Reconnecting with Indian food helped me improve my IBS – SBS

By on September 25, 2020

In Indian kitchens, food as medicine is a massive part of the culture. It’s common for families to rely on food as remedies a lot of times.

As a kid, I suffered from acid reflux, which would sometimes be so severe that I would curl up in bed and cry for hours.

My mum, Renu, would mask a teaspoon of bitter-tasting carom seeds – known to have active enzymes that boost digestive function and help soothe bloating, indigestion, and acid reflux – in a flatbread laden with ghee. This homemade remedy worked for me without fail.

I left that all behind in 2011 and moved to Perth when I received a job offer from the headquarters of the company I worked for in Mumbai.

Even though I was raised very traditional, when it comes to trying new food, I’m quite adventurous and open-minded.

I started eating sandwiches, indulging in meat pies, and enjoying barbecued pork and beef, even though these meats were not part of my regular diet growing up.

Palak paneer is representative of the food that Bhavna Kalra ate while growing up.

Palak paneer is representative of the food that Bhavna Kalra ate while growing up.

In India, on the rare occasion that I did eat meat, it was either prepared in gravy, or kebabs cooked on an open fire accompanied by a homemade chutney and a roti – not covered in store-bought barbecue sauce or ketchup with a small side portion of salad.             

Within a few months, I started feeling tired and listless. My stomach constantly churned, and I became embarrassed to step out of the home. The physical pain was sometimes so intense that I couldn’t even go to work.

My mum, Renu, would mask a teaspoon of bitter tasting carom seeds – known to have active enzymes that boost digestive function and help soothe bloating, indigestion, and acid reflux – in a flatbread laden with ghee. This homemade remedy worked for me without fail.

The few GPs that I saw did diagnose my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but they weren’t able to find the root cause of it, so they didn’t prescribe the right medicine.

Their suggestion of Metamucil, painkillers and exercise just made me more frustrated – I couldn’t understand why my stomach continued to be unhappy. 

Reconnecting to my culture’s foods helped me heal the root cause of my IBS

Feeling distressed and depressed as I was walking home from work one evening I noticed the GP’s name at a local surgery was Indian, so I said: “Okay, I will go here and see if this doctor can help me.”  

I was so frustrated that I started crying in her consultation room.

She began asking me questions about my background.

“Where was I from?”

“How long had I been in Australia?”

“How my diet had changed?”

I shared that I was no longer eating roti or dhal, the foods I grew up eating daily in India.

Dr Nayar figured out, that as a result, I wasn’t getting any fibre from vegetables, beans, or bread and suggested I start eating what I ate back home and described how my stomach would get better.       

The doctor was also trained in Ayurveda, India’s ancient and holistic school of medicine, that established how eating seasonal and traditional foods according to our inherent biological constitution will keep our body, mind, and spirit in balance and harmony.   

I rushed to my local supermarket, stocked up on flour, rice, and lentils, and started cooking the dishes that I ate daily in my mother’s kitchen in India.

My stomach constantly churned, and I became embarrassed to step out of the home. The physical pain was sometimes so intense that I couldn’t even go to work.

My daily diet once again included a whole–wheat paratha, savoury dosa or idli for breakfast. My lunch and dinner varied between easy-to-digest lentil and rice dhals, and khichuri, cooked with healing spices including turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves and ghee, served with yoghurt and other accompaniments like fermented pickles for their gut-boosting benefits.

During one of our chats, mum had suggested I have roti with ghee – clarified butter, and carom seeds, and start eating yoghurt to help with my stomach, but how many times do we listen to our parents?

The familiar sounds of spices popping began flooding back, and the smells transported me to my childhood home, which filled me with soothing memories and love.

Over a few days of consistent cultural eating, I found that my body was responding positively to the diet, and I was getting better. By the end of the month, I was free from the IBS symptoms.

This also benefited my emotional eating habits

I then started writing and documenting my recipes on my blog to share my journey with others. It was a way to not only stay in touch with friends but also to overcome the loneliness I was feeling.

On many evenings returning to an empty home with no one to talk to, I would drown my emotions with a slice of bread steeped in butter or get through a tub of ice-cream in one sitting. I was primarily feeding my body all this mindless stuff.

However, when I started eating better to recover from my IBS, I found that the way I emotionally ate was also different.

The familiar sounds of spices popping began flooding back, and the smells transported me to my childhood home, which filled me with soothing memories and love.

Now, if I’m feeling low, I make something healthy and nutritious that reminds me of home. My latest culinary adventure involves making my own yoghurt, just as my mother does in her home. I find it very comforting.

It’s also customary in India to enjoy an evening snack. So, just as I get home from work, I will make myself a cup of masala chai and enjoy it with either an onion bhaji, an Indian bhel puri, homemade biscuits, or potato rissoles.

I also love to eat with my hands as this way of eating connects food with the soul, and it instantly cheers me up.

Eating right is part of your genetic blueprint 

Yes, I firmly believe that we need to eat food that we grew up eating or what our mothers ate when they were pregnant, because that food is in our genetic makeup, and it’s what keeps us grounded and connected to our roots which naturally safeguards our health.

Also, it’s essential to eat a seasonal menu that is fresh and easily digestible because it’s available at that time of the year and offers vital nutrition.

The familiar sounds of spices popping began flooding back, and the smells transported me to my childhood home, which filled me with soothing memories and love.

For someone like me who didn’t eat a lot of meat, suddenly moving to a new culture and eating large amounts didn’t work well with my body because it just didn’t know how to process this food. On the flip side, when it comes to Indian curries, they’re imprinted in my DNA, and my body understands how to digest that food.

Today I will still enjoy a good Aussie pie, and I love Italian food, but I’m also holding onto my roots as I’ve realised this is the best possible way my body can keep me healthy through the foods I eat.  

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @ellijac

Source Article from https://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2020/09/24/reconnecting-indian-food-helped-me-improve-my-ibs
Reconnecting with Indian food helped me improve my IBS – SBS
https://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2020/09/24/reconnecting-indian-food-helped-me-improve-my-ibs
https://news.google.com/news/feeds?hl=en&gl=in&q=indian+food&um=1&ie=UTF-8&output=rss
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