You know how we're willing to put up with a little heartburn or acidity in the name of that delicious samosa or hearty biryani? If the all-too-common Indian foodie gene extends to you, then chances are that you have experienced symptoms of constipation or diarrhea, fatigue or bloating of the abdomen and brushed it off as the price you pay for the indulgence.
Sadly, more often than not, we tend to ignore these symptoms until they become more than just a pain in the gut. In a more severe presentation, these symptoms could indicate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common ailment that, if not addressed with small lifestyle changes, can be a major irritant. IBS is widespread in India, though it is hardly ever taken seriously. But imagine living with a constant stomachache or making sure you have quick access to a restroom at all times. Let's just say your bowel won't be the only thing that's irritable and, in some cases, this may even lead to depression!
While the exact causes of IBS are not very clear, the modern urban lifestyle seems to be a contributing factor. Frequent travel, increased working hours, irregular meals and frequent consumption of junk food are the other usual contributors responsible for the spike in IBS cases in India. It might be triggered by gastric infection or stress in some cases. You'd be wise to monitor such instances and consult a medical practitioner for the lingering abdomen pain and constant fatigue just to be sure.
But fret not. The good news is that while there is no permanent medical solution to IBS, it is a condition you can manage. All you have to do is to opt for these healthy alternatives to ensure that IBS doesn't take over your life.
Make Small Dietery Changes to Avoid IBS
As much as we love the spice and oil, steering clear of the yummy samosas or the tangy pani pooris is in your best interest. The same holds true if you are into caffeinated beverages since the caffeine in coffee and tea or even soda can trigger IBS. Instead, opt for decaffeinated coffee or decaf tea. Better yet, go herbal. There's no dearth of the flavors available in the market these days and they bring along some pretty great additional health benefits, too.
Dairy products are difficult to digest and are known triggers of IBS. In fact, you may even suffer from lactose intolerance at times and yes, its pretty closely linked to IBS. So, next time you see a cheese sandwich, avoid it. Avoid that chilled kheer and choose healthier options like rice milk, soy milk or lactose-free milk. As a rule, try to consume dairy products in moderation.
Sugar, Sugar ...
Avoid food items high in FODMAPs to relieve IBS symptoms. FODMAPs is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Basically, these are a group of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in some food items that are poorly absorbed by some people. Because these food items are not absorbed properly they may act as a food source for the bacteria that normally live there, which can trigger IBS symptoms. A diet low in FODMAPs is a potentially great way to control IBS.
Dairy products and legumes are a few examples of food items with high FODMAPs. Avoid them as much as possible. Go for fresh juices made preferably from organic fruits and without the added sugar. Avoid fruits with seeds or pits, like apples, mangoes or cherries. Instead, go for cranberries, bananas, lemons, grapes and pineapples. Among the vegetables, your safest bets would be carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumber, ginger, parsley, pumpkin, tomatoes and spinach. Since beans, lentils and soybeans are also high in FODMAPs, avoid them.
That Time of the Month
Hormonal changes in women, who are more likely to suffer from IBS than men, can also trigger IBS. You can't really do much in this case, but take care to ease the general discomfort when you menstruate. Consult your doctor on the kind of medicines you can take to reduce the cramps.
Go Light But Never Empty
Big, heavy meals can worsen your condition or trigger IBS, so keep food light and frequent. This will keep hunger at bay and control IBS. It goes without saying but cutting down on processed food and take-outs and sticking to home-cooked meals will go a long way to soothe your gut.
Sometimes IBS is accompanied by gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which causes heartburn or acid reflux. Living with IBS can be tough but dealing with both IBS and GERD at the same time makes your condition worse. Several studies have established a strong link between GERD and IBS. To combat the symptoms of both, focus on having a light, fiber-rich meal and try not to keep your stomach empty for a long period of time.
Rough(age) it Up!
A fiber-rich diet reduces constipation, which is associated with IBS. To keep things running smoothly, include food items, like carrots, oats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts in your diet. However, you may need to avoid fiber-rich foods if you suffer from extreme IBS which can result in diarrhea.
Know Your Triggers
The key is to be aware of what you eat. Keep a journal to track your eating habits and know how your body responds to particular food items to narrow down your triggers. Processed foods, such as crisps and biscuits, carbonated drinks, alcohol and dairy products are a few common triggers.
Keep Stress at Bay
Emotional stress is not known to directly cause IBS, but it can certainly worsen your condition. Take time out for meditation, yoga and exercise or even regular counseling for a stress-free and IBS-free life.
These minor changes can go a long way to help keep your gut healthy and you happy! It might take some getting used to but outcome will be well worth the effort. Don't let your love for food hold your health back. Listening to your body and making such smarter choices will help you find a fine balance between your love for food and nourishing your body healthily.
Disclaimer: This publication/editorial/article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.