Foods for gastrointestinal disorders

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are quite common. These range from trifling stomach aches to life-threatening chronic diarrhea in those who suffer from a disorder like inflammatory bowel disease.

These conditions don’t just disrupt normal nutrition and digestion but also come in the way of the normal enjoyment of life. In these cases, right nutritional choices can help people with gastrointestinal ailments manage their symptoms.

GERD
GERD, for gastro esophageal reflux disease, is caused by the pushing back of stomach acids into the esophagus owing to relaxation of the sphincter that separates the esophagus from the stomach. The symptoms include chest pain that worsens after lying down, difficulty in swallowing, coughing and wheezing, and regurgitation in case of sour foods.

While smoking, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, citrus fruits and fatty foods exacerbate heartburn, stress and erratic eating patterns also aggravate symptoms.

Diet tips: Generally in GERD a normal diet needs to be followed. However certain restrictions are necessary. Limit or avoid the following foods to avoid triggering symptoms:

* Alcohol.
* Chocolate.
* Peppermint and spearmint.
* Caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, colas and other caffeinated soft drinks.
* Decaffeinated coffee or tea – herbal teas are fine, though not ones containing peppermint or spearmint.
* Pepper.
* Fatty dairy including 2 percent milk, whole milk, cream, high-fat cheese and yogurt, or chocolate milk.
* Fried meats, bacon, sausage, pepperoni or salami.
* Fried snacks such as French fries and bhajias.
* Nuts and nut butters.
* Pastries and other high-fat desserts.
* More than four teaspoons of oil, butter, shortening per day
* Fruits or vegetables, triggering symptoms in individual cases.

Eating several, smaller meals and remaining calm and relaxed while eating will also alleviate GERD symptoms.

Lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance is caused by the inability to produce sufficient lactase (the enzyme required to break down lactose, a sugar contained in milk). Symptoms include watery diarrhea on consumption of dairy products, flatulence (gas), and abdominal pain and bloating. Their severity depends on the amount of lactose ingested and increases with age.

Diet tips: Ideally, lactose tolerant people should stop having dairy products. But since milk and milk products are a major source of calcium, they can restrict themselves to about 200 – 300 ml of milk daily. They can also have milk in the form of curd or buttermilk since the lactose content in these is quite marginal.

Another option is lactaid tablets (which have the enzyme lactase) which allows lactose intolerant people to digest milk without symptoms. For kids with lactose intolerance, fortified soya milk is a good substitute as it is naturally lactose free, tastes similar to milk and is available in many flavors.

Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a malabsorptive (impaired digestion) disorder affecting people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. It may be present from birth or may be triggered later because of surgery, viral illness, pregnancy or emotional distress.

Celiac disease results from an allergy to gluten (a protein in wheat and similar grains). The body’s attempt to fight off the “invading” gluten ends up destroying the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from food by blunting the intestinal villi responsible for this function. This results in iron deficiency, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and malabsorption manifesting as stomach cramps and foul smelling, watery stools mainly upon consuming wheat products such as chappatis, parathas or bread. Occasionally, symptoms are more subtle and include weakness and fatigue, unexplained weight loss or skin rash. The small intestine heals and symptoms disappear if gluten is removed from the diet. If gluten is consumed again, the inflammation happens again and symptoms appear gain.

Diet tips: The only solution is to completely avoid wheat and all sources of gluten from the diet, which immediately cures the symptoms. But since gluten is found in wheat, barley and possibly oats, it means that bread, pasta, cookies and many other grain products are off-limits. In fact, gluten can be hidden in many products, such as frozen French fries, soya sauce, rice cereal, soup, candies and cough syrups, unless they are labeled “gluten free.” Those suffering from celiac disease can safely eat grains that do not contain gluten, such as rice, maize, jowar, nachni and bajra.

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