Gut Disorders: ‘Belly-Ho’

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Gastric disorders, in everyone’s language, are often referred to as tummy problems. Now, the clichéd question. Is the apprehension of heartburn, or indigestion, ‘killing’ your pleasure of eating? Watch out: it could be gastric trouble. Call it ‘heartburn,’ ‘dyspepsia’ or hyperacidity, or whatever, more than ten per cent of individuals who visit their doctor, for abdominal pain, have gastritis, or some form of tummy distress, such as irritable bowel syndrome [IBS].

We look at a few select conditions, not the whole gut spectrum, in this piece — for the ease of reading as also also convenience — without technical rigmarole.

Gastritis

Gastritis is not one single disorder; it’s an umbrella term, covering different conditions, with inflammation of the stomach.

Inflammation means the response of the body to any kind of irritation, or injury. If you, for example, accidentally scratch your arm with a sharp object, the skin in that area turns red, swollen, warm and tender. This response is called inflammation, a defence mechanism.

When the lining of the stomach is subject to any kind of irritation or injury, it responds in like manner [inflammation]. Such a response can be acute. However, in a large number of cases, it tends to run a chronic course, with many ups and downs, represented by major symptoms.

A host of factors trigger gastric trouble — right from medical conditions, aside from certain conventional [allopathic] drugs, to lifestyle and habits. This also includes infection, caused by the Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial intruder, and other parasites, stress, excessive alcohol use, certain foods, and so on.

Symptoms include a burning distress in the upper abdomen, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, bloating, gas, or belching. There may be weight loss, due to diminished appetite; if there is significant weight loss, you should seek your doctor’s advice promptly.

In acute cases, there may be disparate burning, queasiness and retching. Chronic cases may present with a gradual loss of appetite, fullness after eating, dull pain, or no pain at all. You should report all such symptoms which last for more than a week, or two, to your doctor and treatment should begin promptly.

The first thing that will give the cue to your doctor that it’s gastritis is your medical history, lifestyle and certain medicines that you may be taking.

Certain investigations may be required to confirm the diagnosis of the problem — blood count, breath test, stool test, gastrointestinal endoscopy, barium meal etc.

Acid Peptic Disease

This disorder affects one out of every three individuals. It affects all age groups too, although heredity, stress, pregnancy and conventional painkillers, are largely to blame for its appearance, or onset.

Conventional treatment uses anti-reflux drugs and antacids. Although this helps in relieving acidity, it produces a multitude of side-effects, viz., constipation, diarrhoea, gas and gastrointestinal bleeding, when taken for prolonged periods of time. They are also habit-forming.

Homeopathy not only helps in treating your gastric symptoms, it also addresses the cause of the disorder, leading to a gradual reduction of symptoms — while easing your dependence on antacids, and other medications too.

IBS

IBS affects people of all ages; it tends to be more common before age 35 in more than half of the affected individuals.

Statistics suggests that IBS affects an estimated 10.5 per cent of the population. Research suggests that there may, perhaps, be a propensity, which disposes the individual to IBS. It is more common in women than men.

NB: Homeopathy addresses this likely disposition; it treats the individual, not just one’s intestinal and bowel symptoms. IBS is, for instance, one of the most common conditions treated by professional homeopaths in the UK. Reports also suggest that there is promising clinical research regarding the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of IBS.

Long & Short Of It

All of us have good and bad bacteria in our gut. This is nature’s balancing act. Yet, it’s not just eating, but also what goes on in our mind, that may cause IBS.

Low-fat-foods are suggested to be better, because they reduce inflammation.

Conversely, oil-rich, or junk-foods, increase certain chemicals in our body; they are to blame for inflammatory responses, or reactions, in the gut.

Some clinicians suggest that IBS individuals would benefit from eating low-glycaemic foods — such as oatmeal. These foods convert into sugar less quickly in the bloodstream and prevent the expansion of bad bacteria in the gut.

IBS has no known, or established, cause. What typifies the condition is belly pain, along with cramps, bloating, or gas.

Individuals with the disorder often complain of constipation, or diarrhoea, or both, along with mucous in the stools. IBS symptoms tend to worsen in response to certain foods, as also emotional stress. Most people with IBS prefer easy access to the washroom; they also have a certain apprehension, while travelling, especially when there is no easy access to the washroom. What marks their day-to-day life is, of course, depression with emotional anxiety.

NB: There are no laboratory tests for its diagnosis. It isn’t a life-threatening syndrome, yet its ‘never-let-go’ presentation gives one the feeling that there is something waiting in the gut to happen, or explode. There is no definitive drug for IBS in conventional medicine; homeopathy certainly has more than a handful of useful remedies to treat IBS from the ‘root.’

Treatment 

Ayurveda

Amlapitta is a commonly encountered disease of annavaha srotasa [gastrointestinal system] as described in various classical Ayurvedic texts.

Here’s a recent study.

Background. Dyspepsia [amlapitta] is the commonest ailment found today. This is due to lack of knowledge about prakriti [psychosomatic constitution] as most people are practising inappropriate diet and lifestyle — this often leads to disturbances in the digestive system. This leads to pitta imbalance and the common consequence is amlapitta. If the pitta takes an upward course, it is called urdhwaga amlapitta.

Objective. This study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of Ayurveda treatment for urdhwaga amlapitta, in terms of improvement in symptoms, cure rate, satisfaction and side-effects, if any.

Material and methods. This was a single-arm exploratory open-label clinical trial. Patients with symptoms of urdhwaga amlapitta were diagnosed as per Rome IV criteria and were further assessed as per eligibility criteria. Thirty patients were enrolled. They were given different herbo-mineral preparations as per one’s prakriti. These drugs were given for 28 days and patients were followed-up weekly in OPD for assessment of their symptom-severity scores.

Results. Tiktamlodgar [acid eructation] and gurukoshthatva [heaviness in abdomen] were the most commonly occurring symptoms in 93 per cent [n = 28] of participants. 70 per cent [n = 21] of participants had avipak, severity Grade 2, or 3, followed by gaurav in 50 per cent. The patients were symptomatically relieved of all the symptoms of urdhwaga amlapitta by the third visit [21st day] and the difference in score was statistically significant. All participants expressed willingness take Ayurveda in the future.

Conclusion. The combination of Ayurveda drugs according to one’s prakriti and severity of symptoms, given to patients with urdhwaga amlapitta, was found to effectively cure within 28 days. The drugs used were found to be well-tolerated, safe and acceptable.

  • Khapre Meenakshi, et al, “Effectiveness of Ayurveda Treatment in Urdhwaga Amlapitta: A Clinical Evaluation,” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Volume 12, Issue 1, January-March 2021, 87-92.

Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies have been clinically proven to soothe tummy distress, pain and other annoying symptoms, associated with the given gastric problem, including IBS, and acid peptic disease.

Managing, controlling and correcting the progress and response are important steps your professional homeopathic doctor will take to treat you at the clinic. Even in cases where the disorder has progressed to major ulcers in the stomach, or duodenum, your homeopathic doctor will be able to employ appropriate remedies to heal as well as prevent their recurrence.

Research indicates that homeopathy for IBS can be effective, because it reduces stress [a major trigger for gastric disorders], and also abnormal hypersensitivity of the bowels, while relieving symptoms of bowel hypermotility.

Homeopathy gets to the ‘root cause’ of such problems and brings harmony back to mind-body systems.

Nutrition

Nutrition holds the key to good gut health. It is evidenced that four bioactive compounds improve gastrointestinal symptomatology and disease management. Additionally, the mechanisms of action and dosages underlying the positive effects of these substances aim at improving the quality of life and risk of disease relapse. Recent data supports that using nutraceuticals as an add-on treatment can represent an advantage in everyday clinical practice and substances, like menthol, polyphenols and probiotics seem to be a viable possibility to manage patients’ symptoms and have a positive impact on their health. More specifically, studies have shown that introducing these options may promote a greater relief regarding gastrointestinal symptoms, induced and maintained clinical remission, and improved quality of life.

  • Dr B C G Balio, et al, “Adjuvant Nutraceuticals in the Management of Gastrointestinal Diseases,” published by the University of Porto, Portugal; 2022.

Research also suggests that a microbial imbalance in the gut [dysbiosis], primarily caused by antibiotic excess is common in people with IBS. One study found a reduced number of ‘good’ bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, including an elevated number of harmful, or ‘bad,’ bacteria, in individuals with symptoms of IBS. Besides, the proliferation of yeast organisms, such as Candida albicans [a fungus that is a causal agent of opportunistic oral and genital infections], also seems frequent in people with IBS. Reducing yeast in the gut is, therefore, effective in improving IBS symptoms.

Probiotic, prebiotic — or, non-digestible fibre compounds that pass undigested through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the growth and/or activity of advantageous bacteria that colonise the large bowel — and, synbiotic [nutritional supplements combining probiotics and prebiotics] preparations evidently help people who have IBS — especially with symptoms of pain and flatulence. High fibre intake, such as flaxseed, for example, is also evidenced to help in IBS, although a few studies report that people with IBS may not benefit much by adding wheat bran to their diets. In fact, some people feel worse after taking wheat bran supplements. Be that as it may, fibre from other sources, such as psyllium [20-30gm per day], may improve symptoms.

Self-Help

  • Increase your fluid intake — drink plenty of water, unsweetened fruit, or vegetable juice, derived from carrot, spinach, beet and cucumber
  • Drink two cups of green tea [without milk and sugar], 20 minutes before meal-time to improve digestion
  • Avoid eating excess cabbage and broccoli; they may trigger gas problems
  • Avoid alcohol, colas, tea, coffee, hot and spicy food, and drugs such as aspirin; they may irritate your stomach lining and cause gastric problems
  • Eat small and frequent meals
  • Quit smoking
  • Take effective steps to control your stresses by way of meditation, yoga, or relaxation techniques
  • Consult and follow-up with your physician on a regular basis.
Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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