A few tips to keep your gut health in check this Summer

A few tips to keep your gut health in check this Summer

By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

Here are some tips to help you develop a healthy and non rigid routine during the summer season. Your gut microbiome will thank you!

These long, warm summer days offer a welcome break from our usual routines and invite us to make the most of this fleeting season. Days filled with summer sports, adventures close - or not so close - to home, and patio time with good friends are what this season is all about. So don't let digestive issues get in your way! Staying on top of a healthy gut diet will help keep your gut health and digestive health in check. Learn about two of the most common summer gut busters from a registered dietitian as well as some very practical, doable tips for keeping your gut feeling great all summer long.

What is gut health?

Your gut consists of a microbiome, which are microorganisms that live in your intestines and contain species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the digestive tract. While some gut bacteria are "bad bacteria'', the harmful kind, some are "good bacteria". Nonetheless, both of these gut bacteria are important for a balanced and healthy gut microbiome.

Good gut health also starts with the food you feed it and how you take care of it. Here are some tips for keeping a healthy gut diet in the summer.

Avoiding travel constipation

Your digestive tract LOVES routine; so when travel interrupts that routine, it can really wreak havoc with your gut, leading to the poor gut health you might experience on vacation. If you've ever had trouble with constipation on holiday, you'll know that it's no fun. So, why does travel constipation happen? It could be as simple as not being near a bathroom when it's your time to go, forcing your body to wait until its next movement cycle. Long plane rides in cramped spaces with little movement can mess with the movement of the gut. What's more, when we arrive, we may consume different types of foods - perhaps lower fibre and higher fat - as well as more alcohol than our usual habits.

To help ward off travel constipation and bloating, consider wearing looser clothes on the flight to minimize pressure on the abdomen, and get up a few times to stretch your legs mid-air. Avoid alcohol on the plane and ensure you stay well hydrated throughout your trip. Consider packing high fibre snacks such as roasted chickpeas, dried fruit and nuts for your trip. When you arrive, work plenty of walking into your routine as movement begets movement. 

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Alcohol + Gut Health

Relaxing with friends over a glass of wine or beer on a sunny day is one of the joys of summer… so it’s worth being mindful of how alcohol affects gut health. Alcohol can be dehydrating, exacerbating constipation. In excess, it is also a known gut irritant: alcohol may increase inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract while having a detrimental effect on the gut microbiome and the gut barrier. For those with pre-existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease, it’s wise to keep your intake to no more than a few drinks per week to minimize its impact. Research is limited in this area but we do have some reason for caution. For example, with irritable bowel syndrome, one trial suggests that consuming 4 or more drinks in one sitting may be associated with worsening of symptoms. Does this mean you have to forgo your favourite beverage? Not at all! Just keep your intake moderate.

More Tips on How to feel great all summer long

When your gut is working well, you have the energy you need to take advantage of all this season has to offer. Keeping a healthy gut microbiome in check can make all the difference in enjoying the season. Summer is fleeting: don't let tummy troubles get you down with these simple summer wellness tips!

Drink plenty of water: warm weather, summer cocktails and sports mean our water losses increase, and dehydration can lead to constipation! When you can, start the day with 500mL of water and keep sipping throughout the day. Staying hydrated has overall health benefits beyond good gut health, so Pack a water bottle with you at all times.

Take advantage of that gorgeous summer produce: now is the time to enjoy fruits and vegetables at their most delicious. Make half your plate fruits and veggies whenever you can to increase your intake of fibre as well as polyphenols that boost gut health.

Indulge mindfully: Try to limit yourself to 1-2 drinks at a sitting, and maintain 3-4 days a week without alcohol, especially if you already have underlying gut issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. You might also want to explore non-alcoholic options, such as herbal ice teas, kombucha, or the new non-alcoholic beers and pre-mixed mocktails which are a huge trend right now. 

Create mini-routines when travelling: start the day with plenty of water to help stimulate the gastrocolic reflex that initiates movement, in addition to your usual tea or coffee. Take 15 minutes to relax before getting ready for a day of adventure as this will help signal to your gut that there is time and space to have a movement. When you arrive, head to a grocery store for fruits + vegetables you can keep in your room, as well as enjoy fibre-rich dishes at restaurants such as beans or vegetables at least once or twice a day. 

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Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
About the author
Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vvegetarian ccooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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