COVID 19: Patients with digestive issues in recovery phase ‘increasing at an alarming rate’, says expert

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As the country battles the second wave of Covid-19, many patients have reported cases of associated digestive issues like gaseousness, bloating, and acidity. The number of patients with these complaints is increasing at an “alarming rate due to prolonged lockdown”, say doctors.

Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon, Saifee Hospital, Mumbai, said, “It is now known that Covid-19 infection by itself can also lead to gastro-intestinal presentation in the form of loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and pain in the abdomen. Along with this, there is an increasing number of patients who present with a range of digestive issues like bloating, gaseousness, acidity, acid reflux, constipation, and exacerbation of irritable bowel syndrome, in the recovery phase after the Covid infection.

Treatment of Covid-19 includes multiple drug combinations. “Antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antimalarials, and steroids need to be used in many patients which tend to take a toll on the gastro-intestinal system during the recovery phase,” she said.

A healthy diet, regular exercise, good sleep, and keeping stress at bay are the four pillars for a healthy digestive system.

Digestion A healthy diet, regular exercise, good sleep, and keeping stress at bay are the four pillars for a healthy digestive system. (Source: Getty Images)

Even otherwise, over the last year, people have been confined to their homes. As the lockdown has progressed, there has been an outpouring of food and cooking-related posts on social media reflecting an increased interest in cooking. Many people have found solace in cooking gourmet meals and relishing them. Additionally, there is an increase in consumption of outside food. Though the restaurants have closed down, home delivery orders have shown an upsurge. Meals have turned spicier and calorie-dense, and meal timings have gone for a toss as people are struggling to keep up with a daily routine and sleep cycle. “Coupled with this, is the closure of all outdoor avenues for physical activity and exercise and an increase in stress levels as people are trying to deal with illness, loss of loved ones and financial losses. All of the above factors are having an adverse impact on the overall health and well-being and especially on digestive health,” mentioned Dr Bhasker.

It is the need of the hour to take care of these gastrointestinal issues. “Have a disciplined daily routine. Diet is a very important aspect and special care must be taken to avoid oily and excessively spicy diet. Stay away from sugar. Try not to order food from outside very frequently. Eat on time and avoid very late-night meals,” said Dr Bhasker.

She also advised that people should include salads, fruits, and curd in the diet regularly. “Also, be cognizant about portion control. Try to avoid overeating and excessive snacking. Limit tea and coffee intake to one or two cups a day. Refrain from smoking and alcohol. Practice mindful eating. Last but not the least, have enough water and keep yourself hydrated. Regular exercise is also very important for digestive health. If you cannot go outside, do home exercises. You can walk or do yoga or follow some fitness apps as per your health status. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is also essential for good health,” advised Dr Bhasker.

During post-Covid recovery, it is advisable to remain in touch with your physician and if there is an increase in gastrointestinal symptoms, contact your doctor at the earliest for timely care.

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