In the first of our new series of Seasonal Nutrition features, we review our summer gut health and how best we can reboot for the autumn.
For Cathy Williams, PerformancePro’s Nutritionist and Naturopath, summer is the best time of year,
“Summer! The glorious sunshine, the beer gardens, the festivals and food markets, the long lazy evenings eating and drinking with friends. The holiday indulgences.”
By the end of a fun-filled summer, however, we may start to feel a little worse for wear. Cathy sheds light on some of the symptoms, most of which can be related to our summer gut health,
“Maybe you’re a little more bloated, tired, brain foggy or feeling the post-summer blues. An indulgent summer can be a little tough on our gut health and we have symptoms such as feeling bloated, tired or brain foggy. Perhaps our jeans don’t fit quite as well as they did or some of our old health complaints start to flare up, like eczema, or achey joints. Some of us can also suffer the post-summer blues.”
Over the summer months, there are four main factors that can throw our gut health off balance:
More alcohol – Those long boozy picnics in the park are great for the soul but no so great on the gut. Most alcohol is a bit inflammatory and regular drinking can damage the delicate gut lining and balance, not to mention taxing the liver detox process.
Less sleep – Longer days, the heat and a full social calendar can mean we skimp on sleep a little. Sleep deprivation, or even just poorer quality sleep, can lead to increased cortisol levels (the stress hormone), reduced brain function and even weight gain.
Food – We tend to make poorer food choices when we have more alcohol and less sleep. Summer is also the season for more eating out, events and being busy, so less time for meal prep. Our food quality can slip as we grab a take-out or enjoy indulgent food on holiday, as opposed to a home cooked meal. This means more refined and processed foods and can lead to more inflammatory processes and higher chemical ingestion.
Physical activity – Some of us are less active over the summer months. Of course, warmer longer days can mean the rest will be more active too! It can be easier to pass up on the gym, however, in favour of a social event or just a day at home after a busy week. Reducing our physical activity alongside the other summer indulgences can amplify the effects of undesirable habits.
Rest assured, there are some simple things we can do to get back on track and improve our late summer gut health. In turn, we can forge healthier habits to help safeguard our overall health in time for the autumn and winter months. Here are Cathy’s 5 top tips.
A mini detox to reset
While we would never recommend drastic diets, sometimes pushing the rest button can help us get off the rollercoaster and back into normal routines.
Try just 1 week of no sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy or packaged foods with chemicals. Go large on the veggies, water, healthy fats and lean protein. Spend your Sunday shopping and meal prepping to get you through the week. Sometimes, this is enough to give your gut a little break so it can start to bounce back. Obviously try not to binge the day after! Make some plans for the next few weeks to keep some of your good habits and not let the bad ones creep back!
A probiotic course
Along with the mini detox, a short course of a good quality probiotic can be really beneficial. The right supplement can help improve your natural microbial make up and tip it back in favour of health-promoting species rather than the less desirable ones.
Pro and prebiotic foods
Whether you choose to take a supplement or not, trying to incorporate some pre- and pro-biotic foods into your day can help promote a healthier balance.
Reinstate your daily exercise
Some of us don’t have a problem being active over summer. Long days and warm weather mean outdoor activity is much more realistic and enjoyable. But just as many of us shrug off the gym in favour of a picnic in the park, or find it too hot and end up lazing about instead. If that sounds like you, then reinstating small daily activity into your routine will help get your good habits back on track.
Doing something small, and doing it regularly is a good way to get going again, and help form the habit. Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll be ready to get back to more intense work outs in the gym with your trainer.
Exercise in all its forms has been shown to improve the balance of microbes in the gut. This improves mood and brain health, so goodbye fuzzy memory and falling asleep at your desk! It really is one of the best medicines we have.
Reinstate sleep routines
Late nights and disrupted routines can wreak all sorts of havoc on our insides. Our daily circadian rhythms do an awful lot to help keep our mood balanced, our metabolism buzzing, our gut working well and our brain functioning well.
Set yourself a regular bed time and regular wake-up time and slowly work towards sticking to it. This is important as it helps you to get deep, restorative sleep and make the most of certain brain waves. Ideally, get some pre-midnight sleep hours in there. Then in the morning, try not to snooze your alarm a dozen times!
Clear your bedroom, so it’s a sleep haven and not a multimedia centre filled with laptops and TVs. Stop eating a couple of hours before bed and try to reduce screen time in the couple of hours before bed too. Read a book, do a crossword puzzle or listen to some music instead.
All of these things help to reset our circadian rhythms and promote good sleep – both of which have incredible effects on our gut health because our microbes have their own daily rhythms too.
Good sleep also works to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can damage our gut bacteria and the delicate gut lining, as well as interfering with our immune responses.
PerformancePro’s Nutrition Services are central to our approach to intelligent personal fitness. Whether you are looking for guidance and support with the essentials or a more intensive nutrition advice, PerformancePro is with you every step of the way.
Take you first step and book your free no-strings consultation with PerformancePro today >>