence of IBS in India is estimated to be 10 and 20 percent. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two forms of IBD. While Crohn's is not very prevalent here, the incidences of ulcerative colitis are on the rise. Bloody diarrhea, one of its symptoms is accompanied by pain and a loss of control. Spoken of behind closed doors, there is a lot of stigma associated with this ailment.
While the causes of IBD are unknown, it is attributed to environmental factors like a drastic change in diet and refrigeration of food. Unfortunately, the condition is irreversible, so like most of the gastric problems, prevention is better than cure.
Acute Gastritis: No, It's Not Mild Indigestion
Indigestion covers a lot of ground in India and is never really taken seriously. Acute gastritis involves severe symptoms like vomiting, nausea, fever, blood in stool or vomiting, and diarrhea. This is not mild indigestion so consult your doctor if you experience any of these.
An important aspect is to be aware of the triggers or foods that irritate your stomach. Sometimes these might be your favorite food items like spicy or fried food, but it is best to avoid these instead of suffering later. Prolonged tension or anxiety can also trigger acute gastritis. Try to reduce consumption or totally abstain from alcohol and smoking to avoid worsening of the symptoms.
Gastric or Duodenal (Peptic) Ulcers: That Burning Sensation
A burning sensation in the stomach accompanied by nausea and vomiting is indicative of a peptic ulcer. Heartburn, bloating of the stomach, and dark stool are some of the other signs of a gastric ulcer. The symptoms are fairly easy to ignore but might be confused with the other milder gastric problems. The key is to not ignore the problems but to get medical help at the earliest.
It can be avoided by staying away from foods that irritate your stomach. Secondly, increased consumption of alcohol and smoking is known to cause peptic ulcer. Like with most gastro-related disorders, it is important to control stress levels. Regular exercise also helps in alleviating the symptoms of peptic ulcer.
As crucial as delicious food is to our days so is being vigilant about how that food affects your body and you; that starts with being smart about what you eat, keeping a good mix and listening to your body for tell-tale signs. Eating nutritious and timely meals coupled with regular sleeping hours and endeavoring to lead a stress-free life will help keep these at bay. Recognizing and accepting the problem, instead of pushing it under the carpet, is the first step in addressing it and effectively managing it.
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