The summer season can be challenging for your hard-working tummy! There’s an inverse relationship between the temperature outside and the body temperature inside. In winter, when temperatures plummet, the body turns up its internal furnace to create balance. This makes it possible to digest heavier foods and bigger quantities.
In summer, it’s the exact opposite. As the summer heat rises, the body protects itself by “turning down its own thermostat.” In the ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine, they say that in warm weather the “digestive fire” is weaker, so we need to be careful not to overload it.
As the heat rises, you may find that your digestion, the body’s “furnace,” burns less brightly. Modern science concurs; researchers have found that soaring summer temperatures can actually worsen some gastrointestinal (GI) problems. During a heat wave, there’s an increased risk for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) flare-ups, and a greater risk of infectious gastroenteritis.
What’s a body to do? Here are some natural gut health hacks, to help you cope with the gut challenges presented by the warmer weather.
Gut Challenge #1: Too many al fresco drinks
Solution: Switch to low-carb beverages.
From your microbiome’s point of view, the problem isn’t so much the alcohol – it’s the sugar! (We’re talking about moderate consumption levels, naturally.) In other words, it’s not the gin that’s doing you in – it’s the sugary tonic. Sugar feeds the bad bugs in your gut, and wipes out your good gut bugs, just as effectively as pouring bleach into a river kills the fish.
A pint of Fosters Lager, just for example, contains just over 13.5g of sugar. That’s 3.24 tsps – which is nearly 27% of your entire recommended daily amount of sugar!
If you’re drinking beer, choose a low carb option. Red wine is also a good shout, as far as your gut is concerned, because it contains gut-healthy resveratrol.
A few other alcohol sugar counts, for your reference:
- Red wine – 0.6g sugar per 125ml.
1/4 teaspoon sugar, 2% RDA.
- White wine – 1.4g sugar per 147ml glass.
1.5 teaspoons sugar, 2.5% RDA.
- G+T – 8.9g per 100ml (tonic).
4 teaspoons sugar = 36% RDA.
- Vodka + cranberry – 30g sugar per 250ml cranberry.
7.5 teaspoons of sugar, 60% RDA.
- Rum + coke – 27.5g of sugar in cola per 250ml.
7 teaspoons of sugar = 55% RDA.
The ideal tipple – from your gut’s point of view- is a full pint glass of sparkling water, with a squeeze of fresh lemon, a splash of clear gin or vodka and sweetened to taste with 100% pure stevia. This combo is tasty, low-calorie, low-GI, and will keep you so hydrated that you’ll be fresh as a daisy the morning after.
Gut Challenge #2: Over-indulgence at barbecues
Solution – Become a cool-food grazer
We all love hot, spicy, fried foods, but it’s best to avoid them during the peak of summer. Fatty fried foods take longer to digest and increase the risk of heartburn leading to stomach inflammation, which is common during the summer months. The answer? Eat lighter foods, and eat less in quantity. Try eating smaller meals at shorter intervals, which will boost your digestion. Go for “cool foods” to help you beat the heat: choose green vegetables and fresh fruits such as tomatoes, apples, pears, watermelon, cucumber, sweet potatoes, pineapple and papaya. These foods are not only easy to digest but also keep you hydrated for longer. Dates are a gut-healthy sweet option for summer; they are also rich in protein, iron, fibre, calcium and vitamins and can protect your eyes and skin from sun damage. Try frozen grapes as an al fresco treat – they are good for digestive problems and help avert tiredness caused by lack of nutrition.
Gut Challenge #3: Eating strange foods abroad
Solution: Drink therapeutic-grade goats milk kefir before, during and after your trip.
Your body is conditioned to work best in familiar surroundings. Goats milk kefir can mimic this “comfort conditioning” by helping to condition and regulate your system when you’re away from home. Kefir doesn’t require refrigeration, so it’s simple to wrap up a bottle and pop it in your suitcase. Kefir can also help prevent the “traveler’s stomach” that’s often associated with unfamiliar food and water. Researchers have found that probiotic bacteria like the ones in goats milk kefir, given as therapies for diarrhea, reduce the length of time sufferers are affected and lessen the chance of episodes continuing for more than four days.
Gut Challenge #4 – Plane food woes
Solution- Leverage the natural gut-soothing power of herbs.
Those tiny packets of food are often not the most gut-friendly food options, and can leave you feeling queasy and uncomfortable after a long journey. Toss a packet of a herbal remedy like Tummy Tea into your carry-on – medical herbs like meadowsweet, chamomile, peppermint and marshmallow root will soothe, calm and buffer your tummy from the excesses of travel.
Shann Nix Jones is a nutritional advisor, gut health expert and the author of three best-selling books on the subject; more info on Shann’s Blog. Therapeutic-grade kefir and natural herbal teas can be sourced from Chuckling Goat, www.chucklinggoat.co.uk.