How’s the gut feeling?

Rini Barman | Updated on November 08, 2019 Published on November 08, 2019

Small fries: Go for those fritters (just a few!) your heart might be craving, but watch your gut like you would a plant waiting to be nurture   -  ISTOCK.COM

After the excesses of the festival season, it’s time to talk about the stomach

If there is one subject that is taboo at post-Diwali parties, it’s acidity. Talk about regurgitation and noises in the stomach, and you’ll find people drifting away. “Yuck, that’s gross, man. Somebody pour me another drink, please,” a friend will say — and that will be the end of the matter.

Yet, after all the excesses we indulged in through the festival season, the time has come to talk about the stomach. After a decade of ingesting proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce stomach acid, I now have more than one reason to trust my gut. Acidity, if unaddressed for a prolonged period, can lead to major health crises such as stomach ulcers. Primarily a digestive disorder, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Gerd) can get aggravated if you eat very fast, overeat or eat large amounts at one go.

If you enter a drug store, you are likely to see a mad rush for those medium-sized bottles with a thick, pink liquid. The bottles often carry unpleasant pictures of your digestive system but are a huge hit during and after the festivals. In the chemist shops of Guwahati, the urgent plea — “Joldi antacid dia, khana ase aji (hurry up and pack this antacid; I have a party to go to)” — can be heard at all times.

But though antacids, digestive tablets and PPIs are a part of Gerd cure, there’s much more to the gut than pills. Those who suffer from Gerd know how there is not much of a pattern to it. Sometimes you can eat out without facing problems, while at other times even boiled and bland food might end up irritating your system. Additionally, if you are battling other medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, hypertension and obesity, you may find the persistence of acidity frustrating.

After an upper GI endoscopy revealed that my digestive lining was damaged, I became over-reliant on medicines. Then, there came a point when my gastroenterologist stopped all the prescriptions. Instead, he asked me: “Can you just chill?” Our stomachs are the first to respond to any signs of stress, the ones that we otherwise ignore. Listen to your stomach — and relax.

Giulia Enders, in her book Gut: The inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ (originally published in 2014), writes that the gut must be celebrated and discussed in public instead of ridiculing its (mal) functioning. Gut movements of burping and breaking wind, in her opinion, are “as delicate and complex as those of a ballerina”.

There are simple ways of countering acidity and other related problems. Dr (Brig) Pankaj Puri, director gastroenterology, Fortis Escorts, New Delhi, points out that even minor lifestyle changes help. “There are no magic foods to cure Gerd. But patients can avoid contents that affect the lower esophageal sphincter — coffee, fatty foods and alcohol. Having early dinners, small frequent meals and walking a bit post meals really help,” he tells BLink.

Gut healing can begin at home. By regularly experimenting with combinations of local herbs, seeds and leaves, I have been able to ditch drug dependency to a large extent. One doesn’t even have to buy pricey sachets of green tea bags (beware of the microplastic!).

One of the easiest ways to counter acidity is by soaking fennel, cumin and fenugreek seeds overnight. In the morning, boil the flavoured water and drink it on an empty stomach. You can add honey and ginger slices to it, too. Or you could try out the leafy combo, for which you need fresh mint and tulsi leaves. Make a coarse paste of the leaves. Boil it in water for 4-5 minutes. Strain the water and drink it like tea.

Moderation (in terms of fibrous/boiled/low-spice/non-fried eating) helps, but one can’t always go without onion bhaji or samosas, can one? We do need to indulge ourselves sometimes. So go for those fritters (just a few!) your heart might be craving, but watch your gut like you would a plant waiting to be nurtured. I thank my doctor whose prescription-less visits taught me so much. “See you when you are 90 years old,” he said.

Rini Barman is a Guwahati-based writer

Lining of control
  • Moori combo

Puffed rice, known as moori in parts of the East, has an approximate pH of 6.335, and is hence a great cure for people with severe gastritis. You can dip moori in any lukewarm liquid, even green tea, and have it. Or you could eat it like a snack. You can also make a quick salad of puffed rice mixed with chopped cucumbers, boiled chickpeas, salt and pepper.

  • Chillax!

Stay calm and be patient. Try exercising your abdomen whenever you can. Sleep on your side and use an elevated pillow. Don’t skip meals. On those low days, distract your tummy. Croon “All is well.”

Published on November 08, 2019
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