There are any number of things your body can be telling you when your stomach is upset. But the recent heatwaves that are sweeping the world are not only impacting people’s desire to stay home in the air conditioning. Surprisingly, heat waves can cause bloating, in addition to other uncomfortable symptoms.
For many people, your stomach may be one of the first parts of your body to react to the heat. Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant Stephanie Papadakis, founder of Gut of Integrity, tells Bustle that hot weather “can lead to dehydration,” she says, “which can cause our stomachs become bloated.” That painful stomach bloating is common during heat waves. When your body sweats to try to lower its internal temperature, you lose water. And when you lose too much water, your body desperately tries to hold on to what it’s got left. This fluid retention can leave you feeling bloated, and even lethargic, fatigued, and dizzy.
Unfortunately, climate change is making hot weather more common across the globe. In late May 2019, heat waves hospitalized over 600 people across Japan, and in June, heat waves across India killed nearly 40 people. Across Europe, too, temperature have risen to dangerous levels this summer. Scientists expect these heat waves to become more frequent, so it’s growing ever more important to recognize the impacts that the heat is having on your own body.
Papadakis says that while bloating from dehydration “is not necessarily dangerous on its own,” it can be “symptomatic of what else is happening in your body when you’re dehydrated.” If you’re not drinking enough water, you may experience a range of symptoms: “strong thirst, dry mouth, decreased saliva production, reduced perspiration, headache, dizziness, weakness, fainting, exhaustion, loss of strength, abnormal vision, nausea, vomiting, less-frequent urination, dark-colored urine, and/or constipation.” Papadakis advises that “if you have one or more of these symptoms, you’ll need to replenish the amount of fluids you lost, along with electrolytes (salts). Filtered water is your best choice to replace fluids, and coconut water with [a pinch of] added sea salt will help replenish electrolytes.”
In addition to replenishing your water supply — because “that way your body will not be forced to hold on to the water you do drink” — Papadakis advises considering a multi-pronged strategy to fighting bloating. If possible and desirable, reducing consumption non-dehydration causes of bloating like eating gas-causing foods (such as beans, sprouts, and broccoli). Upping your intake of things like ginger and peppermint tea to combat bloating can also be helpful. Fruits and vegetables like “watermelon, grapes, tomatoes, celery, and lettuces” also have high water content and can help increase your water intake, as well. This can help your stomach feel better and help you identify whether the bloating is, in fact, from dehydration.
And these experiences can be more dangerous for low-income people and people of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Climate and Health Program, the heat waves from climate change disproportionately impacts people of color. This is because people of color are already marginalized by lack of access to preventative health care and targeted by city planning that increases air pollution and food insecurity in low-income, POC-populated areas.
So recognizing when you’re bloated and fatigued is an extremely important sign during these increasing heat waves. When you recognize those signs, as soon as you can, try to give your body what it’s asking you for: rest, getting out of the sun, and drinking a lot — “Like, a lot!,” Papadakis emphasizes — of water.