How we've missed you!
While many a vacation has been put on hold due to COVID-19 and people everywhere are still following safe distancing precautions, friends and families across the country are finding creative ways to gather together as the world begins to slowly reopen.
In other words, barbecue season is back on—is your gut ready?
From kebabs to corn on the cob, fresh bean salads to s'mores, your favorite summer foods can do a number on even the healthiest digestive system. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to help prevent occasional stomach upset and support good digestion all summer long.
Before the celebrating starts, take a moment to read (and pass along) these simple tips.
TAKE YOUR TIME AND ENJOY YOUR FOOD
A delicious spread can be hard to resist, but do yourself a favor and eat your food slowly, chewing it well and giving your digestive system time to do its job.
Start with smaller portions of your favorite food items, and space out your eating over the course of the day to help prevent occasional digestive upset.
Chewing your food well is also important. This is because the digestive process begins in your mouth, where enzymes in your saliva mix with food particles and start breaking them down as you chew.
This is why you will often hear experts say you should chew each bite of food around 32 times before you swallow.
EAT PLENTY OF PROBIOTIC AND PREBIOTIC FOODS
Inside your digestive tract are trillions of bacteria, many of which are beneficial and support overall wellness. The key is to maintain a balance of good and neutral bacteria to harmful bacteria, which is where probiotics and prebiotics come in.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. This means they can provide good bacteria to your gut to support your digestive health during the summer season.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit. That’s a fancy way of saying that many prebiotics are food for good bacteria and can be used to help boost their levels in your gut. (You can learn more about prebiotic foods here.)
LIMIT SPICY, FRIED AND HIGH-SUGAR FOODS
We know, we know.
Delicious eats are what summer is all about, right? Still, it may be best to exercise a little caution for the sake of your digestive system. Certain foods—including spicy foods, highly acidic foods, and high-fat and high-sugar foods—may contribute to occasional digestive upset, so it may help to eat these foods in moderation.
If you do plan to indulge a little, consider taking a digestive enzyme formula targeted for your meal to help break down the food you eat and relieve occasional gas, bloating, and indigestion.*
Although some foods naturally contain enzymes, cooking and processing can deplete them, meaning your body has to work harder to break down your food and absorb nutrients. Supplemental enzymes support healthy digestion so you can feel comfortable eating the foods you enjoy.*
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Yes, you heard right.
Despite a longstanding belief that drinking too much water with meals will “dilute” beneficial enzymes and negatively impact digestion, experts like gastroenterologist Dr. Deborah Proctor are working to dispel the myth.
“Even if you had a stomach full of water, it would not interfere with digestion of the food,” Dr. Proctor told the Washington Post in a recent interview. She further explained that enzymes adhere to food particles regardless of the presence of water.
Though advice varies on how much water we should drink each day, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend 3.7 L (125 oz.) for young men (ages 19 to 30) and 2.7 L (91 oz.) per day for young women. Just remember to drink slowly and not gulp down water or other liquids, as drinking too fast may contribute to a feeling of stomach pain and bloating.
Water is essential for overall health, and it is especially important to stay hydrated during the summer, when warmer temperatures may contribute to dehydration. A great way to drink more water is to carry a refillable bottle with you!
Did you know regular exercise also supports digestive health?
Along with being a smart way to work off all those delicious summer treats, staying active throughout the season (not to mention all year long) is a great way to keep your digestive system functioning optimally.
In studies, people who exercised more frequently experienced better bowel regularity and fewer signs of digestive distress. That sounds like a win-win!
And, with the majority of people still practicing safe distancing, exercising is a great way to stay healthy andavoid large crowds. Now that the weather is warmer, get outside and go for a run or walk the dog. Grab your kayak or paddleboard from the garage and hit the water. Or head to the park and do your daily workout surrounded by nature.
Your digestive system—and your overall health—will reap the benefits.
YOUR GUT CAN LOVE SUMMER, TOO
With a little prevention and moderation, barbecue season doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your gut. Just remember these simple tips and be mindful of what (and how) you’re eating. When you do, you may find that your healthy choices make for a much more enjoyable summer.