Digestive trouble during the summer months are more common than you might think. Stomach aches, bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, and indigestion are just a few symptoms on the list of woes that can impact your digestion during the summer heat.
Some of these digestive system challenges can be due to inadequate hydration, poor meal preparation, and of course, the foods we choose to eat.
Summertime and Food Cravings
To understand the effects of climate and rising temperatures on our eating habits and digestive systems, we must first examine the reason behind WHY we partake in consuming food in the first place.
Under "normal" circumstances, our decision to consume a meal has everything to do with satisfying a basic need which is to provide the building blocks that keep us alive. Similarly when we decide to skip a meal, it may be because we feel full, have a lack of appetite or due to the temperature outside.
A healthy diet supplies us with vital nutrients and energy that our bodies require in order to meet the demands of daily living. What you choose to eat when hungry or during a craving, may be influenced by multiple factors:
- Cultural influences
- Emotional reasons
- Personal taste
- Family preferences
- Peer pressure
For many of us, the summer season is a time that is steeped in the tradition of indulging in BBQ's, cooling down with ice cream, and for some of us, letting loose and refreshing with some alcoholic cocktails. Tis the season for enjoying good times with the family, getting out and about to enjoy the summer festivities, having some playtime in the sun and taking the time to enjoy a much-needed vacation or rest at the beach. As you can imagine, some of these foods have digestive consequences that are not always favourable.
The solar heat may leave many of us feeling desperate to stay cool and can affect the types of foods we choose to consume under the circumstances. It is not uncommon to crave the foods that cool us down such as ice cream, iced beverages, a cold beer or a milkshake. Some of us however, may prefer to consume lighter meals because eating anything too heavy can make us feel heavier under the heat of the sun.
Dehydration, Heat, and Our Digestive Systems: How Does Heat Affect Our digestion?
It's important to be conscious of what and how much we are drinking when spending time under the sun. Let's face it; summer heat can have a significant impact on how well or not our body functions. After all, dehydration is like a dark cloud hovering over us waiting to wreak havoc at any point in time.
Dehydration takes place when we lose more fluid than we can consume-the output and the input are imbalanced.
Dehydration can occur as a result of several factors including excess sweating, an increase in outdoor activities under the sun, and an all too common habit of not drinking enough fluids to replace their loss.
Once dehydration is triggered, a chain of events takes place in our bodies, producing a myriad of side effects including dry mouth, headaches, fatigue, fever, muscle cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and yes –the dreaded sugar craving.
Dehydration makes it difficult for organs like the liver, which depends on water to release glycogen and other components of our energy stores to function optimally. This effect can lead us to crave salty snacks or sugary treats like chocolate. And once that begins, the vicious cycle is hard to break.
Food poisoning is another common problem that we can encounter during the summer months. Cookouts and potluck side dishes can be a haven for bacteria if left out in the sun for too long.
Here are my top 5 tips to help you optimize your digestion in the summer-time
There are many precautions one can take in order to minimize the risk of encountering digestive trouble and dehydration during the summer months and prevention is definitely key. Because let's face it, who wants to stop the summer party? So let's dive in to discover what we can do:
1. Stay Hydrated
The #1 thing you can do to support your digestive system in the summer is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids during the warmer months –specifically focusing on your water intake in order to keep your body temperature low and to adequately replace fluids lost. Staying hydrated will also help to keep those cravings at bay that can lead to overeating and further problems with digestion.
2. Slow Down
Summertime is all about slowing down, relaxing and enjoying the flavours of a good meal. Slow down and eat your food at a relaxed pace. Allow yourself to savour your meal and give your digestive system the time it needs to process and digest your food. Eating too fast can cause bloating, gas, and unbearable pain in your gut. As the old saying goes: "rest to digest" and science is now confirming that you need to be in a parasympathetic state in order to assimilate the most nutrition from your food.
3. Pay Attention while dining out
Ask questions and pay attention to how the food was prepared, ask how long it's been sitting out for if you're outdoors for a meal with friends. Your host or hostess may not be keeping track of whether or not the hot foods have been cooked through enough or if the cold foods are still fresh on ice. Spare your digestive system the pain of consuming food that may be tainted with bacteria.
4. Choose well
Pay close attention to which foods upset your stomach. Boost your intake of fruits and vegetables during this time of year to ensure you maintain a regular intake of fiber and water and consider incorporating teas like peppermint tea, chamomile, ginger root or fennel into your line up of beverages. You can drink these hot or cooled.
5. Consume Bitter Herbs
Bitter herbs like dandelion, boldo, artichoke, and milk thistle are fantastic for improving digestion during hot, summer months. An herbal bitter is a "bitter" solution that primarily consists of herbs, fruit, bark, seeds, or flowers. Bitters boast a rich history for relieving digestive ailments, increasing digestive juices and even cleansing the liver that works so hard to optimize our digestion.
Let's dive a little deeper and look at how each bitter plant in our Boldycynara formula can help you when your digestion's feeling a bit sluggish.
- Dandelion Root: (Taraxacum officinalis) has been used for healing for centuries. Hailed by herbalists universally, this bitter herb is fantastic for reducing inflammation within the body, increasing appetite, detoxifying and removing impurities from your liver and intestines as well as promoting more regular bowel movements. It aids in digestion by helping to increase the secretion of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, which help to breakdown the food in your stomach and intestines. Additionally, dandelion bitters are excellent for bloating and gas that can accompany those big meals during the summertime.
- Milk Thistle Your liver plays a vital role in the function of your digestive system. It releases bile into the small intestine, which helps us to digest fat. Additionally, it detoxifies those chemicals in our body, which we don't necessarily want hanging around (3). Milk thistle is a potent herb that contributes to the regeneration and detoxification of the liver. This unique side effect of consuming Milk Thistle is useful for optimal liver function. Milk thistle helps to relieve us of nausea, bloating and gas, and indigestion (4).
- Artichoke provides an excellent source of fiber and can support your efforts to breakdown food –particularly hard to digest fats. Another positive side effect of this herb is that it enables the liver to metabolize cholesterol and lipids. It triggers the production of bile, helping to reduce any digestive pains associated with bloating.
- Boldo Leaf is a plant that is not only useful for treating bloating or poor nutrient absorption, but it is also beneficial in managing heartburn, which we know can arise on the heels of eating the most tempting foods.
In closing, summer months can bring about a significant shift in your appetite and digestive health. It's a time for having fun and eating good food amongst friends in the celebration of the season. Rest assured that it is very possible to take preventative and preparative action at this time of year by adopting a regimen that keeps your system functioning at optimal levels. Be sure to stay well hydrated, slow down, pay attention to your choices, and consume bitter herbs to speed up sluggish digestion. A.Vogel's Boldocynara is an excellent natural plant extract that supports your digestion during the summer months. It can help you manage troublesome digestive symptoms. Be purposeful in your actions and don't be afraid to savor a few bites of good food and have a great time!
4. (2018). Food Hangovers-Fact, not Fiction: Healing herbs to cope with the aftermath. Alive: Canada's Natural Health & Wellness Magazines.