As the winter chill sets in, many of us are bundling up, sipping on hot chocolate, and cozying up indoors with our loved ones. While you try to shield yourself from the cold, the plummeting temperatures might affect your gut health.
Cold weather can indeed have an impact on the digestive system, potentially leading to stomach upset and discomfort. Let’s explore the reasons behind this phenomenon and discuss some winter tips to support your gut health during the colder months.
How Gut Health & Cold Weather Connect
There’s no doubt that winter can wreak havoc on your gut. Cold temperatures and changes in daily routines during the winter months can impact our overall gut health and digestive processes.
Digestive Shifts in Cold Weather
Extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, can impact the digestive process. It’s not uncommon to have an upset stomach due to cold weather or seasonal changes.
Research shows that “both hot and cold stresses are associated with a loss of diversity and stability in the intestinal microbiotas,” and it takes time to adapt to these changes. When our gut microbiome is out of balance, we tend to experience more issues like diarrhea, bloating, and constipation.
In addition, your blood vessels naturally constrict when your body gets cold. This reduced blood flow can impact digestive organs and cause cramping and pressure in the stomach area (often referred to as “winter stomach” or “cold stomach”).
Seasonal Diet Changes
Winter often brings about changes in dietary habits, including overeating, increased drinking, and gravitating toward comfort foods and sweet treats. While these meals can be satisfying, they may contribute to digestive discomfort.
In general, we all tend to spend more time cozied up inside during the fall and winter months. With meals and snacks easily accessible and boredom getting the best of many of us, it can be a challenge not to overeat this time of year.
And many of us gravitate toward processed foods, fast food, and meals with a lot of fat and sugar. (Leftover Christmas goodies and Valentine’s Day chocolate, anyone?) While these foods provide momentary warmth and flavor, they often lack the fiber and nutrients needed to support a healthy, diverse microbiome.
Increased alcohol consumption is also common during winter months as people celebrate and try to stay warm. Alcohol has been shown to throw off the balance of bacteria in your gut and trigger inflammation.
Tips to Support Your Gut Health in Winter
If winter and cold temperatures are wreaking havoc on your gut and causing abdominal pain and digestive issues, we’re sharing some tips that may help.
Increase Water Intake
Cold weather can be deceptively dehydrating, as we may not feel as thirsty as we do in warmer months. However, adequate hydration is crucial for supporting overall digestive function and wellness.
According to Mayo Clinic, water helps protect body organs and tissues, lubricate joints, carry nutrients to your cells, and flush waste from our system.
In general, about 8 to 12 cups of water per day is recommended. If you struggle to get enough water during the winter months, try warm herbal teas, broths, and infusions to keep you warm and avoid dehydration.
Incorporate Gut-Friendly Foods
Consider adding seasonal, gut-friendly foods and drinks that are full of probiotics and fiber to your winter diet to support a healthy microbiome and boost your winter gut health.
Fermented and probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut can introduce beneficial probiotics, while yogurt provides a delicious source of gut-nourishing bacteria.
Additionally, incorporating fiber-rich foods can help promote a healthy digestive system. Winter vegetables such as potatoes, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, and beets are great fiber and nutrient-dense veggies to add to your winter meals.
Maintain Regular Exercise
Physical activity is not only essential for overall well-being but also plays a role in promoting blood flow to the digestive organs. While outdoor activities might be less appealing in colder weather, there are numerous indoor exercise options to explore.
Research shows that exercise is crucial to overall wellness and gut health — from keeping things moving through your system to enriching the diversity of gut microflora. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
Many exercises, like kickboxing, yoga, dance, and walking, can be done indoors without a lot of expensive equipment. If you struggle to get moving when it’s cold, consider indoor group exercise classes or finding an exercise buddy to help with accountability.
Mindful Eating Practices
The winter season often invites us to indulge in comforting meals, but it's essential to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is part of a holistic, healthy lifestyle and encourages you to slow down and pay attention to your body.
Set your silverware down between bites, take time to savor each bite, and chew your food thoroughly. Consider stepping away from the TV and electronics when you eat and create a warm, inviting environment around you for meal times.
Disconnecting from the virtual world, focusing on your body’s hunger cues, and engaging with others around you during meal times can minimize overeating and provide mental health benefits.
Supplementation for Gut Support
In addition to lifestyle adjustments, consider incorporating a gut health supplement into your winter routine. Somaya Life is the world’s first anthrobiotic, with 10 Smart StrainsTM of good bacteria specifically chosen to address digestive concerns and may help support your gut during the colder months.
Going beyond a typical probiotic supplement, we categorize our bacteria strains into four key areas:
- Enhancers that may help elevate the microbiome and improve digestion
- Managers that can help improve gut acid
- Inhibitors that are chosen to help block bad bacteria and pathogens
- Communicators that may help your gut, nervous system, and brain work efficiently
Stay Healthy This Winter
As the winter months unfold, don't let the cold weather compromise your gut health. By understanding the impact of chilly temperatures on digestion and implementing these practical tips, you can ensure a happy and healthy gut throughout the winter season. Remember, a little extra care for your digestive system can go a long way in maintaining overall wellness during the colder months.