Holiday Health: Smooth Summer Digestion

Summer brings with it travel, foreign food and barbecues, all of which can play havoc with our digestion.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells us how to keep our digestion running smoothly all summer long.

The combination of longer summer days and warm sunshine tends to turn our thoughts to barbecues, outdoor eating and socialising with family and friends.  However over-indulgence, travelling to different countries and the potential for poorly cooked barbecued chicken and your digestive system may not enjoy it so much! Here are my top tips for smoothing out any digestion problems so you can enjoy the summer to the full.


The gastrointestinal tract is home to vast numbers of bacteria, commonly referred to as friendly flora; there are over 500 different types weighing anything up to two kilos in the gut!  Some are good and some not-so-good and ti’s the balance that is most important: there needs to be more good than bad.

The gut flora fulfil so many functions, but primarily protect the gut from invaders, particularly those that cause food poisoning.  It is therefore a good idea to take a course of probiotic supplements for a month or two each year, or for longer if you have recently been on antibiotics.

Foods that help replenish the good bacteria are asparagus, (great on the barbecue), Jerusalem artichokes, onions, bananas, green tea and fermented foods such as tofu or miso, together with sheep’s or goat’s milk yoghurt. Try to include these in your diet regularly.


Summer parties and barbecues are ideal opportunities to over-indulge, but with a little forward planning, you can wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy the next day!  Your liver is the main organ of detoxification and has to work hard if too much fatty food or alcohol is consumed.  However, the herb milk thistle is particularly protective of the liver and helps to combat that ‘morning after the night before’ feeling.  Take one or two tablets before you go out either at lunchtime or in the evening.


Many of us will suffer with uncomfortable bloating at times, often accompanied by flatulence.  There can be many reasons for bloating; too much sugary or fatty food, poor gut flora, food intolerances, low stomach acid or digestive enzyme production, to name just a few.

Globe artichoke, which can be taken in supplement form, is very effective at relieving painful bloating.  Additionally, sipping ginger tea helps to expel trapped wind, which can often cause discomfort.  Equally, it’s worth writing a food diary to see if there’s a pattern forming after you have eaten certain foods so you can be more proactive in the future.


You don’t need to go all the way to India to get sickness and diarrhoea on holiday; there are many countries in the world where poor water and hygiene are commonplace.  Avoiding tap water, cleaning teeth with bottled water, avoiding ice in drinks (unless it’s made with bottled water) and not eating salad (often washed in tap water) are easy things to remember.

However, the body is more susceptible to infection if the gut flora is not up-to scratch which is another good reason to take a course of probiotics especially in the two weeks leading up to foreign travel.  This will certainly provide greater protection and hopefully you’ll enjoy a relaxing, illness-free holiday.

So embrace all that the summer brings – but hopefully without any unpleasant digestive side effects!