Now that the sun is out and the warm, or rather hot, weather is here many people are happy. They can go out and enjoy the sunshine and get a tan. They can hang at the beach or pool. They have BBQ’s and picnics. But sadly not everyone can enjoy the summer days. For many of us, Summer is dangerous.
Like so many things IBD, the heat of the summer days can be bad for us. For many, it brings on flares. For others, it is dehydration. I personally hate the heat as it makes my symptoms worse and I find myself spending more time in the bathroom.
So what is it about the heat that makes our IBD worse. I looked this up online and found one thing and thought it was interesting. It was from a site I had never heard of and it talked about a study done in Switzerland. The website was emaxhealth.com and here is what they posted:
One environmental factor never before discussed is climate change. Could hotter weather make IBD symptoms worse? Researchers with University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland believe so.
Gastroenterologist Christine Manser and her team reviewed the hospital’s admission records over a five-year period, which included 17 heat waves – defined as any period of six or more days with high temperatures rising above the average daily high by more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit. A total of 738 patients with Inflammatory bowel disease and 786 patients with infectious gastroenteritis were admitted during these hot spells. A control group of 506 people hospitalized for noninfectious GI problems were used as comparison.
Periods of extreme hot weather led to a 4.6% increase in risk of people needing to be hospitalized with a relapse of inflammatory bowel disease for every additional day the heat wave lasted. There was also a 4.7% increased risk of people sickened by infectious gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by a bacteria or virus with symptoms that include vomiting and watery diarrhea in addition to fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and headache.
Dr. Manser says that several potential mechanisms may explain this phenomenon. The heat waves could induce physical stress, which has been shown to cause flares of IBD. For IG, heat can change the bacterial composition of the GI tract which leads then to symptoms.
The study came from this reference: Christine N. Manser MD et al. Heat Waves, Incidence of Infectious Gastroenteritis, and Relapse Rates of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Retrospective Controlled Observational Study. Am J Gastroenterol advance online publication 13 August 2013; doi: 10.1038/ajg.2013.186
When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Heat makes things speed up and if we have bad bacteria in us, it kind of makes sense that it can promote growth. What I do question though is looking at the symptoms (abdominal cramps, nausea and headache) did they look into dehydration as a cause. Since there were numerous heat waves during the study, these symptoms can also be from dehydration.
That leads me to the biggest rule for the summer for us IBDers. Stay Hydrated! If you have to bring water with you everywhere you go. And yes, I said water not sports drink. Many of the sports drinks are mostly sugar which can make dehydration worse. If you stay hydrated with the water, you shouldn’t be losing electrolytes and hopefully don’t need the extra from these sports drinks. And yes I know everyone is different, especially those with ostomies. If you know you definitely need the electrolytes, then of course have a sports drink. My main rule is, make sure you always have something with you to keep you hydrated.
My second rule is dress for the weather. If it is hot out, don’t dress in long sleeves and jackets. Wear loose clothing that can breath. If you feel daring, go for the shorts and tank tops. I know many IBDers are self conscious about their bodies because of the numerous scars a lot of us have. I say be proud and show it off 🙂 Don’t let people make you feel bad. If you are going swimming, don’t bundle up to hide. Wear that bathing suit proudly.
Third rule is stay cool. While it is nice to get out doors and enjoy the sun, don’t overdue it. When you go inside, turn on an air conditioner. Enjoy the cool air it has to offer. It can actually help you too because if the heat is going to be bad for your IBD, the cool air is going to help calm the IBD.
So now that you know a little about how to deal with the summer, go out and have fun. Don’t let the heat stop you from living your life. I know I won’t.