The Sweet Psychology of Indulging During a Pandemic

The pandemic has ushered in an era of relentless challenges, from everyday inconveniences to unimaginable pain and hardship. But not for the processed food industry. The titans of that sector are salivating over their great good fortune.

Processed foods include all sorts of treats we are not supposed to eat: Sweet things and salty things, packaged for convenience and designed for a long shelf life and maximum irresistibility. Things like grocery store cookies and cakes, canned soups and breakfast cereals and frozen waffles. And chips. Lots and lots of chips. Sales of those kinds of foods are surging. 

Cooped up Americans are copping to their new bad habits. In a survey conducted in April, one in four adults admitted that they have been eating more sugary and salty treats. More people seem to be baking their own sweet indulgences. Maybe that’s not so bad since home bakers rarely add ingredients such as preservatives or unpronounceable chemicals. But suppose you bake a cake and then eat the whole thing? 

Screw it. That seems to be the attitude of some of the people in my social media feeds, who are not just admitting to their indulgences, but flaunting them. 

“I baked a cake,” tweeted bestselling author Roxane Gay, atop a picture fit for a foodie magazine; “It’s a lemon thyme vanilla bean ricotta cake.” Within days, it had more than 26,000 likes. 

One of Gay’s bestsellers is Hunger, a brilliant book that most decidedly does not end with a newly slimmed-down author who has triumphed over her pangs. Hunger has just been sent back for a seventh printing.

Maybe the pandemic slogan is “Down with Diets!” According to Google Trends, searches for terms such as “weight loss diets” plummeted in March and April. 

Should we be beating ourselves up over

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Probiotics — even inactive ones — may relieve IBS symptoms – Harvard Health Blog

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gut-brain disorder that can cause a variety of uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain and diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of the two. IBS can reduce quality of life, often results in missed school or work, and can have a substantial economic impact.

Physicians diagnose IBS by identifying symptoms laid out in the Rome Criteria, a set of diagnostic measures developed by a group of more than 100 international experts. Limited diagnostic testing is also done, to help exclude other conditions that could present with similar symptoms.

Although the precise cause of IBS remains unknown, recent research suggests that an imbalance in intestinal microbiota (the microorganisms living in your digestive tract) and a dysfunctional intestinal barrier (which, when working properly, helps keep potentially harmful contents in the intestine while allowing nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream) may be involved in the development of IBS in some people. Because of this, methods to restore the microbiota have been explored as treatment for this condition.

Balance of bacteria is important for gut health

Many digestive processes rely on a balance of various bacteria, which are found naturally in the gastrointestinal tract. If these bacteria fall out of balance, gastrointestinal disorders may occur, possibly including IBS.

Probiotics, which are bacteria or yeast that are associated with health benefits, may help restore this balance. Most probiotics used in IBS treatment fall under two main groups: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These probiotics are thought to assist the digestive system. Among other functions, they may strengthen the intestinal barrier, assist the immune system in removing harmful bacteria, and break down nutrients.

Probiotics may relieve symptoms of IBS

The American College of Gastroenterology conducted a meta-analysis of more than 30 studies, which found that probiotics may improve overall symptoms,

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