The ongoing pandemic has restricted the world from venturing outdoors to keep oneself safe from the infectious COVID-19. Even though the lockdown in major parts of the country has been eased, people are consciously choosing to exercise voluntary caution by staying indoors. However, being indoors for extended periods can give rise to gastrointestinal or digestive problems.
“This is primarily because of two reasons — diet and lack of adequate physical activity,” explains Dr Randhir Sud, chairman, Gastroenterology of Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Medanta. He mentions, “Staying at home for a prolonged period can cause stress and anxiety due to job losses and disruption of the work-life balance, often leading to unhealthy habits like binge eating, thus increasing the consumption of sugar and carbohydrates.”
Stress can also lead to excessive consumption of tobacco and alcohol. This, coupled with physical inactivity due to closure of parks and gyms and the absence of a regular exercise routine, can adversely affect the digestive system. Dr Sud says, “These reasons lead to gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux and regurgitation.”
How to prevent and manage common gastrointestinal problems
Make sure you exercise daily. Dr Randhir recommends, “Set up a daily routine for exercising at home by using a stepper, treadmill or static cycle. You can also practice yoga as it is good for both the body and mind.” If you are someone who does not exercise regularly, start with a brisk walk. The doctor states that “regular exercise can prevent weight gain, acid reflux, bloating, constipation and also helps fight stress and anxiety.”
At this point, make sure you increase the consumption of fibre in your diet by eating more fruits and vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, peas and carrots. Consume a lot of fruits which are seasonal, along with salads, whole grains, pulses and seeds.
“It is better to swap big meals for smaller ones as portion control is key to prevent bloating and burping. Also limit the consumption of processed and frozen foods which have high fat and sodium content,” he adds.
Make sure you get your dosage of hydration. Drink lots of water and other fluids such as juices, coconut water and nimbu paani to keep yourself well-hydrated. Avoid aerated drinks like colas and excessive coffee as these can worsen the symptoms.
Lastly, Dr Randhir says, “Make sure not to eat in bed. Avoid lying down for 2-3 hours after a meal as this increases acid reflux, and get adequate sleep.”
If the symptoms still persist or worsen, please seek medical consultation through telemedicine or by visiting a hospital immediately.
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