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5 Reasons Your Digestion Is Worse in the Winter

February 21, 2023

Do your digestive issues seem to get worse in the winter?

You might be quick to blame the cold weather, but it’s not necessarily the winter chill that’s causing tummy trouble – it’s often how we react to it.

Here are a few reasons your digestion gets worse in the winter, according to Jeffry Nestler, MD, gastroenterologist, co-physician in chief of Digestive Health Institute.

> Connect with the Digestive Health Institute

You’re more sedentary.

“During the winter, people are more sedentary, and their activity levels are often lower, so their gut motility slows down,” says Dr. Nestler

Gut motility has to do with the muscles of the stomach and digestive tract that propel food through the digestive tract. When this action is slowed down, it can cause gastroparesis, which affects about 5 million people in the United States.

Being sedentary can also lead to a slower metabolism, and less energy or motivation.

The remedy? Get out and take a walk, enjoy the brisk air! Or make a point to set aside time to go to the gym or exercise at home to increase your activity.

You drink less water.

During the summer heat, hydration is top of mind. But when winter hits, people tend to drink less water.

Remember to keep your water bottle nearby and refill it, and try to choose water over sugary sodas or another cup of coffee.

Speaking of coffee, Dr. Nestler advises watching your intake. In the colder months, you may fill up your coffee cup a few times or even have a third glass of tea, but he warns caffeine can increase acid reflux and affect gut motility.

Decaf is better, but he still suggests limiting yourself. And if you suffer from acid reflux? It may be best to avoid coffee all together.

> Struggling with swallowing or reflux? Schedule a consultation

You’re consuming more unhealthy food and drinks.

When we’re in hibernation mode, we tend to have bigger meals and eat fattier food, which can cause acid reflux or gall bladder issues, says Dr. Nestler. It doesn’t help that winter is full of food-focused holiday parties and days full of snacks while watching football.

Try bringing healthy food choices to a gathering or eat beforehand to resist the urge to overindulge. Smaller meals are better for digestion.

And don’t forget about alcohol. Not only can it slow down digestion and flare up heartburn, it can also lead to pancreatitis or liver issues.

You’re depressed or anxious.

The gut-brain connection is very real, and if you suffer from depression or anxiety, your stomach may be feeling the pain.

Anxiety may cause stomach pain, says Dr. Nestler, or seasonal depression can cause you to eat more or make unhealthy food choices.

“If this is something people struggle with, their medication may change as well, which can impact the gastrointestinal tract, with increased constipation or reflux issues,” he says.

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You’re actually just cold.

When you’re cold, it causes blood vessels to constrict, which can cause abdominal cramping and pain.

Dress appropriately for the weather and wear layers if you need to stay warm. If you are cold in the office, keep a sweater there for colder days or use a space heater to warm up a small space.