Prime your body for summer by discovering its natural, seasonal needs. Learn how how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal to balance your body and mind. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu’s School of Ayurveda, and Dr. John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga’s elemental sister science. Sign up for the summer session now!
Summertime brings warm weather, long days, BBQs, bikinis—and often a bloated belly. We consulted Dr. John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa and co-leader of Yoga Journal's Ayurveda 101 course, to understand why bloating seems more prevalent during the summer months and what you can do to feel (and look) your best this summer.
What Causes Belly Bloating During Summer?
Dr. Douillard explains it is a natural part of the way we have evolved as human beings. "Our body’s digestive acid reduces in the summer which helps to avoid the risk of overheating," Dr. Douillard says. "In the same way we cool our house with an air conditioner, we automatically adjust for a hot summer with a cooler digestive fire." That means even if you stayed away from the potato salad at the barbecue, you may still find yourself with some extra weight around your midsection this time of year and (yes, we'll go there) less than ideal bowel movements. Dr. Douillsard says this is all part of a natural phenomenon that can be easily managed using some simple Ayurvedic tricks.
10 Ways to Reduce Summer Stomach Bloating
1. Drink more water.
Hydration is crucial year-round, but did you know that drinking more water can aid the digestive process? Drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day will get things moving in your stomach. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you'll need at least 70 ounces of water every single day.
Lemon is also great for detoxification, so add a little to your water to make you savor the flavor a little more. However, Dr. Douillard says that the best way to consume the majority of the water used for hydration is plain. "Plain water has a hydrating effect that not even lemon water can replicate," Dr. Douillard says. If you want to enjoy lemon water or perhaps add a little mint to your water at first to get your body adjusted to consuming that much, you'll still reap some benefits. But the goal is to drink plain water to help flush out your digestive system.
See also Balance Your Dosha with Spice Water
2. But skip the ice.
Another tip with water is to try what Dr. Douillard refers to as "hot sips." "Hot water softens the intestinal tract, moves the lymph, and hydrates the cells much more effectively than cold water," Dr. Douillard says. In his Short Home Cleanse, he goes into further detail about his "hot sips" technique, but you can start by adding a cup or two of plain hot water to your morning routine to help kick start your digestion and break down any lingering matter from the day before.
3. Focus on light, fresh, seasonal foods.
Eating seasonally is not only important for environmental reasons but also for digestion. As mentioned above, digestion is actually weaker in the summer than it is in the winter. It "revs up" in the cooler months to break down nuts, grains, seeds, and meats—foods that help to warm the body from the inside out as they're metabolized.
During the summer months, the body prefers to consume light whole foods that take minimal work to breakdown. Less digestive work actually means the body is able to stay cooler. "In the summer, the foods are 'cooked' on the vine, so to speak, under the direct sun," Dr. Douillard says. "The takeaway is to eat light, fresh, and seasonal—that would be more fruits and veggies and less heavy, cooked foods." This is why you may tend to gravitate toward stews, soups, casseroles, and such when the temperature drops and gazpacho, salad, fresh fruits, and cold pasta dishes as it rises. Lighter foods equal quick and easy digestion, which mean a less full and bloated stomach.
4. Avoid grains and dairy.
Foods, such as dairy and grains, that aid in "bulking up" for winter tend to be harvested in the fall, Dr. Douillard says. "Traditionally speaking, the cows [were] giving all of their milk to their [calves] until late summer," Dr. Douillard says. "[The] excess milk was then used by farmers to make butter and cheese for enduring winter, when the [calves] are more self-sufficient."
5. Make lunch your biggest meal.
Aim to eat the majority of your calories earlier in the day, have your biggest meal at lunchtime, and end with a lighter dinner. "As the word 'supper' suggests—eat supplemental or 'soup' at night," Dr. Douillard says. According to Ayurveda, the digestive fire is strongest during the Pitta cycle of day between 10am 2pm.
6. Skip snacks.
"Snacking is poison for weight loss," Dr. Douillard says. "If you want the body to burn fat, you must give it a reason, which is meals with 4–5 hours in between. [This] forces the body to burn in-between-meal fat."
7. Fast daily.
Dr. Douillard also recommends incorporating a short fast into your routine by not eating between supper and breakfast and spacing them 13 hours apart to allow the body to burn fat and take a break from digesting. This means resisting late-night snacking and overindulgent binges. Since most of that time is spent sleeping, the fast is more doable than you might think.
See also 7 Easy Tricks for Better Digestion
8. Be mindful of sugar.
"Fruits will help you lose weight, too. But if eaten with a lot of other carbs, the fructose (which burns slower) may store as fat," Dr. Douillard says. "Once again, the key is to eat light, in season, big meals at lunch and light at night."
9. Choose healthy fats.
Adding 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to your diet per day can help make sure you're getting the good fats that your body needs. Dr. Douillard claims that the key is to become more aware of fat burning by choosing fats that are minimally processed. But finding a healthy option has been made difficult in recent times due to our consumption of processed foods loaded with cooked vegetable oils often used as preservatives.
10. Add a touch of turmeric.
So how do you make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need? Dr. Douillard recommends adding turmeric into your diet to support de-bloating in the summer. It does tend to be quite heating, however, so adding it to a little bit of water with some lemon or ginger is a great way to get the little bit that it takes.
"Turmeric is a great way to decongest and support healthy liver and gallbladder function and make us better able to digest and use good fats like coconut oil," Dr. Douillard says.