Is warm weather triggering IBS flare-ups or making your symptoms worse? Wonder why this is happening? Here are some theories on what triggers IBS in summer and a few tips on how to manage IBS pain and other symptoms in warm weather.
What Triggers IBS in Summer?
A study carried out by researchers in Switzerland concluded that the physical stress exacted on the body by hot weather can increase both flare ups of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and increase the risk of contracting infectious gastroenteritis.
While this study did not specifically include research into how hot, humid weather affects IBS patients, it can be safely assumed that these physical stresses also play a major role here because:
- High temperature and humidity can lead to dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and other electrolytes. These effects can increase physical stresses on your body and an increase in or worsening of your IBS symptoms.
- Humidity-related air pressure changes can reduce levels of serotonin in your body. As 90% of this serotonin is situated within your gut, this can have a significant effect on your IBS.
- The effect of humidity on the serotonin in your gut also lowers your level of tolerance to pain. As the threshold for pain in the gut is often already lowered in IBS patients, this can, of course, make matters worse still.
So, what can you do to mitigate these effects and better manage you IBS when in hot, humid weather?
How to Manage IBS Pain & Other Symptoms in Hot Weather
One of the keys to managing IBS in summer is to keep hydrated and maintain your electrolyte balance. The obvious answer to keeping hydrated is to drink plenty of water.
Very hot weather can, however, also cause a loss of electrolytes and drinking lots of water will flush more of these electrolytes out of your body. Drinking slowly helps to prevent sudden electrolyte “rushes” and the simple solution suggested by St Mark’s Hospital in London can help replace lost electrolytes.
Coconut water is a good source of potassium but contains no sodium. If you are already dehydrated, it can therefore only help if you add a little salt to it. It should be noted here that in cases of severe hydration, it is imperative to seek immediate medical advice.
You should also:
- Avoid alcohol, tea & coffee, as these are all diuretics which can increase loss of water.
- Use air conditioning only when there is no other way to keep cool, as it lowers the air’s water content and can encourage dehydration.
- Rest your gut when needed and, if necessary, change your diet to counteract the stress hot weather is placing upon it.
The other key is keeping up your serotonin levels, and to do this:
Get plenty of sunshine – which is a recommended treatment for seasonal depression proven to increase serotonin. You should obviously avoid getting your ‘dose’ of sunlight in the midday heat. Early mornings and late afternoons are best, and don’t forget to wear loose, light clothing and plenty of sunscreen!
Take some gentle exercise – swimming is a good idea, as it not only helps reduce stress and boost serotonin but will also help you stay cool.
Meditate – meditation reduces stress, promotes a “positive outlook on life” and boosts serotonin levels.
Eat serotonin boosting foods – there are many foods than naturally boost serotonin, including seafood, seeds, nuts and various vegetables.
Even your best efforts may not always prevent IBS flare-ups in hot, sticky weather, so keep a bottle of silicolgel handy. A treatment for upper gastrointestinal disorders, it may help you get relief from your symptoms.