How Exercises Can Impact Gut Microbiome
Did you know there are approximately 100 trillion bacteria living in the gut, which supports the health of the body, including metabolic support, an immune boost, and even mental health. While diet continues to be recognized for gut health, exercise for a healthy gut is starting to more looked at more underneath the microscope.
Did you know there are approximately 100 trillion bacteria living in the gut? Whereas the thought of such an astronomical quantity may be overwhelming, the characteristics of the bacteria are far from underwhelming. In fact, their liveliness supports the health of the body, including metabolic support, an immune boost, and even mental health. And while diet continues to be recognized for gut health, exercise for a healthy gut is starting to more looked at more underneath the microscope.
What is the Gut Microbiome and Microbiota?
First off, the human microbiome is composed of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and microbes that reside both in and on the body. And while the thought of bacteria residing in the body may be alarming, they have a tremendous impact on health and disease, primarily by boosting the immune system and fighting against harmful, foreign invaders. But when it comes to the microbiota of the gut, it is quite diverse compared to other body sites. However, they are an integral component of digestion and nutrition and have shown to offer beneficial interactions on the immune system, along with emerging findings on their relationships with chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, obesity and diabetes. But aside from diet and its role in gut health and various conditions, evolving research is forming a strong link between exercise and gut health.
Exercise for a Healthy Gut
The link between physical activity and gut health was newly addressed in 2014 in a study published in the Gut. A team of researchers examined the influence of the activity of 40 professional rugby players on gut microbiota. Results implied a beneficial impact of exercise on gut microbiota, though extreme exercise is often accompanied by extreme diets in such rigorous sports. This hallmark study grew more curiosity, with more recent studies aiming to tie loose ends by controlling and considering dietary patterns.
A study published in PLOS One compared exercising and non-exercising rats along with the feeding of high-fat or normal diets. What they found? The rats who exercised, regardless of the diet, experienced greater growth in helpful bacteria, also touting on exercise's strong influence on gut integrity. Further findings suggest the impact on exercise on gut health may depend on the developmental stage in which exercise is initiated, along with the importance of breaking sedentary behavior.
Despite the complexity and what is left to still be explored, the intertwining relationships of diet, exercise, and gut health are nonetheless compelling. And with such interest sparking in the topics within the past few years, there is no doubt more captivating research and data will surface in the near future. But until then, current recommendations to improve gut health include consuming a diet rich in color and fiber; pairing prebiotics with probiotics; limiting salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial sweeteners; and managing stress. And according to research, the sooner these practices are put into place, the better!