Did you know that your gut microbiome changes with the seasons? Our microbiome is made up of 30-100 trillion bacteria, viruses, fungi, and single celled organisms. As our gut microbiome has changed and evolved with us through time, it makes sense it would change with us through the seasons, too.
Why eating seasonally is important
Summer is perhaps one of my favorite seasons for seasonal eating! Fresh berries, summer squash, deliciously plump tomatoes, the mouth-watering list goes on and on. Studies show fruits and veggies in season carry tons of benefits, including sustainability, freshness, and enhanced flavor.
Crops picked and eaten at their peak ripeness are not only tastier, though. Studies have shown they contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally on their parent plant and this means more nutrients for your gut microbiome.
Is there evidence that seasonal eating works?
Studies on the Hadza population of Tanzania and the Hutterites showed seasonal variation of their gut microbiome. These communities lead a communal lifestyle, and their diets fluctuate seasonally.
These studies showed consistent and significant population-wide shifts in their gut microbiome composition across the seasons. During the summer or wet months, when they had the highest fiber consumption from complex carbohydrates, their microbiome showed:
- Increased levels of Bacteroidetes, which contain complex carbohydrate digesters – the good ones!
- Decreased levels of actinobacteria, which have been negatively correlated to fiber content in food – the ones we don’t want as many of!
How to get the most out of seasonal eating
- Balance your gut with homemade fermented foods. You could pickle some leftover carrots or cucumber on your own or try kimchi or sauerkraut.
- Get outside and enjoy the summer! If you’re in a super hot area like us in south Florida, get outside at non peak hours like earlier in the morning (before 9 am) and after 6pm. You can even add in a stress-busting activity you love like outdoor yoga.
- Refresh with some fruit and veggie infused water! I love lime and cucumber water.
- Add blueberries to your breakfast oatmeal or make a fresh blueberry smoothie.
- Limit your processed food intake. Opt for organic produce and limit packaged foods when possible.
- Eat fresh fruit and berries for dessert instead of processed sweets. Try making “nice cream” (dairy free ice cream) with frozen peaches or mangos for dessert.
- Enjoy some prebiotic foods like garlic, onions and leeks!
- Increase intake of raw vegetables like celery, Swiss chard, or carrots by adding other fresh greens like spinach, kale and lettuce to your mix. Enjoy a big salad!
Beware of the heat
Studies have found that hot temperatures may increase permeability of the gut lining, allowing more toxins to pass through the stomach lining if not managed properly. The good news is that our bodies go through a process called heat acclimation in the hot summer months in order to keep our core body temperatures balanced. To be extra safe, there are precautions you can take in the heat to protect your body and gut, like staying hydrated with water, eating a diverse and gut nurturing seasonal diet, and getting quality sleep.
Savor the season
Let’s make the most out of these last days of summer! Don’t be afraid to try a new recipe and get the kids involved in the fun. If you find yourself getting stumped on what to cook next, look at a list of seasonal ingredients and let your imagination run wild. Summer is the perfect time to explore fresh ingredients and have fun with being healthy. Check out some of my free guides to get started!
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