Skipping a meal or two has become common practice today. While we feel uncomfortable during a major hunger pang, we usually ignore it or delay meals depending on our schedules. Meals and water are essential to keep your system fueled for the day and skipping these would lead to conditions such as gastritis. A person may develop gastritis due to various reasons like for example not having meals on time. The fasting period, which just ended is a month where many people following the Islamic faith refrain from taking meals and water from 11-16 hours.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, gastrointestinal surgeon Dr. Ranil Jayasena shared his views on why fasting is not healthy and the various reasons for people to develop gastritis.
Is fasting healthy?
“Fasting is not good anyway because when there is not much water in the body, all the systems get dried up,” said Dr. Jayasena. “This could worsen existing diseases. When you fast there is nothing in the stomach and there is a continuous secretion of hydrochloric acid and enzymes to the stomach. Usually with the water we drink it gets diluted and when there are hunger contractions which happen basically thrice a day they get more and more intense and the secretion of hydrochloric acid and enzymes also increase. This is why you feel hungry and you have to eat and drink something. You become thirsty when the water content in the blood is less. A person may develop gastritis due to the disruption of the integrity of the wall of the stomach (gastric mucosa). This could be due to an H. Piroli infection, excessive intake of medicine for diabetes, backaches, smoking or consuming alcohol. The mucosa is very vulnerable to even small amounts of hydrochloric acid. When you fast you pave the way for these problems. Therefore we don’t recommend fasting even for religious reasons and certain patients do oblige. But after the fasting season the number of patients with gastritis is usually high,”the doctor said.
The younger generation is addicted to coffee, barbecue or particular fizzy drinks. This is bad because they all can cause cancer. If you consume the same food for a long time, any food will become carcinogenic. Therefore the younger people should be advised about it
Do not skip meals
“In a country like this, sometimes people cannot afford to have three meals a day,” Dr. Jayasena continued. “Three meals a day is a must. If you skip a meal you make your system vulnerable to conditions such as gastritis. If you don’t drink enough water you will end up with kidney problems. Cells need water to be hydrated and function smoothly; therefore an adult has to drink at least two and a half litres of water throughout the day. When you work in an air-conditioned room you don’t feel thirsty. This is because evaporation and perspiration is less and this in turn retains the water content in your blood. But it is not so for the bowel. It needs water throughout the day and therefore we advise these people to drink water by force to make sure that the bowel action happens smoothly. This could lead up to constipation. When you skip meals there will be no faeces in the bowel which will make it shrink and get irritated leading up to spasms. This is called Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Then the coordination between the bowel and the nervous system will break down and the patient will get psychologically affected,”Dr. Jayasena explained.
Say NO to spices
Dr. Jayasena further said that when patients suffer from gastritis they should avoid eating high contents of chilli and pepper. “Depending on the severity of the diseases we advise them whether to have spices or not. When we do endoscopies we find deep ulcers, erosive gastritis with bleeding and similar conditions and with an intake of spices these could be worsened.” When asked about milk, Dr. Jayasena said that the calcium in the milk stimulates the gastrin hormone, but this happens if you drink large amounts of milk. “A little milk is always good because the stomach has already turned acidic. Milk being a basic liquid therefore will neutralize the acid. The other issue is that people develop lactose intolerance which is different from gastritis. For some people whatever that happens in the stomach and bowel is gastritis. When you take milk you get diarrhoea and a bloated feeling which are symptoms of lactose intolerance since their lactase enzyme is deficient. These patients shouldn’t take any dairy products. There are regulatory mechanisms to regulate the influx and output. Sometimes they may get allergic to the proteins in the milk. Yoghurt is also good, but I advise them to use locally manufactured products. When probiotics are added, studies in other countries have found that the strains don’t tally. Therefore this pathogen could be infective in that country. But locally manufactured products have local bacteria with local strains,” he said.
Gastritis as a side effect
Gastritis is an effect of many other problems such as hiatus hernia. “This is a common problem now especially among obese patients,” added Dr. Jayasena. “Due to the thickness of the abdominal wall and due to internal pressure, the stomach is pushed into the chest cavity through the hiatus. Then the sphincter muscle is displaced and it doesn’t function properly. Therefore whatever the acids and food could be refluxed into the gullet causing problems. This could also bring about sinusitis, sore throat, laryngitis and various other conditions. With treatments like the keyhole surgery we can pass tubes and by looking at the video we could fix the defect. The hospital stay is also short and patients can fully recover. But if a person consumes alcohol or smokes the individual is vulnerable to gastritis too. If the cause of gastritis is the H. Piroli bacterial infection we have an antibiotic cause which is effective against these bacteria. It is a very resistant organism, but we have medicine for that. We also have special medicine for bile reflux to reduce the effects of bile. Sometimes the patient also has to follow instructions such as sleeping with the head raised or sleeping on the right side to empty the bowel quickly etc,”Dr. Jayasena said.
Know your limits of addiction
In his concluding remarks Dr. Jayasena expressed his concerns about the habits of the younger generation. “The younger generation is addicted to coffee, barbecue or particular fizzy drinks. This is bad because they all can cause cancer. If you consume the same food for a long time, any food will become carcinogenic. Therefore the younger people should be advised about it. For example in the Middle Eastern countries coloured fizzy drinks are cheaper than water. Therefore the landlords consume water and the domestic consume any amount of these fizzy drinks. After consuming large amounts of these fizzy drinks they developed cancers in the gullet and a few young people died as well. Therefore it is advisable to not get addicted to food items which have preservatives, colours or taste enhancers,” he said.