JAUNDICE? Eat all you want

A well-known heart physician of Delhi who also happens to be a good friend, was mortally scared of jaundice. It was not the discomfort of the condition that he minded. It was rather the restrictions on his diet that he abhorred.

Of course, he was perfectly justified.

During his illness and long after he had recovered, he was condemned to a zero fat, boiled, bland vegetarian diet.

The twist in the tale is that even after I showed him clear and overwhelming medical evidence that indicates that such dietary restrictions are just a tradition and have no medical justification, he was hesitant to accept it.

Such is the power of folklore and entrenched custom.

What is the current wisdom on diet in jaundice? General views concerning bedrest, diet and working capability in viral hepatitis have been evolving over the last 30 years. Yet, many in the medical fraternity—including my cardiologist friend—think otherwise.

WHY THE CUSTOM?

The symptoms that characterise jaundice—nausea, listlessness, the deep yellow in the whites of eyes and skin—and the fact that an important digestive organ, liver, which metabolises fats, carbohydrates and proteins, is affected, causes all these dietary myths to float around.

Anti-inflammatory substances in commonly available foods such as turmeric, works for the liver too. Yet the yellow colour of turmeric is viewed as a potentially aggravating substance for the sufferers.

The food dished out to such patients is colorless (no haldi), flavorless (no fat, no spices) and lacking in essential nutrients, fat and calories. Of course taste is as big a casualty as nutrition.

WHAT IS JAUNDICE?

Jaundice is a manifestation of symptoms that indicate an infection in the liver caused generally by any one of four types of viruses—labeled A, B, C or E.

But there are other reasons as well. It could be some toxic drugs or chemicals or just chronic alcoholism. There are some other causes of jaundice too, that are not so common.

... contd.

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