stomach pain
Representational image.Creative Commons.

We all have experienced a funny feeling in the tummy when we start to stress over or experienced a churning of stomach and frequent bouts of washroom trips just because of a sleepless night.

That uneasy feeling of bloat in your stomach or the very thought of standing on the stage and facing the audience gives you "that" feeling, it clearly tells us that our mind is in a conversation with our gut.

Modern-day research has convinced us enough that our brain signals our gut health and vice-versa. So, let me help you resolve this issue and heal your gut naturally and in some of the most effective ways.

How do we know that our gut isn't in balance?

Acid reflux, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, constipation, nausea after eating foods, cravings for sweets, alcohol, constant use of antibiotics, consumption of acid-blocking medications, antacids, diarrhoea, swollen patchy and coated tongue, constipation and diarrhoea, food sensitivities, autoimmune conditions are some of the symptoms that your gut isn't in balance.

What specific health condition can cause Irritable bowel syndrome?

IBS is a symptom; it is not a disease. It can be resolved through lifestyle modification. Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and depression can trigger IBS symptoms. FODMAPS are often dietary causes for symptoms of IBS.

FODMAP is an acronym referring to Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides,

Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Excess fructose, lactose, fructans, polyols (e.g. sorbitol and mannitol) and galacto-oligosaccharides are all examples of FODMAPS. Overall a period of time – short or long, our gut becomes sensitive and we experience uneasiness after eating some of these food groups.

These group of foods are vast and not limited to gluten, dairy and its products, certain tropical fruits, cruciferous vegetables raw cauliflower, broccoli, artificial sweeteners and many more. But one should eliminate these foods only under supervision as they may be intolerant to only one food group.

Eliminate suspected group of food to see if symptoms have settled. Please refer to a credible source of FODMAP diet.

What can we eat to improve our gut health?

  • Avoiding FODMAP foods initially really helps. So, the idea is to eliminate these foods from the diet for 4 weeks and introduce them back slowly and see which food is tolerated.
  • Going gluten free or dairy free may work for some but they can't always be a trigger or an issue for everyone.
  • Fermented foods like curd rice, dhokla, idli, ragi dosa, buttermilk, kimchi, kanji drinks, gundruk, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut supports our gut health.
  • Curd contains colonies of healthy bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus which protects our gut. Also, swap your wheat bread with sourdough varieties.
  • Definitely, avoid all processed and refined foods- as we also call them junk foods, they decrease the growth of healthy gut bacteria in the gut.
  • Antibiotics kill 'good' bacteria as well as 'bad'. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your microbes.
  • If your diet is low in fibre, a sudden increase can cause wind and bloat. This is less likely if you make gradual changes and drink extra water.
  • Prebiotics like garlic, onions, banana, oats, apples, flaxseeds to name a few are foods that 'fertilize' our existing gut bacteria and encourage the development of a diverse community of microbes in the gut. Make sure you consume them as a part of your meal.

What are the home remedies to reduce bloating instantly?

Fennel tea after a meal works extremely well in controlling bloating. Boil a cup of water and add 1 tablespoon fennel seeds and add 1⁄4 cup freshly chopped mint and bring it to boil. Strain and sip this water through. You can also chew fennel seeds directly after a meal with a teaspoon of carom seeds.

If you are experiencing severe stomach cramps along with bloating apply 1 tablespoon castor around your navel and wrap your belly with cold cloth for 30 minutes in an empty stomach. These are some quick home fixes.

Also, do not forget the power of tongue cleaning – use cooper or stainless-steel tongue cleaner, it removes toxins from our gut which coats our tongue wall and also helps in balancing our doshas.

Oil Pulling is another technique which expels toxins out of the gut wall and helps in improving digestion.

Is there any preventative cognitive therapy to relieve symptoms of IBS?

If your symptoms are severe, consulting a health psychologist who can provide psycho-education, gut- focused hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy really helps. Chanting, meditation and pranayama are also beneficial. Adapt small habits which can relieve stress.

Are there any tests to find Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Breath testing with hydrogen and/or methane breath tests may offer some insight into malabsorption of some FODMAPs.

However, the results of these tests are not always definitive, and further investigation is often required to isolate the causes of symptoms. Hydrogen Breath testing has limitations, therefore, patients should be referred to a dietitian experienced in gastrointestinal nutrition to be assessed and treated.

How do these fermented sugars make us bloat?

Generally, if you do not absorb the sugar in your small intestine, then that sugar will pass into the large bowel. In the large bowel, these sugars are broken down/fermented by the bacteria that naturally live in the large bowel, and gas is produced.

Although some gas is lost as wind/flatus, the majority is absorbed across the walls of the large intestine into the blood stream and is breathed out through the lungs.

Is there something called leaky gut syndrome?

When we have gaps in our gut lining, it allows irritating molecules and substances to escape into the bloodstream, this is called a leaky gut syndrome. Our intestine acts as a barrier and filter in selectively opening and closing its junctions.

Through our intestine's nutrients get absorbed and it blocks the absorption of toxins. But in leaky gut syndrome, this isn't the case. In this, our gut becomes too permeable and irritants get absorbed through our intestines. IBS is a symptom of the leaky gut syndrome.

What causes leaky gut syndrome?

Stress, alcohol, gluten, infections, enzyme deficiencies, strenuous exercise, SIBO- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, nutrient depletion, anti-inflammatories, sinus, mouth infections, autoimmune conditions like coeliac disease or Hashimoto's disease to name the few.

How can we heal our gut long term?

Eat your meals slowly, chew your food well, do not eat in a stressful environment, take time out to de-stress, eat fermented food, fresh foods and stay hydrated.

Have a Healthy and Happy gut.

About the author: This is a guest article by Swati Bathwal, an accredited practising Dietitian Nutritionist and Public Health Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, an accredited Anthropometrist and a registered Yoga Teacher.