Does the Summer heat affect our guts?
We’re in the midst of Summer and with restrictions lifted, this means BBQ’s, family reunions, and just general happiness outdoors. Now we all love a good sunshine spell, even though they don’t happen all too often here in the UK, but the hot weather can really wreak havoc on your gut. If you've noticed that you've been experiencing increased bloating, wind or any other of the symptoms of an upset stomach there is actually a very good reason for it. Evidence actually suggests that when the temperature starts to rise, so do tummy issues.
But how can temperature affect our gut so much?
We already know that taking care of our gut microbiome is so important and there are many different ways we can ensure we have a happy gut - from eating well, to managing stress, to having good quality sleep. But what about staying cool? We know it sounds strange, but extended heat exposure may affect our gut health, according to early studies. When it’s very hot, we typically sweat more, which can lead to an increase in dehydration. When we don’t have enough water in our digestive system, our gut can’t operate as effectively meaning an increased feeling of bloating, gas and stomach pains. Another reason why our guts may be under more pressure when it’s hot outside, is our change in diets. We tend to want to eat cold, raw foods that are different from the foods we’d typically eat. If you have a sensitive tummy anyway, these foods can be harder for you to digest and can aggravate your gut. We also tend to move a lot less and the quality of our sleep reduces due to the intense heat, which are two very important factors of keeping our guts happy and healthy. In an interview with Red, nutritional therapist Clarissa Lenherr explains,”'when we are exposed to higher temperatures, our bodies redirect our blood flow to help us maintain our body temperature, sending our blood to the skin, in order to allow the heat to be cooled down and escape. This redirection of blood flow can affect our gastrointestinal tracts, as our digestive system needs the right amount of blood to function optimally.” She also goes on to explain that “additionally, heat is a form of stress on our bodies and one of the systems most affected by stress is the digestive system.”
What can we do to help our guts copy over the Summer months?
All this might sound like bad news, especially if you live in a place with crazy hot summers and no air conditioning, or you already have a sensitive tummy, but there are things you can do to help your gut bacteria cope with the summer heat.
1. Stay Hydrated
During the hot summer months, our bodies try to keep us cool by sweating. Replenishing the lost water is essential. It’s important to be conscious of your water intake and make sure that you’re not getting dehydrated.
One great way to avoid dehydration is to drink water at a moderate pace, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Waiting until you are thirsty may lead you to chug water and end up bloated. Why not add some fruit to your water to jazz it up? This makes it ever more refreshing and feels like a tropical Summer drink. There are also many apps that you can download that help remind you to stay hydrated.
2. Eat Slowly
During the summer days, your body is spending a lot of energy trying to keep your internal temperature down. This diverts energy from other body processes, like digestion. Eating slower gives your digestive system time to keep up with you. So take your time and enjoy each bite.
We talk about prebiotics all the time, but they really have so many beneficial effects on the body, most prominently our guts. They deliver powerful nutrients to feed the bacteria in our gut, helping them to flourish, and make our gut microbiome more diverse and of course, happy. You can try foods like yoghurt with live cultures, fermented foods, or of course our Naked Biotics shots.
4. Eat More Fibre
Including fibre in your diet is important for all months, the hot ones, the cold ones and the inbetweens, but it is especially important in the Summer months when your gut is already under a lot of strain to work against the heat. Digestion slows down when it’s hot, and fibre can help to aid digestion. So grab some berries, pears and oranges and add a little Summer fibre to your diet.
5. Exercise Safely
We all know exercise is important to maintaining good health. In the summer heat, it can be more difficult to get in your activity and it’s also very important to make sure any exercise you are doing in the heat is done safely. Of course the hot Summer days are no excuse to slack on that physical activity (you didn’t think you’d get out of it that easily did you?) Try and workout inside, rather than in direct heat during the day. Or why not wait for cooler times of day to enjoy a nice walk outside. More low-intensity exercise like this can really aid your digestion.
So remember, as much as we love those rare sunny days here in the UK, it’s so important that we continue to listen to our guts and read the signs that may indicate we need to give our tums a little extra TLC. A happy gut impacts so many aspects of our bodies, including our mind, so if we can keep our guts happy and healthy, that will translate with how we feel overall. So it’s a win win really!