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Food without the follow-through

Zubin D’Souza

I don’t know how many of you people are going to sympathise with me? It is actually quite difficult to imagine my plight unless you have gone through it a couple of times yourself.

I live in Mumbai which was formerly known as Bombay and there is one thing that hasn’t changed in the Bombay of then and the Mumbai of now and that is the train transport system and the terrible experience that comes with it.

I have always been proudly environment conscious and take public transport everywhere as opposed to zipping around on a private vehicle. The train is a lifeline for me and millions like me who use it to get around the city.

Every day thousands of burly men cram into each compartment of each train that were constructed to transport hundreds. You push and shove past hundreds of smelly, sweaty bodies so that you can stand in the centre of your bogey where you are assured that you can’t slip off from the moving behemoth and fall to your death on the tracks below. You stand stiff, clutching onto your meagre belongings while the sea of bodies press against you from all sides and suddenly all hell breaks loose!

It starts off as a distant whisper of an aroma and before you realise it, the full power of the force assails your nostrils. Your hands are pinned to your sides and you can’t even raise them up to cover your nose, you try desperately to wriggle free from the invisible shackles that bind you as so do many others around you. You try to hold in your breath but at some point in time you have to give in to your body’s demands for fresh oxygen and that is when the second wave hits you. The nightmare continues. A living hell; but what can we do?

I know that passing gas between 13 to 20 times in a day is considered ‘normal’ (women pass it a fewer number of times on an average between seven to 10 times) – but seriously?! In a crowded train compartment?! And everyone letting go at almost the same time?! Is that normal?! Is it a cross that we must bear?

Well, not really! Flatulence which is just a fancy word for ‘farting’ or if you prefer the more childish term ‘tooting’ or the diplomatic ‘passing of gas’ is easily curable with just a couple of tweaks to your diet.

To solve the issue of your ‘trouser coughs’ you have got to understand the root of the problem first.

Flatulence is a natural part of your being and is caused by an intake of excess air and breakdown of food in your large intestine.

The undigested part of your food gets broken down by gases in your large intestine prior to being expelled from your body in the form of solid or liquid waste. In the process, hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide are released. When the amount of gas builds up, the body has to let it go… it can come out as a belch or a toot but most of the time there is no smell (except when I travel in a packed train compartment and get to inhale the amazing bouquets of fragrances that accompany each sneaky departure).

If there is a smell, it means that there is an excess of sulphur and it is best to limit the intake of foods rich in sulphur like beans, cabbage, broccoli, onions and egg yolk.

Soaking beans before cooking is a great help as it reduces the efficacy of the product.

Having a diet rich in fibre is great but overloading on the fibre at a single meal is a recipe for people wrinkling their noses at you. Spread it over a couple of meals and you may manage not to draw too much attention to yourself.

Pineapple, papaya, basil leaves, ginger and turmeric have all been used at various times to cull the number of ‘rip shots’ that you can pull.

Try and find those food products that you may have developed an allergy to and limit their intake. Since food allergies can develop at any point in time, the usual suspects normally are milk, soy milk, refined sugars and carbohydrates that contain sugar and fruit sugars.

Sometimes fizzy drinks and fatty foods are known to aggravate the situation which means that you need to put your McDonald’s-visit plans on hold for the near future.

Eating naturally fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi also help a great deal in making your gut get some ‘inner peace’.

Peppermint tea is an age old remedy that puts the stomach at ease and definitely reduces the build-up. In fact it has shown promise in reducing the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome which could be the leading cause of you having those issues with your stomach.

While on the subject, scientists have found out that there are about 86 serious illnesses that are somehow linked to that slumbering volcano in your stomach and so if it happens a bit too often and the remedies don’t work then you really have to seek medical help instantly. These illnesses are also not your typical run-of-the-mill types and can include Celiac disease, colon cancer, a weak gall bladder, pancreatic disease and cystic fibrosis.

The fact is that reducing the amount of ‘wind’ that you pass also means giving up on healthy and nutritious food which is really unfair. So, while you may not be able to end it totally, you could at least reduce the frequency if not the horrid smell that accompanies it. If you still cannot solve your issue discreetly, please do me a favour and do not board my crowded train compartment!

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