What are some ways to keep your gut healthy during the summer months? For many of us, summer is a time to connect with friends and family outdoors at BBQ’s, at the pool, or a park. But if you’re avoiding certain foods or drinks like dairy, or gluten, or sugar, or alcohol, this can be a difficult time to stay on a diet and stick to what you believe in. I’d like to share with you some tips for keeping your gut healthy during the summer months.
Before I jump into these tips, I wanted to share with you a saying that has really helped me avoid the pitfalls of eating too much sugar during summertime events. One of my favorite quotes from Byron Katie is this one: “Saying ‘no’ is saying ‘yes’ to you.” What I love so much about this quote is it tells us that saying “no” really is standing up for something you believe in, and it gives you the power to feel good about doing what’s best for yourself in an authentic manner.
So, for example, if you feel pressure to eat cake and ice cream at your aunt’s picnic, just say “no, thank you.” Once you understand that saying no does not offend a host, or make you come across as selfish, then you can say it with ease knowing that you are truly saying yes to yourself. Trust me on this one; it’s okay to say no to food or drinks that don’t agree with you.
Staying Healthy During Summer BBQs
BBQs can be so much fun hanging out with friends and family outdoors in backyards, at parks, concerts, or even street parties. They can also be contentious in that many people can be easily offended with certain behaviors or practices. Here are some situations that can arise at a typical BBQ:
- You’re vegan or vegetarian, yet meat is the only food on the grill. Before I was a paleo enthusiast, I tried going vegan and vegetarian a few times and I remember feeling like an oddball at parties. Fortunately, I brought asparagus, bell peppers, and marinated tempeh to eat for myself, and no one really cared that I didn’t eat a burger.
- You’re gluten free and the meat on the grill is marinated in soy sauce (which contains wheat). My family and I are currently gluten free, so we know to bring our own marinade with tamari (a wheat free soy sauce). We also bring lettuce or collard greens to wrap our burgers as most buns contain gluten.
- You’re dairy free, yet all the burgers are covered in cheese. You can always ask the person in charge of grilling to hold off on the cheese, or there are alternative cheeses like Daiya that you put on burgers that are actually quite good.
- You’re sugar free and the dessert table is overflowing with baked goods and ice cream cake. The best solution for times like this are to bring fruit with you to the BBQ like watermelon, mango, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, or cherries. Or you can make a delicious sugar free dessert using dates as a sweetener. Not only is it good for your health, but it’s always nice to bring a contribution like a dessert to a party!
- You’re not drinking alcohol, and everyone has a cocktail in their hand. We personally go through weeks and months where we don’t drink at all, and we’ve learned to bring sparkling water with freshly squeezed lemons, limes, and stevia. This simple drink is so tasty, and by the looks of it most people probably assume we’re drinking a margarita, so no questions asked.
Summer Can Be the Healthiest Time for Your Gut
One aspect of summer that I look forward to is the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. Where I live in Northern California, there is a local farmers market practically every day of the week, which gives me the opportunity to pick up fresh and nutritionally rich fruits and veggies whenever I need them.
I usually take this opportunity to load up on local berries like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries. All of these fruits are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and are tremendously supportive for the health of the gut. I also will buy fresh greens like Swiss chard, kale, or collard greens, and make a sauté almost daily.
Whenever you eat more fruits and veggies the consumption of meat usually decreases, which can be a good thing in our protein rich infatuated culture. I think one problem with frequent BBQs is over consumption of meats, and meats can back up flow in the gut (if you know what I mean.)
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
You can also use summer as a time to experiment more with intermittent fasting as the warmer weather allows the body to fast more efficiently. Intermittent fasting is when you “fast” for a part of the day, which means abstaining from foods but continuing to drink water. It’s a great way to give the digestive system a rest, and allow the body to detox more efficiently. It also supports metabolism, weight loss, promotes calorie restriction (which promotes longevity), and reduces the amount you need to spend on food!
Here is what I tell my patients: The easiest way to complete an intermittent fast is to eat dinner around 6 pm the night before, and then skip breakfast and eat lunch around 12pm. This amounts to an 18 hour fast, which some believe is a perfect time for intermittent fasting. Or if you get hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) when you don’t eat regularly, eat dinner at 8pm and breakfast at 10 am, which amounts to a 14 hour fast. Try it out a few times a week and see what changes you notice in your body over time.
Summer should be a time to connect with friends and family and enjoy the warm sunny days. It should not be a time where you feel pressured to eat foods that you are intolerant, sensitive, or allergic to including alcohol and sugar. You can also use summer as a time to cleanse the bowels by eating local fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also try intermittent fasting if this agrees with your constitution (intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone particularly those with blood sugar issues).