You probably are aware that a healthy diet can improve your gut health, but increasingly, researchers are finding that exercise also exerts a positive influence on our digestive systems.
The microbiome and your gut
From bacteria to fungi, there is a lot to learn about how our so-called intestinal microbiome influences our health – and how our own lifestyle affects the health of the microbiome.
Among other things, the microbiome helps determine our how much weight we gain and lose, the level of inflammation that occurs due to certain illnesses or injuries, and our immune systems’ response to various triggers.
So what if we could do something every day to improve the family of “healthy” or “health promoting” microorganisms in our gut? Exercise may be the answer to that question.
Research worth examining
Research has shown that the microbiome of lean, elite endurance athletes differs from that of people who are inactive or have more body fat. Following up on that data, researchers then looked into whether it was the exercise that caused the healthy adaptation of their gut health, or the food they consumed. The results were surprising.
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined the gut makeup of previously inactive participants who were assigned a new exercise program. Some of the participants were normal weight, while some were overweight. One important factor was that the participants were told to maintain their normal diet during the study.
At the start of the study, the gut biome of each participant was analyzed and a physical endurance test was done. After the initial data were collected, each participant embarked on an increasingly more demanding exercise program starting with a half hour of leisurely walking, and ending with an hour or more of intense aerobic exercise. Each participant was asked to exercise three times a week.
After six weeks, samples were collected from the participants. Then, the exercise program was stopped and the participants were asked to resume their previous, inactive lifestyle they had at the start of the study. After six weeks passed, samples were collected again.
Surprisingly, a majority of the participants showed changes in the makeup of their gut biome. They now shared more of the substances usually found in the gut biome of elite athletes. These substances are thought to play a role in boosting metabolism and preventing diabetes. Once exercise was stopped, the gut biome changed back to what it was original, before the exercise program began.
What it all means…
Studies over the years have made it increasingly clear that exercise is a powerful tool in improving many aspects of our health. First, exercise was proven to help prevent heart disease and diabetes; then exercise was demonstrated to elevate mood. Now, it’s our gut heath that is in the spotlight. In helping improve gut health, exercise once again proves that it is a key component to overall and total health, and that movement and activity are essential for every part of our body – including our guts!
If you would like to know more about the links between your lifestyle and digestive health, or if you have specific questions or concerns, contact Austin Gastroenterology for an appointment at the location nearest you. Listen to your gut and contact us today.