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Is It Really Acidity? Or Is it IBS?

I see many patients who come with self-diagnosis of acidity and self-medication. Most of them feel surprised when I tell them they are actually not suffering from acidity. The fact is self-medication is not only harmful but also counter productive.

What is acidity?

Acidity is burning sensation just below the chest bone in the center either before or after food. If the acid is coming up to the chest, then the burning sensation is in the chest (heart burn) (hiatus hernia / LAX LES will be discussed in separate blog) . Sometimes, it is so severe that you can confuse this with heart attack.

Other symptoms such as pins and needle sensation / burning sensation in chest/abdomen alone is probably not acidity. Pain moving around different parts of the abdomen alone and back pain alone is probably not acidity. These might be somatization of acidity if associated with symptoms discussed in the first paragraph. These symptoms alone are probably not diagnostic of acidity / GERD.

What symptoms are not acidity?

  • Feeling bloated7
  • Sounds in the abdomen
  • Rigid abdomen
  • Pain in different parts of abdomen at different times
  • Altered toiletry habits
  • Feel full after eating little food.
  • Pricking sensation all over the abdomen

All these symptoms are not related to acidity at all. In fact, acidity medicines can make these symptoms worse. These are symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

This needs careful evaluation to rule out colorectal cancer in people who are over the age of 50 years. You may also need colonoscopy to rule out colorectal cancer if symptoms are new and you are above 50 years of age.

Generally, IBS affects females above 40 years. Worrying problem is that it is now affecting young professionals because of their highly sedentary lifestyle.

These symptoms might also be caused due to medicines, some diabetic medicines being the most common cause. Poor control of diabetes aggravates these symptoms.

Some people suffer from these symptoms after they have had food poisoning (gastroenteritis). This is usually self-limiting.  Some experience these symptoms after taking antibiotics for different conditions, and again, this is also self-limiting.

What are the home remedies for IBS?

  • Drinking at least 3 litres of water
  • Eating more fiber (all fruits, vegetables and greens)
  • Eating less sweets
  • Exercise (walking or any form of physical activity)

While the above lifestyle changes bring around life-long relief of symptoms, medicines (anti spasmodic / pre and pro biotics) will help initially to overcome these symptoms.

If you are suffering from the symptoms described above, you do not need medicines for acidity. In fact, these medicines can make the symptoms worse.

 What food to avoid in acidity?

As such, there is no prescribed diet for acidity. There is no absolute need to avoid any food.

Food habits lead to acidity, not food items.

Spices also do not cause acidity when consumed in limited quantity.

If you put together the foods that lead to acidity that are listed by 100 people, then there will be no items left to eat. So, we should be able to eat all items. If there is any particular food that increases the symptoms, avoid it.