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It’s a gut feeling

health-and-fitness Updated: Oct 29, 2013 16:20 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Hindustan Times
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It is not easy to find the right diet when you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is a common term affecting a majority of the population. The causes for IBS vary from lifestyle and stress to hormonal changes. IBS is a disorder that is characterised by abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating and changes in bowel habits. Diarrhoea or constipation may predominate too.

There are three types of IBS: IBS with diarrhoea, IBS with constipation and mixed IBS with both diarrhoea and constipation.

There are no specific reasons why some people get affected with this disorder and react strongly to stimuli, and some don’t get any troublesome symptoms. On eating certain foods, the symptoms of IBS may be triggered. For example, chocolate, milk and alcohol may cause diarrhoea or constipation. Aerated drinks and certain fruits and vegetables may lead to abdominal discomfort. In most people with IBS, the signs and symptoms are worse during stressful events. Since more women than men have IBS, researchers believe that hormonal changes play a role in this condition.

The symptoms of IBS are worse during or around menstrual periods.

Small wonders
Probiotics are live microorganisms that supplement the gut’s natural bacteria, helping to balance intestinal flora. They have been studied and used in many gastrointestinal disorders. Probiotics have a beneficial effect on the intestinal mucosa. They help suppress growth of bad bacteria and improve gut motility.

One of the best probiotic foods is live cultured yogurt, especially homemade. Eat one bowl of yogurt every day (200 ml) to repopulate the gut with good bacteria. Similar to yoghurt, kefir is a unique mixture of milk and fermented kefir grains. It is high in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria. It is also rich in antioxidants. Sauerkraut is cabbage fermented in brine. It is extremely rich in healthy live cultures and contains vitamin B, A , E and C. It gets its distinctive flavour from lactic acid that is formed when the natural sugar in cabbage is fermented. Miso soup, also rich in probiotics, is made from fermented soybeans.

Probiotics help in preventing and treating vaginal yeast infection and urinary tract infections. They also treat IBS and speed up the treatment of certain intestinal infections. They help in preventing and reduce the severity of cold and flu. Two of the most vastly found and known probiotics in the intestine are bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. These adhere to the intestinal walls and multiply keeping your body healthy.

Certain foods like such as pulses, beans, nuts and seeds can cause an increase in gas and bloating. A certain amount of gas is normal. However if this problem begins to plague you every day you need to begin making changes in your diet, lifestyle and supplementation.

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most difficult intestinal maladies to treat. No single treatment works for everyone. There is little help through allopathy. Natural remedies have more to offer.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre