Wondering why your guts get mucked up in the heat? Here are some thoughts on why your IBS is not a fan of summer and how you can make this heat wave a little easier on your tummy!
Upsetting your core temperature
First of all, our bodies like to hang out around 98.6 F or 37 C. Some people may run a degree warmer or cooler, but your body is basically your dad. Once that thermostat is set, you’ve got some explaining to do if it moves…
“Heat stress” happens when the temperature of our environment overwhelms our body’s ability to manage our internal temperature.
While our body temperature does fluctuate during the day, once we start creeping out of our comfort zone, our bodies flip into a state of physical stress. This flip activates our onboard heat-induced apocalypse emergency plan.
Understanding your built-in cooling system
Our bodies have two main options for cooling us down. First, blood is diverted to our skin to help release body heat into the air around us. Second, we sweat. Like, a lot.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s not sweating itself that cools you down, but rather the process of the sweat evaporating off of your skin. So heads up, if you’re chillin’ in the garden wearing your favourite moisture wicking shirt, you probably safe from a friction rash, but you may be missing out on some free AC.
Just so you know! Sweating it out is less effective when the air around you is hot and humid because the air can’t always accept more moisture (or enough to cool you off effectively). So if you live in a place with high humidity, you may need to take more intentional actions to help keep your body cool.
Why does heat trigger IBS symptoms?
So, what is it about the heat that makes your guts go haywire?
Like we talked about above, when your body can't maintain your core temperature, you experience physical stress. Your body reacts to physical stress the same way it reacts to emotional or psychological ones. Sometimes that's with IBS symptoms (boo!)
Second, our sweat contains electrolytes like salt, potassium, and magnesium. While companies use electrolytes to sell you tasty drinks, your body uses electrolytes to send signals from your brain to your body, move your muscles, and a ton of other important things. So if the electrolyte levels in your body go out of whack, you might experience nausea, fatigue, and muscle cramping.
Muscle cramps in your gut can trigger abdominal pain and diarrhea. And if that doesn't get you, anxiety over your gurgling gut may. So do what you can to help your head chill out as well!
How to manage IBS symptoms caused by heat
So what can you do when the forecast is looking spicy? If you live in a warm climate or in a place with seasonally warm temperatures, try to stay inside on super hot days. Or at least avoid high noon when the sun is at it's highest and feels most crispy.
If you know you'll be out in the sun for a while, plan breaks to cool off. That might be setting a timer to go inside and have an AC break, planning “coffee breaks” where you can sit down and chill out, or making sure you take a shade break when you're feeling warm.
Do what you can to help your inner dad regulate your thermostat. Wear a hat to keep the sun off your face, drink some extra water to replace your sweat, and snack on a banana, pumpkin seeds, or some savoury treats to keep your electrolytes up to snuff.
You can also wear a damp bandana or hat, use a misting fan, use cooling packs (grab them at any running store), or keep extra water with you to cool off your skin during the day.
While our temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the day, when our core temperature shifts out of our comfort zone we may experience heat stress. This physical stress, along with issues like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can cause muscle cramps, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
If your IBS symptoms tend to flare when the weather turns warm, do your best to stay inside when the daytime temperature is at its peak. If that's not possible, do your best to plan breaks to cool down, drink lots of fluids, and use tools like a wet bandana, a misting fan, or a cooling pack to keep your body in its comfort zone!
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