Gut health has been underexplored for a long time. Research is now bucking that trend and looking at microbiome from all angles, and recent investigation has taken to exploring the link between exercise and the trillion of gut bugs that live inside of us.
Researchers from San Francisco State University and the University of Illinois have made significant discoveries over the last year into what exercising does to the bacteria that populates our guts. The relationship primarily between cardiovascular exercise and gut health has been at the forefront of these scientists’ research.
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Diversity is celebrated in every aspect of life, and our gut microbiome is no difference. The diversity of your gut bacteria has links to many aspects of your health; limited diversity adversely affects insulin resistance and increases inflammation. With this in mind, a study from the San Francisco State University focused on how cardiovascular exercise could diversify your gut bugs.
The study focused on two specific types of gut bacteria that make up the intestinal flora, which are associated with metabolism and leaky gut syndrome: firmicutes and bacteroides. When participants had a better cardiovascular health, influenced by exercise, then they also had a higher ratio of firmicutes to bacteroidetes. So, this study is able to demonstrate a relationship between the composition of gut microbiota and cardiovascular fitness, with exercise proving to be crucial to your gut bacteria.
Keep up your Exercise
Over at the University of Illinois, researchers conducted some of the first studies that produced concrete findings on the effects of regular exercise on gut bacteria. Keeping participants diet the same as before the study, they were people who, prior to the study, took part in very little exercise and were both obese and of a regular weight.
The results showed how personal your gut bacteria is; no participant had the exact same reaction to exercising but they did all show an increase and decrease in different bacteria in the gut. The most consistent finding was the increase in microbes that helped to produce short-chain fatty acids. And, why are these acids important? Well, they help limit the risk of inflammatory diseases: obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
After the study, the participants went cold turkey on the exercise and their gut microbiome returned to normal. A huge take away from this study is the importance of regular exercise and maintaining your fitness routine.
The gut bugs of runners have an ability to resist and heal tissue damage, and decrease inflammations; prescribing exercise could be the future for gut health.
Can Exercise Ever be Bad?
Exercising is generally celebrated at every chance and for so many ailments in your life. Gut health is one of the new areas that exercise is having a positive influence, but are there negative impacts of exercise on your gut?
If you are exercising heavily in hot conditions or have a routine that doesn’t balance with your lifestyle then studies have confirmed there are repercussions for your gut. Your gut permeability, meaning the absorption of food particle through your gut wall, may increase leading to leaky gut and digestive issues.
You might also see an increase in gastrointestinal symptoms and, in severe circumstances, symptoms of heatstroke. You’ll not necessarily get all the great exercising benefits and could get lumped with some negative results.
Of course, this isn’t an excuse to get out of exercising; what it means is you need to look at other factors of your lifestyle that can help you get the perfect result from exercising.
Factors that will Help reap the Benefits of Exercising
- Prebiotics & Probiotics Prebiotics are a type of fiber that passes through the body undigested, when they reach the gut they promote the growth and activity of friendly bacteria in the gut bacteria and feed the probiotic bacteria in the gut. For more on how they affect our gut health, read our article Gut Health: Prebiotics, Probiotics & Postbiotics.
Omega-3 rich foods, in particular, are great anti-inflammatories for the gut. These heal the gut-lining and are vital for those whose heavy exercising has irritated the gut, or who are suffering from leaky gut syndrome.
The importance of getting a quality sleep can never be over-emphasized. Its health benefits extend to your gut too! Sleep is when your body has time to focus on its recovery and repair, so it’s vital for ensuring peak athletic performance and maintaining a healthy gut. If you want to learn more about the amazing effects of a good night’s sleep, and how to get it, check out our article How Does Sleep Affect Our Health.
Stress negatively impacts your gut microbiome and some cardiovascular activity is considered to be one of the more stressful types of exercise. To maintain your fitness on days where you are feeling stressed it’s a good idea to reduce stress levels by opting for another type of exercise. A restorative and relaxing exercise, such as yoga, could be a great workout to add to your day.