How to Support Gut Health in Summer

How to Take Care of Your Gut Health this Summer

Tips from our in-house nutritionist.

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What does summer mean to you? Sun, sea and sand? Or sweat, sebum and stomach issues? For us, it’s a bit of both. Trying to strike the balance and stay healthy during the hectic summer months can feel like a challenge, especially if your gut is temperamental at the best of times.

So, if your summer schedule tends to leave your gut feeling a little off, help is on hand. We chatted to our in-house nutritionist, Jade Ellis, to get all the need-to-know information on how to support your gut health throughout summer and beyond. You’re going to want to screenshot these tips…

LK: Hi Jade, thanks so much for chatting with us about all things summer gut health. Let’s start with the basics. Why does summer affect our gut health?

JE: There are several reasons, from changes in the weather to adapting to a different environment when travelling for holiday. Recent studies (1) have proven how hot weather can negatively affect the microbiome by the diversity of bacteria, leading to inflammation and changes to the gut lining. Excess heat can also encourage the growth of “bad” bacteria, which causes IBS symptoms like bloating and gas.

LK: So, how can we help to rebalance the “good” gut bacteria during hot weather season?

JE: We can increase the fibre in our diets. This is essential for the optimal functioning of our bowels and means we can avoid gut issues like constipation and bloating. High dietary fibre consumption is associated with increased gut microbiota diversity and blood sugar balance, which contributes to higher energy levels throughout the day.

An easy way to get more fibre is to try a green smoothie for breakfast. Add ingredients like spinach, berries and bananas, each full of fibre, vitamins and minerals, plus a spoonful of nut butter, chia seeds or flax seeds for a protein hit.

Get your dose of fibre
Try adding these foods to your daily meals to support summer gut health.

Beans (chickpeas, black beans, butter beans, kidney beans, lentils)
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cauliflower
Spinach
Berries
Avocados
Whole grains (brown rice, oats, wholewheat bread, pasta)
Apples
Pears
Bananas
Carrots
Beetroot
Artichokes
Nuts and seeds 

LK: Definitely trying that smoothie next week. A lot of us are getting ready for summer holiday right now. Does travelling really affect our gut health, or is this a myth?

JE: Yes, it can, and there are a few ways this happens. Sitting for long periods of time when travelling slows down our digestion, increasing gas, bloating and discomfort. Plus, the air pressure in planes can make bloating symptoms worse. We’re also interacting with unfamiliar microbes in new environments, like in airports or hotels, which can affect gut health.

If you have ever been on holiday and had sluggish digestion, bloating and stomach cramps, you could have been experiencing “gut lag.” Our gut microbes produce melatonin, a hormone which controls our sleep-wake cycle. Our circadian rhythm is dictated partly by sunlight and the timings of when we are eating. When we travel, this becomes disrupted, causing the “gut lag”.

My tip to support your gut health on holiday - once you’ve arrived, get outside early for some sunlight. This helps our circadian rhythm get in sync, adjust to a new time zone and get our gut health back on track.

LK: That’s so interesting. What else can we do to keep our gut feeling good, wherever we’re headed this summer?

JE: If you’re about to catch a flight, avoid heavy or processed foods before. If there are any foods you know can leave you feeling a little bloated, avoid those as well - the air pressure on the plane can make symptoms worse. The best thing to do is stay hydrated with water, and skip the sugary soft drinks. A good snack if you get hungry on board is a banana. It's full of potassium, an electrolyte for healthy muscles that also reduces water retention and keeps things moving in your bowels. 

Lastly - don’t forget to pack PRE + PROBIOTIC to keep gut bacteria in positive balance. Prebiotics are essential for feeding the good bacteria in our gut, ensuring it's a healthy and diverse baseline before adding in any other microbes (probiotics). Your gut will thank you.

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LK: I’ve heard that staying hydrated can support gut health in summer. Why is this?

JE: Hydration is key to a healthy body, especially in the summertime where our need to drink water is much higher. Our bodies lose a lot of water and essential electrolytes through perspiration during the summer. It is our bodies' natural process of regulating our body temperature and cooling down. If we are not properly hydrated, it is harder for our food to pass through our digestive system, which is a common cause of bloating and constipation. To avoid dehydration, you can make sure to drink at least 2 litres of water per day and eat foods which help to hydrate us. Our bodies usually get around 20% of its hydration from the foods we are eating throughout the day.

LK: I never knew that. Could you share some foods that have a high water content for us to try this summer?

JE: Of course! 

Watermelon
Melons
Apples
Cucumber
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Cantaloupe
Peaches
Oranges
Celery
Watercress
Lettuce
Spinach
Courgettes
Radishes
Asparagus
Peppers
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Mushrooms

These are all great for keeping the body’s hydration levels topped up, and are super refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

LK: Ok, these are all going on my food shop list for next week. Are there any other lifestyle changes we can try to support summer gut health?

JE: Absolutely. First, stay consistent with exercise. Whether it’s a gentle yoga session or HIIT workout, when we exercise consistently, our gut microbial diversity increases (2). There is a reduction in inflammation and improvements in our intestinal permeability - the integrity of our gut lining. A higher microbial diversity has been found in the gut microbiota of athletes. As exercise also causes changes in blood flow to the gut, this could affect the cells lining the gut wall and in turn, lead to positive microbial changes. 

Second, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Our gut health is so important and is connected to many different areas of our body, so it may not come as a surprise that our sleep can also be affected by our gut health. In part this is because of the gut-brain axis; the communication system between our brain and our gut microbes (3). The relationship between gut bacteria and the levels of our ‘happy hormone’ serotonin may also play a part in our sleep. Serotonin is involved in regulating our sleep cycle and converts into our sleep hormone, melatonin. Our microbes are also part of the process that controls the amount of serotonin in our body. 

When we have a proper sleep pattern and get the amount of sleep our body needs; our blood sugar levels are more balanced the following day. This means we are less likely to have big dips in our blood sugars, we have better energy levels, make healthier food choices and feel more satisfied with our meals. 

Want more gut health info? Here’s what PRE + PROBIOTIC can do in just 24 hours

References:
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8552956/
2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.637010/full
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6779243/