Healing Your Gut for the Summer
The connection between our gut health and our general health is undeniable. In previous posts, we covered gut ecology (the balance between “good” and “bad” microbes within the gut), and we discussed the gut/brain connection (seeing the gut as a “second brain,” as its health or dis-ease shows our overall health).
With the summer approaching, it’s that time of year for friends and family to gather and share drinks and meals at the lake. There will be foods rich in sugar, gluten, and simple carbohydrates, and low in nutritional value. Gatherings often include sugary drinks and alcohol. Then there are the snacks: they sit on the counter and tempt us to grab a quick, deliciously sweet snack on our way out the door.
Before the summer season kicks into full swing, I encourage you to work with your naturopathic physician to optimize your health. Together, you can create a plan to reduce stress, adjust nutrition, regulate sleep, increase hydration, and prioritize exercise. Having a go-to plan before the summer kicks in will provide you with a consistent routine to fall back on when things get hectic.
Remember, your digestive tract handles digestion, absorption and waste elimination. If you experience abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation, food sensitivities, inflammation, or skin rashes, particularly after consuming specific foods, then you could suffer from a dysfunctional digestive tract. Great news: PND has a program called the GI REVIVE program designed to get you back on track!
While the occasional summer splurge happens to the healthiest of us, here are some good practices to put into place between good times to reset our systems:
1. Before your fun food filled event begins, serve yourself a filling, healthy snack. Fruit with yogurt, oatmeal with walnuts, or some chicken breast over lettuce with a drizzle of olive oil are some excellent options. These will satisfy you enough to avoid a nosedive into the sweet treats.
2. Stay hydrated. You might even commit to a couple of extra glasses of water on those days when you’re consuming sugary or alcoholic drinks or eating rich (or excess) food. Water will keep your system flowing smoothly.
3. Eat slowly, chatting between bites. Take the time to chew your food. Enjoy the taste. Social situations often result in overeating (usually because we aren’t paying attention to how much we eat or drink while socializing). You (and your gut) will feel much happier post-fiesta if you don’t overstuff yourself.
4. Exercise. This may look like a family walk after dinner or heading out for a brisk walk with the dog before events begin. If you typically begin each day with a cardio workout or some Pilates, great! Keep that healthy routine going. If you’re with friends or relatives, invite them to join you. (Who knew Uncle Joe was good at Pilates!?)
5. Especially if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, try to limit or avoid the following foods between festivities:
- Gluten and Dairy products
- Sugary beverages
6. Center your non-party meals around whole foods, especially cooked and/or peeled produce, like applesauce, steamed broccoli, and peeled raw cucumbers. Eliminate those foods which trigger your body’s allergy or autoimmune response, or which will trigger an IBS or IBD flare-up.
7. Know your “trouble foods.” Even if you don’t have a particular diagnosis or follow a special diet, if you know which particular foods cause discomfort or pain—avoid those foods. Build a habit of pausing before eating to take a moment to remember how your body feels when you consume your “trouble foods.” Do I really need this? Is it worth it? Would something else serve me better?
8. Remember, there are more to celebrations than food; games, activities, and traditions. Share stories, play charades… enjoy the company and the festive atmosphere.