Kolkata: It’s that time of the year which we Bengalis yearn for, yes Durga Puja is back, Maa is back. And it is that time of the year when we leave everything to the winds and enjoy. And food is one of those enjoyments.
With this heavy food comes digestive diseases and indigestion, and this affects a large percentage of our population across all ages. It tends to increase with age. And during this festive season it tends to occur more often. It occurs during this time of the year due to multiple reasons, like eating outside, eating more oily and spicy food, eating junk food, over eating, eating at odd hours and consuming foods which people normally do not eat.
As a doctor I tend to see more patients with GI upset after this festive season than at any other time of the year.
What are the problems that we commonly see during the festive season? As doctors we tend to see symptoms of abdominal bloating, burping, nausea, vomiting, loose motion, constipation, abdominal pain and burning quite often. Some other associated problems that we see cropping up more commonly during this period are blood in stool and severe upper abdominal pain. These essentially occur due to gastro esophageal reflux, acid peptic disease, irritable bowel disease, or plain and simple indigestion and gastroenteritis.
Since, during this period people tend to eat a lot of meat based diet especially in the Bengali community, this tends to lead to constipation and hard stools which can lead to bleeding, piles and fissures.
Oily and fatty food also can lead to precipitation of severe pain in patients who otherwise have silent gallbladder stones. Gallbladder stone and alcohol intake in turn can lead to pancreatitis which can be life threatening.
The other serious problem which can occur as a result of consuming food which is either prepared in an unhygienic manner or has not been stored properly is typhoid and viral hepatitis.
So how can one enjoy during this festive season yet maintain some semblance so as to avoid problems? Try avoiding outside food as far as possible. If not possible then stick to freshly prepared foods which are not only prepared hygienically but are also stored properly so as to prevent contamination and overgrowth of microbes. Carry adequate amounts of drinking water, as water is one the most important factors leading to spread of infection. Carrying water from home is not only healthy but also good for the environment as you avoid buying plastic bottles of water which adversely affects the environment.
Stick to foods that are less oily and spicy. Try sticking to one outside meal only and avoid having all meals or too many meals outside. Take the rest of the meals at home, which should include balanced healthy meals. Avoid junk food as much as possible.
Do not eat at odd hours; maintain regular meal timing as far as possible. Avoid foods, which you know can cause problems. In case you do end up taking such foods, then take medications, which can help. For example if one is prone to constipation after taking a meat based diet, one should try and avoid it or take stool softeners along with it to prevent hard stool and problems associated with it. Persons who are prone to abdominal burning dyspepsia should take an antacid. Avoid heavy meals just before bedtime. Avoid extreme late nights and late mornings as this tends to throw our daily cycle off course and causes more problems.
One should avoid too many sweets as it not only leads to increased reflux and can also lead to problems not only in those who are known diabetics but those who are borderline. This also has the propensity to lead to weight gain.
One of the problems we have seen is that people in fervor of the festival tend to over eat and this not only leads to indigestion in the short term and obesity in the long term. Lot of people see a significant weight gain after the festivals. Avoid binge eating and binge drinking. Alcohol should be infrequent and in absolute moderation.
Patients who have gallbladder stones should strictly stick to a bland boiled diet. Those with piles and fissures should take a lot of water and fivers and avoid meat. One should remember, festivals bring happiness but good health brings true happiness.
The author of the above Article is: Dr. Sanjoy Mandal, Consultant Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Specializing in Advanced Laparoscopy and GI Oncosurgery, AMRI Hospitals, Kolkata.