How to support your gut health in the summer is a challenge – especially when Pimms and picnics are added into the mix.
Here, Megan Rossi provides her tips for making the warmer season easier on your tum.
Go gently on the drinks
Alcohol not only leaves our minds frazzled, but it can also play havoc with our guts. This is because too much alcohol can increase the ‘leakiness’ of the gut in the short term, and it also affects how the gut moves, which can lead to tummy symptoms in those with sensitive guts.
Tip: Try a non-alcoholic cocktail, or refreshing water, kefir or kombucha. If you’ve decided to have wine, consider adding soda water – this adds the goodness of hydration without feeling like you’re missing out.
The goal is diversity. Most of the studies so far have found that people enjoying high-fibre diets from a wide range of plant-based foods have more diverse gut microbes, which is associated with better overall health. What’s more, research has shown that a Mediterranean diet, high in plant-based foods and fibre (50g a day) can improve people’s mental health after 12 weeks.
Tip: Aim to eat 30 different plant-based foods a week across all six food groups (fruits, veggies, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds), and fall in love with extra virgin olive oil.
It might be tempting to stay up late now the days are longer, but sleep deprivation can leave your hormones in a mess, which may trigger gut symptoms for some. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night is key to allowing your gut time to rest and repair from all the work it does each day to digest your food.
Tip: Limit screen time before bed, as mobile phones, computers and TV emit blue light, which can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest.
Take time out
Taking time each day to relax and rewire your gut:brain axis with some meditation is an evidenced-based way to help a stressed gut. The benefits may not be instant, as this strategy does take a few months of daily practice to have a noticeable effect, but if you stick with it, it’s worth it.
Tip: Spend just 15 minutes every morning listening to a meditation video or using a mindfulness app.
Take it easy with the summer fruits
Whether it’s a juicy mango or a refreshing slice of watermelon, when it comes to summer fruits, it can be hard to stop at just one and also provides a great lesson in how to support your gut health in the summer. But for many people with gut symptoms, large amounts of fruit can be a little too much fruit sugar (known as fructose) for the body to digest all at once. That’s certainly not to say these nutrient-rich foods are off the menu, but it may be worth thinking about keeping an eye on your portion size and spreading throughout the day.
Tip: If your gut is a little on the sensitive side, aim to keep to one portion of fruit (80g) per sitting, enjoying up to three across the day.
Avoid skipping meals
Skipping meals may sound like a harmless idea. However, having an irregular eating pattern may in fact do more harm than good, especially if you often have gut issues. When we skip meals, we’re more likely to overindulge at the next meal, adding a large load of food into our stomach that can trigger things like bloating, tummy pain and diarrhoea for some.
Tip: Stick to at least three meals a day. For those with IBS, spreading your food intake across five meals may help manage symptoms even better.
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Dr Megan Rossi is a research Fellow at King’s College London and author of Eat Yourself Healthy (Penguin Life, £16.99). Connect with Megan at theguthealthdoctor.com @theguthealthdoctor.