Keeping Your Digestive System Healthy This Summer

Dr. Tasreen Alibhai, N.D.

Dr. Tasreen Alibhai

Summer is the time of outdoor barbeques, drinks on the patio and an abundance of sweet summer fruits. With all the extra sugar that may creep into our diets this summer, it is important to think about ways of supporting our digestive health.

Our digestive system contains a host of different microorganisms, collectively known as our microbiome. Our “friendly” bacteria (or probiotics) keep our digestive system healthy. They provide food for our intestinal cells, help us absorb nutrients, make certain vitamins, process hormones and eliminate waste from our body. Within this microbiome, there are also other bacteria, fungus and parasites that can wreak havoc on our overall health. An imbalance between the “good bugs” and the “bad bugs” can cause gas, bloating, constipation, loose stools and even contribute to weight gain, skin problems and mood imbalances. As you can see, keeping your digestive system healthy is important to your overall health and how you feel.

digestive system

Most of us indulge a little more in sugars during the summer months, including more alcohol and fruits. To keep our gut healthy, there are some simple steps you can take to balance your digestive health.

Take a good probiotic supplement to promote optimal intestinal health and keep your digestive system balanced in its microflora. Populating with different strains of healthy flora may reduce the overgrowth of the more problematic organisms such as yeast, bacteria and parasites.

Fruits are in abundance over the summer. Enjoy nature’s sweets but do so in moderation. Yeast and bacteria enjoy the natural sugars from fruit the same way we do. In fact, people who have an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in their digestive system may actually crave more sugars and fruit! It’s a vicious cycle of craving the foods that feed the bad bugs. Again, I generally recommend keeping the intake of fruits to a minimum during the summer months, particularly the fruits high in sugars such as peaches, plums, grapes and tropical fruits. Berries tend to be lower in natural sugars. Veggies are always a great choice!

Keep hydrated during the hot summer months. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. To keep your digestive system healthy it is important to have daily regular bowel movements. Constipation can promote the growth of the not so friendly bacteria and yeast, leading to gas and bloating. Prevent constipation by drinking lots of water and increasing fiber intake. A nice bacteria friendly fiber supplement is guar gum. This FODMAP friendly fiber promotes a healthy digestive system with less bacterial fermentation of the fiber.

Avoid sugary drinks this summer. Syrups are very high in sugar and may wreak havoc on our microbiome. Adding fresh cut berries or cucumbers with herbs (like mint or basil) are great ways to flavour drinks. If drinking alcoholic beverages, choose clear spirits with mixes such as club soda or coconut water. Try to avoid or minimize fermented drinks such as wine or beer, both may contribute to gas and bloating.

If you suffer from digestive health problems, I recommend testing your microbiome. Vitalia Health Care offers a Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Test and a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. With a better understanding of your digestive system, one of our ND’s can provide a more individualized supportive plan over the summer and treatment considerations in the fall. In the Fall newsletter series I will be discussing ways to treat digestive health problems.

Lastly, an IgG food sensitivity test can identify foods that may be contributing to digestive problems. Vitalia Health Care offers a 96 and 184 food panel (https://www.vitaliahealthcare.ca/lab-tests/food-environmental-allergy.html).

digestive system