Why Summer Heat Affects Gut Health and What You Can do About it
by Jelena Vulevic on Jun 21, 2023
Have you ever experienced indigestion when visiting a hot country? Or does your indigestion seem to get worse when the weather gets hotter? If so, you're not alone. As the summer season approaches and the temperature rises, our gut health can be significantly impacted by the heat.
In this article, we will delve into the fascinating connection between hot weather and gut health, specifically focusing on how higher than accustomed to temperatures can affect our digestion and overall well-being. Whether you're planning a tropical getaway or simply want to enjoy the sunny days closer to home, it's essential to understand the impact of hot weather on your gut.
We will explore the reasons behind these digestive troubles during the summer months and provide you with valuable tips on how to prepare your gut for your upcoming summer holidays. So, get ready to discover the secrets to maintaining a healthy gut and enjoying a carefree summer season!
The connection between heat and gut health… what we know so far
The connection between heat and gut health is a complex and evolving field of study. While there is still much to learn, researchers have made significant progress in understanding how heat affects our digestive system. The effects of hot weather on gut health can be attributed to several key factors.
Firstly, elevated temperatures can lead to increased dehydration, which in turn affects the digestive process. Dehydration can cause a decrease in saliva production and impair the secretion of digestive enzymes, making it more difficult for our bodies to break down food effectively. This can result in symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, and constipation.
Furthermore, hot weather can disrupt the delicate balance of our gut microbiome. Heat can create an environment conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria, while simultaneously inhibiting the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria. This imbalance in the gut microbiota can lead to gastrointestinal issues and impact overall health.
Heat-induced inflammation is another factor that can influence gut health. High temperatures can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which may exacerbate existing digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Additionally, hot weather can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Bacteria multiply more rapidly in warmer conditions, making it easier for contaminated food to cause gastrointestinal infections.
While the connection between heat and gut health is becoming clearer, there is still much research to be done to fully understand the mechanisms at play. Understanding these factors can help us take proactive measures to protect and support our gut health, especially during the summer months.
Why heat upsets your stomach
We understand that hot weather can have a significant impact on your digestive system, and you may have questions such as:
- 'why does hot weather upset my stomach?',
- 'why does the heat make me have diarrhoea?',
- 'can heat cause indigestion?',
- 'can heat cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea?',
- 'what are the symptoms of stomach pain due to heat?', and
- 'can hot weather affect bowel movements?'
Let us provide you with an explanation.
The increased temperatures during hot weather can indeed lead to various signs of an unhealthy gut, including diarrhoea, indigestion, stomach cramps, and changes in bowel movements. We have already mentioned how dehydration can cause indigestion, but it's important to note that inadequate fluid intake can further lead to electrolyte imbalances, disrupting the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and resulting in diarrhoea.
The heat can stimulate an inflammatory response in the body, which can affect the lining of the digestive system and its barrier function. This can lead to a condition known as Leaky Gut, which can cause discomfort and contribute to symptoms like stomach pain, cramps, and diarrhoea.
Furthermore, the combination of heat, dehydration, and potential changes in diet during hot weather can also disrupt the balance of your gut microbiota. An imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to digestive disturbances and further contribute to symptoms like diarrhoea and indigestion.
It's worth noting that hot weather can also affect bowel movements by influencing gut motility. Increased temperatures may alter the rhythmic contractions of the gastrointestinal muscles, leading to changes in bowel habits and potentially resulting in diarrhoea.
By staying hydrated, practising good food hygiene, incorporating gut health foods and adopting gut-healthy lifestyle habits, you can minimise the risk of experiencing these gut symptoms and issues during hot weather. Taking these proactive steps will help you maintain a healthy digestive system and enjoy your time even in challenging weather conditions.
Dry heat vs. humidity
The type of heat you experience, whether in your local area or while travelling, can further impact your gut health as different types of heat, such as dry heat, humid heat, or extreme heat, can have varying effects on your digestive system.
- Dry heat can increase the risk of dehydration, as the dry air can cause moisture to evaporate quickly from your body. This can lead to imbalances in electrolytes and negatively affect your gut health.
- Humid heat, on the other hand, can make you feel more fatigued and prone to sweating. Excessive sweating can also contribute to dehydration, affecting your gut's ability to function optimally.
- Extreme heat, characterised by extremely high temperatures, can be particularly challenging for gut health. It can lead to severe dehydration, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke, which can have profound effects on your digestive system.
By being knowledgeable about the specific type of heat you will encounter during your travels, understanding the link between travel and gut health and taking necessary precautions, you can better protect and support your gut health while enjoying your trip.
Possible gut health symptoms associated with heat
Hot weather can give rise to a range of gut symptoms and issues, which can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Constipation and Bloating: Hot weather can lead to increased fluid loss through sweating, potentially resulting in dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration can include dry mouth, thirst, decreased urine output, and fatigue. Dehydration can lead to issues like constipation and bloating in some individuals.
- Diarrhoea: Higher temperatures can stimulate the gastrointestinal muscles, speeding up the transit time of food through the digestive system. This increased motility can lead to loose stools or diarrhoea in some individuals.
- Indigestion: Hot weather may impact digestion by slowing down the enzymatic activity and reducing stomach acid production. This can result in symptoms of indigestion, including bloating, discomfort, and a feeling of fullness.
- Stomach Cramps: Heat can cause stomach cramps due to the altered gut motility and increased sensitivity of the gastrointestinal muscles. Cramping can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by other symptoms like bloating or diarrhoea.
- Imbalanced Gut Microbiota: Hot weather can create an environment favourable for the growth of certain bacteria and negatively impact the balance of the gut microbiota. This imbalance, known as dysbiosis, can contribute to digestive issues like bloating, gas, and potential susceptibility to foodborne illnesses.
- Changes in Bowel Movements: Hot weather can affect bowel movements by either speeding up or slowing down transit time. Some individuals may experience more frequent bowel movements or looser stools, while others may face slower transit time leading to constipation.
- Skin Issues: Increased heat and humidity can exacerbate skin issues such as heat rash, acne breakouts, and psoriasis, because of the connection between the gut and the skin, called the gut-skin axis. Moreover, sweat and excessive moisture on the skin can clog pores and promote bacterial or fungal growth.
Learn how to maintain good gut health in the heat
Maintaining gut health in the heat, especially if you're not accustomed to warm climates, is essential to prevent and control the above mentioned digestive issues. Here are some actionable tips to help you stay healthy and comfortable when facing hot weather:
- Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is key to supporting your gut health in hot weather. Apart from drinking water, consider adding electrolyte-rich beverages like coconut water or homemade rehydration solutions. You can make a rehydration solution by mixing water, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar or honey.
- Eat Refreshing Foods: Incorporate refreshing foods that aid in hydration and support digestion. Water-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, and citrus fruits can provide hydration and essential nutrients. These foods also contain fibre, which promotes healthy digestion.
- Keep It Light: Opt for light and easily digestible meals during hot weather to ease the burden on your digestive system. Choose lean proteins like fish or chicken, along with a variety of vegetables. Avoid heavy, greasy, and spicy foods that can exacerbate digestive discomfort.
- Consider the Right Supplements: Gut health supplements can be helpful in hot weather. Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and digestive enzymes aid in the breakdown of food. Postbiotics, like our own Y SKIN and Y GUT sensitive support the gut lining and barrier function preventing the accumulation of inflammation during hot weather. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine if such supplements are suitable for you.
- Home Remedies for Stomach Pain: For mild stomach pain due to heat, you can try natural home remedies. Ginger tea or chamomile tea can help soothe the stomach. Peppermint oil capsules or peppermint tea can ease digestive discomfort. Additionally, a warm compress or a hot water bottle placed on the abdomen can provide relief from stomach cramps.
- Mindful Eating and Rest: Practise mindful eating by chewing food thoroughly and eating slowly to aid digestion. Additionally, allow your body to rest and digest after meals. Avoid intense physical activity immediately after eating, as it can divert blood flow away from the digestive system.
By following these tips you can improve gut health, maintain its optimal performance, minimise digestive issues, and adjust more comfortably to the heat. Remember to listen to your body, learn how to repair your gut if need be, and seek medical advice if symptoms persist or worsen. Stay cool, hydrated, and prioritise your gut health for a pleasant and enjoyable experience in warm climates.
Overall, hot weather can have a significant impact on gut health, leading to symptoms such as indigestion, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and dehydration-related issues throughout the body. By understanding the connection between heat and gut health, you can take proactive steps to maintain digestive well-being during hot weather and while travelling to warmer climates.
Remember, everyone's body reacts differently to heat, so it's important to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. If you experience persistent or severe gut symptoms, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.
By implementing these strategies and taking care of your gut health, you can enjoy the summer months and your travels with a happy and healthy digestive system. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and prioritise your gut health for a memorable and comfortable summer season!