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7 ways to keep your gut healthy for summer

heeral-patel-bio

Reviewed byHeeral Patel

Lady outdoors in striped t shirt

Summary

1What can disrupt the gut in summer?

Stomach bugs are slightly more common in hot weather. This can be down to the food we eat (think undercooked BBQs and picnics left in the sun).

27 ways to look after your gut in summer

Probiotics are live bacteria thought to help restore your natural gut balance, especially after you’ve been ill.

3The final say

The summer bloat can happen to us all, but following these tips you can help to keep your digestive system running smoothly.

Sun, sea, sand and... a slightly queasy feeling? It happens. While the warmer months provide plenty of good times, there can be downsides like sunburn and sweat too – not to mention the knock-on effect on your gut.

So, is it true that you’re more bloated in the heat? And how can you help avoid a troubled tummy in summer? Here, we uncover the truth about summer gut issues and look at ways we can help you get some extra gut love.

1. Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria thought to help restore your natural gut balance, especially after you’ve been ill. You might hear them called “good bacteria” or “friendly bacteria”.3

There’s some emerging evidence that they may relieve certain symptoms of IBS. But, according to the NHS, more research is needed before making claims about benefits of probiotics in certain conditions.3

Want a potentially happier gut? For most people with a healthy immune system, it’s safe to take probiotic supplements or eat probiotic yoghurts. And there are foods which naturally contain probiotics that could be worth adding to your daily diet.

However, probiotics aren’t suitable for everyone e.g. those who have certain health conditions. Speak to your doctor before taking probiotics if you’re unsure.

2. Exercise

There are plenty of benefits to staying active in the heat, and your gut health is just one of them. Being sedentary slows down the digestive process and leads to constipation.4

Exercise is also thought to promote healthy bacteria in the gut.5

But it’s vital to exercise safely when it’s hot. Exercise during cooler times like the morning and evening or opt for air-conditioned indoor workouts. Start gently and focus on low-impact exercise like walking, yoga, or swimming.

You might find your appetite’s smaller when it’s hot outside, but it’s still important to keep energy levels up. Consider having a protein shake or some fresh fruit to snack on.

3. Hydration

Drinking enough water helps food move through your gut. Without it, you’re at risk of constipation.6

It can be especially difficult to stay hydrated in summer, since you may sweat more. It’s usually recommended to drink six to eight glasses of fluid per day, but you may need more on a hot day. As well as increasing your water intake, try: 
  • eating foods with a high water content, like cucumbers, celery, melon, and soups 
  • turning your favourite juices into ice lollies 
  • setting reminders to drink on your phone 
  • checking the colour of your urine through the day to make sure you’re well hydrated 6
You can buy electrolyte tablets that dissolve in water to help replace the minerals lost through exercise or sickness. Or you could make an electrolyte drink by mixing water, salt, and lemon juice. Add flavourings like fruit or herbal tea if you like.

4. Prevent bloating

You’re not just imagining things – there are factors that may mean you're bloated in the heat.

A few of these are linked to other reasons we’ve discussed. Dehydration can lead to constipation, since water helps your poo move along the digestive tract. And constipation leaves you with a bloated belly.4

Plus summer cocktails and sodas are often carbonated, meaning extra gas in your stomach.

Similarly, you might not move as much on a super-hot day. This makes things a little stagnant in your digestive system and may lead to constipation.

Knowing your menstrual stage could explain things, too. You’re most likely to bloat in the luteal phase (the days and weeks before your period).7

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, but not so much that you feel too full. Keep up gentle movement, but allow yourself rest, especially if it’s very warm.

5. Sleep

A study from Shandong University has found that certain types of bacteria promote longer sleep, while others increase the risk of insomnia.8 And those with a more diverse microbiome were found to have better sleep time and sleep efficiency.9

So, try to get plenty of sleep and fuel up on a diverse range of plants and fibre to keep your gut microbes happy.

If you struggle to drift off, check out our Sleep Hub for extra tips.

6. Limit alcohol

Anyone for the pub? Over half of us drink more in the summer.10

Research shows that alcohol promotes dysbiosis (an imbalance in your gut microbiome) and overgrowth of bacteria, leading to inflammation in the digestive system.11

Not only are gassy beer and fizzy cocktails a risk factor for bloating, but alcohol is a diuretic (meaning it makes you pee more) and increases your risk of dehydration.12 The more you drink, the less you’ll notice you’re dehydrated.

Maybe you’ll reach for a takeaway after a heavy night. We've all done it! And, in the morning, your body might work to get everything out.

Together, it’s a potential recipe for bloating, constipation, and an irritated, unbalanced gut.

Try alternating each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic version. Or take a certain amount of cash with you when you go out, so it’s more difficult to overspend and overdrink.

7. Mindful eating

We often think about what to eat. But what about how to eat it?

Perhaps you’ve heard of “mindful eating”, which allows your brain and senses to be present when you eat. It focuses on taking time to appreciate the sights, smells, and sounds of your food, as well as how it’s reached your plate.

Who grew or made it? What excites you about it? Have you had enough?

Mindful eating, sometimes referred to as intuitive eating, may help you make more gut-conscious choices like:13 
  • being aware of when you’re satisfied, helping to prevent overeating 
  • helping to separate emotional needs (i.e. stress) from hunger 
  • taking time in the day to relax 
  • stepping away from the screen and not scrolling as you eat
It might seem intimidating, but start by sitting down for your meal with plenty of time and no distractions. Chew slowly and observe the tastes and sensations with every bite until you feel done.

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies.

Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Before taking any supplements or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients through your diet first. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
 

Sources

1. GOV.UK. Gastrointestinal infections: guidance, data and analysis [Internet]. GOV.UK [updated 2018 May 21; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gastrointestinal-infections-guidance-data-and-analysis
2. University of Surrey. Climate change linked to spread of diarrhoeal illness [Internet]. University of Surrey [published 2024 Jan 19; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/news/climate-change-linked-spread-diarrhoeal-illness
3. Food Standards Scotland. Campylobacter: Information and Guidance [Internet]. Food Standards Scotland [2019; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/downloads/Factsheet_-_Campylobacter_-_Website_-_for_businesses_and_professionals_-_June_2017.pdf 
4. Manser C, Paul M, Rogler G, Held L, Frei T. Heat Waves, Incidence of Infectious Gastroenteritis, and Relapse Rates of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Retrospective Controlled Observational Study. The American Journal of Gastroenterology [Internet]. 2013 Sep [cited 2024 May 10]; 108(9): 1480-1485. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/ajg/abstract/2013/09000/heat_waves,_incidence_of_infectious.17.aspx
5. NHS. Probiotics [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 Nov 24; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/probiotics/
6. NHS. Constipation [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2023 Oct 26; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/
7. Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, Valenzano A, Esposito T, Moscatelli F, Viggiano A, Cibelli G, Chieffi S, Monda M, Messina G. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev [Internet]. 2017 Mar 5 [cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357536/
8. NHS Inform. Hydration [Internet]. NHS Inform [cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/hydration/
9. Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) [Internet]. OASH [reviewed 2021 Feb 22; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome
10. Yue M, Jin C, Jiang X, Xue X, Wu N, Li Z, Zhang L. Causal Effects of Gut Microbiota on Sleep-Related Phenotypes: A Two-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study. Clocks & Sleep [Internet]. 2023 Sep 12 [cited 2024 May 10]; 5(3): 566-580. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2624-5175/5/3/37
11. Smith RP, Easson C, Lyle SM, Kapoor R, Donnelly CP, Davidson EJ, Parikh E, Lopez JV, Tartar JL, Aich P. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLoS One [Internet]. 2019 Oct 7 [cited 2024 May 10]; 14(10). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6779243/
12. Opinium. Brits drink more alcohol in warmer weather [Internet]. Opinium [published 2012 May 25; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.opinium.com/brits-drink-more-alcohol-in-warmer-weather/
13. Bishehsari F, Magno E, Swanson G, Desai V, Voigt RM, Forsyth CB, Keshavarzian A. Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. Alcohol Res. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 May 10]; 38(2): 163-171. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513683/
14. Drinkaware. Why does alcohol make you pee more? [Internet] Drinkaware [reviewed 2021 Mar 8; cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/general-health-effects/why-does-alcohol-make-you-pee-more
15. The Association of UK Dietitians (BDA). Mindful Eating [Internet]. BDA [cited 2024 May 10]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/mindful-eating.html
 

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