Does Hot Weather Affect Digestion?
Have you ever been outside on a really really hot summer day and end up with an upset stomach afterward? If you wondered if there was a correlation between the rising heat and your upset stomach, there definitely is.
Since the hot summer days are on their way, we wanted to share what the research says about the heat and your bowel problems and give you some ways to avoid them while still enjoying the beautiful sunshine.
How does the gut microbiome work?
The gut microbiome is a collection of microbes and other living things that reside within our gut. We have several other microbiomes throughout our bodies, however, the gut is where we will focus today. These trillions of microbes help to digest our foods and extract nutrients from everything we eat.
When it comes to gut health, you may be familiar with hearing good vs bad bacteria. But the truth is, they aren’t actually good or bad — they’re just bacteria doing what they were made to do.
The results from each strain of bacteria are what will have a positive or negative effect on our health.
The ‘good’ strains will provide our bodies with neurotransmitters, short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), and a plethora of other health-boosting chemicals.
The ‘bad’ strains will also release chemicals, however, these chemicals result in systemic inflammation and disease.
There are plenty of things that can affect the balance of these bacteria causing more good or bad to be created. Some of the main things that affect our gut health (positively or negatively) are:
- Sleep patterns
- If you were born vaginally or c-section
- Breast or formula-fed as infants
- Where you live
While this isn’t a complete list, you get the point. Most everything can affect your gut health. With your gut health containing a majority of your immune system and being referred to as your second brain, it’s important to make sure you are improving it where you can.
Since so many other things affect the delicate balance of microbes within your gut, it’s not surprising that heat will do the same.
How can heat cause an upset stomach?
Our bodies aim to keep us at homeostasis. So when the outdoor temperatures rise, our bodies send our blood to the surface so our organs stay at a healthy temperature. This makes us sweat and lets our bodies cool down a bit.
The movement of blood away from our organs tends to slow down digestion. The organs involved in digestion require a lot of blood to help break down our foods and carry the nutrients where they need to go.
In addition to the rerouting of our blood flow, there are certain proteins and other expressed factors that affect our digestive system. When these molecules are expressed, they affect our intestinal epithelial tight junction by causing it to become permeable. The increased permeability allows our gut bacteria to move freely throughout our bodies causing an immune response to be activated.
Intestinal permeability (commonly referred to as a ‘leaky gut’) can lead to different diseases and an imbalance of the gut microbiome.
Since there are so many different factors that can influence our gut microbe balance, you may be wondering if it was something else that caused the change. While this is totally plausible, there was a study done at the University Hospital of Zurich that linked gut changes to the increase in heat temperatures.
Between 2001 and 2005 a total of 17 heatwaves hit Zurich. During this period of time, there was a direct correlation between heat and bowel disturbances in patients. Each day during a particular heatwave there was an additional increase of 4+% of gastrointestinal disturbance. This was especially true for patients who already suffered from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or infectious gastroenteritis (IG).
This study shows how important it is for heat-sensitive populations to take care of themselves during extremely hot days — especially with the global climate changes happening.
What can you do to prevent heat-related stomach problems?
Since we want to be able to enjoy the rays this summer, you probably want to know how to avoid the unpleasant stomach problems associated with the heat. So here are some of our top tips to keep your gut healthy on a day-to-day basis so you’re prepared for when the temperatures skyrocket.
1. Drink adequate amounts of water
Water might get a little boring to drink, but it offers us so many benefits — especially when it’s hot outside. Generally, if you feel thirsty, you should be drinking water. It is recommended to shoot for 8 glasses a day for a healthy adult.
Water not only helps to regulate your temperature, but it also keeps your organs working properly and your skin looking healthy. So swap out some summer margaritas for some water to keep yourself healthy and safe from overheating.
You can always spice up your water by adding fruit or making shaved ice.
2. Keep your microbiome healthy
Keeping your gut healthy will help to prevent a leaky gut. Some ways to keep your gut healthy include:
- Eating polyphenol filled foods (they can also help to prevent sun damage to your skin and potentially help avoid some sunburn)
- If it’s been doctor-approved, increase your probiotic intake
- Keep a healthy sleeping routine by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day
- Avoid stress and find ways to deal with it healthily
- Use Atrantil to provide polyphenols and to work as a prebiotic, nourishing you microbiome
3. Spend your hot days in/near water
Swimming pools or the beach are a great way to keep your core temperature at a healthy level on a hot day. If you’re planning on vacationing consider somewhere with water nearby.
Check out our article to learn about keeping your gut healthy when visiting the public pool.
4. Go indoors when you are feeling too hot
This might sound like it’s common sense, but sometimes you’re having too much fun to realize that you might be doing damage to your body. This can especially be true for kids. So schedule some snack breaks for some fruit, veggies, and drinks to get out of the heat and let your body repair itself.
5. Invest in a cooling vest
Cooling vests are a great way for people who are extremely heat sensitive to still have fun with their favorite people. There are several different types of cooling vests, but essentially they all do the same thing — keep your core temperature down so you can enjoy yourself.
Cooling vests have been successfully used on athletes during events on extremely hot days and have been shown to improve their performance and keep them safe from hyperthermia. People with autoimmune disorders tend to be heat-sensitive so they may want to consider a cooling vest to keep their tummies and bodies happy this summer.
The best way to make sure you stay healthy and safe from the heat this summer is by focusing on keeping your gut healthy, drinking lots of fluids, and listening to your body when to take a break.
Looking for more tips for a great summer? Check out some of our other articles here!
How Road Trips Affect Your Gut
7 Tips for a Great Summer Vacation
Consider a Countryside Vacation This Summer