July 31, 2019 13:10
Many people feel they cannot eat as much as they usually would in the scorching summer heat. But be careful not to get into the habit of skipping meals to avoid serious effects on your health.
One reason for reduced appetite is that prolonged heat causes the body to secrete stress hormones, resulting in reduced secretion of digestive fluids. Eating also warms you up, but then the body secretes a hormone called leptin which suppresses appetite to reduce heat emission.
Other reasons are that the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures which disturbs the balance in the autonomic nervous system, and reduced struggle to maintain body temperature, which results in the body simply needing less food.
The problem is that this can lead to severe weight loss as the stomach shrinks to adjust to the new conditions. "Long-term loss of appetite can trigger malnutrition," Cho Hyun at Soonchunhyang University Hospital says. "This can lead to weakened immunity, making us vulnerable to enteritis and food poisoning during the summer."
The danger is particularly great for elderly people, who already eat less. Hwang Hee-jin at International St. Mary's Hospital says, "Elderly people can display a weakened ability to control body temperature as well as digestive functions and are vulnerable to dehydration, and this results in more acute loss of appetite. They need to be very careful to take in enough nutrition."
People with high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic illnesses are at a higher risk. "Diabetics on medication should be sure to eat regularly, because failing to do so results in dangerously low sugar levels," says Joo Nam-seok at Ajou University Medical Center.
Eating small portions at a time while gradually increasing the amount stimulates appetite. But try to avoid food loaded with carbohydrates or fat, which can cause obesity and slow down the metabolism.
"Low-fat chicken, fish and other high-quality protein foods as well as mineral-rich vegetables and fruit are recommended," says Hwang Sun-wook at St. Mary's Hospital in Eunpyeong, Seoul. "Sweating a lot causes the depletion of electrolytes and consuming foods that are a bit more salty than usual can help maintain electrolytic balance."
Exercising also stimulates the taste buds, while remaining still because of the heat causes the body to expend little energy. The surplus energy suppresses the appetite and triggers sleeplessness at night. This can cause fatigue to pile up, leading to a vicious cycle.
"Try walking for 30 minutes or exercising on the early morning or late afternoon and take a lukewarm shower to induce sleep," Hwang said.
It is also a good idea to keep the gap in the inner and outer temperatures to within five degrees Celsius. That means putting on a long-sleeved shirt if the air conditioner keeps blasting away and drinking warm rather than ice-cold water.
Try not to binge on ice cream and cold sugary drinks. Not only are they low on nutrition, they can also weaken the digestive system. "Drink sour beverages like omija or apricot tea which stimulate the stomach," Cho at Soonchunhayng hospital says.
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