As the second wave of Covid19 pandemic rages throughout the country, there is a surge in associated digestive issues and the number of patients with these complaints is increasing manifold.
Effect of prolonged lockdown:
Healthy diet, regular exercise, good sleep and less stress are the four pillars for a healthy digestive system. Over the last one year, people all over the country have been confined to their homes for most part. As the lockdowns have progressed, many people have found solace in cooking gourmet meals and relishing them frequently. Though the restaurants have closed down, home delivery orders have shown a surge. Food has turned into a let out for many. 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 closure of all outdoor avenues for physical activity and exercise. Stress levels have also been continuously high as people are trying to cope up with illness, loss of loved ones and are additionally suffering from financial losses.
All of the above factors are having an adverse impact on the overall health and well-being and especially on digestive health. We are seeing an increasing number of patients who present with a range of digestive issues like bloating, gaseousness, acidity, acid reflux, constipation, exacerbation of irritable bowel syndrome and many others.
Covid 19 related digestive issues:
It is now known that Covid19 infection by itself can also lead to gastro-intestinal presentation in the form of loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and pain in abdomen etc. Digestive issues are now seen in the recovery phase after Covid 19 infection as well. Treatment of Covid 19 includes multiple drug combinations. Antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, anti-malarials, steroids etc need to be used in many patients and tend to take a toll on the gastro-intestinal system during the recovery phase.
How can digestive issues be managed during this phase?
First and foremost, it is very important to have discipline in the daily routine. A conscious effort must be made to eat healthy. 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. Include salads, fruits and curd in the diet regularly. Also be cognizant about portion control. Try to avoid over eating 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 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.
If there is a sudden change in your digestive health, you must see a doctor immediately. As mentioned earlier, sometimes these can be the only presentation of Covid 19 infection. During post Covid recovery, please remain in touch with your physician and if there is any increase in gastro-intestinal symptoms, contact your doctor at the earliest.
As always, like in any other disease, there are some factors that are modifiable and some that are not. Leading a healthy lifestyle is in our control and we all must make an effort to have discipline in our lives. We understand the value of health only after losing it. I guess, last one and a half years have taught us to value our health above everything else in life.
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker is a Laparoscopic & Bariatric Surgeon with experience of over 15 years. She is an alumnus of Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram. Incidentally, she was the first lady in more than 20 years to take up surgery as a specialization in her institute. Women in surgery constitute less than 5% of the total number of surgeons in India and have to face a lot of prejudices. However, she considers herself to be blessed to have been trained by the best teachers and most supportive colleagues… Read more