While the rains bring relief from the high heat of summer, they also bring a host of diseases, including bacterial infections. Humidity slows down the digestive system a great deal and moisture being a fertile ground for microbial growth, bacteria, parasites and the resultant toxins fuel gastric problems such as acidity, bloating, indigestion, gastroenteritis, ulcers, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Many patients complain of vomiting, nausea, gases, chronic constipation, ulcerative colitis, gastritis, and gut sensitivity issues. “GI issues are considerably high during the season and we can take easy preventive steps,” says Dr Shanti Swaroop Dhar of Max Hospital, Panchsheel.
Why does the digestive system become sluggish during the monsoon and why do we need to be particularly careful?
Monsoon is a time of atmospheric humidity, and droplets of moisture host microbes. Therefore with increased humidity, there is an overgrowth of bacteria and the chances of infections grow multi-fold. At some times, these infections might cause a significant clinical disease and at other times, they might lead to bloating and discomfort. Another reason could be reduced physical activity as incessant rains restrict people to their homes. Finally, rains are associated with eating fatty, oily foods and that slows down the functioning of the digestive system.
How do those with already existing gastrointestinal diseases get affected? Is there a trigger and do they need to be extra careful about the same?
A lot of gastrointestinal diseases are chronic. These include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic dyspepsia and ulcerative colitis. In ulcerative colitis, there can be infective relapses and in chronic dyspepsia, slight infections can trigger elevated symptoms.
Can I self-diagnose the seriousness of my gastro-intestinal condition?
If you are able to deal with uneasiness in your stomach by popping in a regular digestive pill, then it is fine. But if you are unable to deal with it even after that, we recommend you seek clinical advice. This is because a lot of diseases mimic each other, for instance a heart disease could appear and feel like a gastric disease. Which is why I would suggest that an individual not go for self-management.
Can the monsoon aggravate constipation?
The monsoon does not necessarily trigger constipation but low fluid intake and exercise could worsen it. Lifestyle plays a very important role in the occurrence of constipation. It also means different things for different people. For some it means not having a bowel movement, for others it is the inadequacy of bowel movement or incomplete evacuation. Thus, constipation depends upon the subset an individual has.
How does monsoon affect those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is basically a syndromic diagnosis. It is a chronic condition in which people will have ups and downs. There are various triggers, an important one being food. If you are overloading fatty, oily, fried and savoury foods, they could trigger an IBS episode. Other triggers could include infections and lack of exercise that could enhance already existing symptoms. Interestingly, some people also react to the absence of sunlight for prolonged periods on cloudy days.
Are Indians more genetically prone to GI infections?
I don’t think there is a genetic predisposition but Indians are more prone to GI infections because the hygiene levels are not top notch. Watch out as most jaundices are food and water-borne, like Hepatitis A and B.
Why are cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea emerging with greater intensity today?
This, in my understanding, is primarily a consequence of an increase in the size of cities and lack of infrastructure to accommodate people. If we do not have adequate water supply and sewage facilities for the population, then water-borne diseases will go up. Another reason is that antibiotics are used indiscriminately and an increase in antibiotic resistance among individuals is heightening the intensity of these diseases.
What diet should be followed during the monsoon? Are there particular changes that one should make?
There is no perfect diet per se, but eat healthy, do not consume food that could possibly cause infections like street food, eat at regular intervals, do not overindulge and keep a good exercise routine. It is important to highlight the importance of drinking clean water during the monsoon and be mindful of where the water is coming from.
Sometimes even drinking filtered water doesn’t protect us from GI infection. What should be done?
It is more important than ever to consume fluids during the monsoon because the body tends to lose a lot of water in the form of sweat. In case you are not suffering from diabetes or hypertension, it is also a good idea to consume some hydrating solutions everyday. Talking about filtered water, it depends upon the kind of filter that is being used, since different filters have different porosities. So choose the kind that’s most effective and trusted. An infection depends on the kind of organisms that pass through the filter. An individual cannot and should not consume water supplied in taps because it does not meet drinking standards. Some amount of filtration and water treatment is crucial to prevent infections.
What lifestyle changes shall one make to ensure effective metabolic functioning during the monsoon?
Exercise regularly, have enough fluids, drink and eat mindfully. Do not overindulge, avoid fatty and oily food and cut down on alcohol and smoking.