The following post is a modified version of an article I wrote over six years ago. It is updated to incorporate some new research on the relationship between exercise and gut health.
The human gut has been called our body’s second brain. Our gut and the bacteria it fosters have been a hot topic in scientific literature.
Home to over 100 trillion microorganisms there is a lot of emerging research on this area of the human body. From fecal transplants to probiotic prescriptions, modern medicine is slowly adapting new practices to improve the integrity of our gut. But even today the truth of the matter is the gut microbiome continues to be overlooked in routine healthcare practices. As modern medicine has advanced the importance of our gut heath has been bypassed as an important biomarker.
So, why should any of this matter to you?
With increasing autoimmune diagnoses, mental illness, rising obesity rates, and numerous prescriptions drugs and antibiotics given out like candy, our bodies are not reacting so well. If you are having digestive distress, chronic fatigue, intense sugar cravings, or low energy/libido, your gut very well be part of the problem.
Let me explain.
Your Gut and Autoimmunity
A few years ago the term “leaky gut syndrome” has hit the mainstream media and brought attention down to the inside of our midsection. This term refers to intestinal permeability or mircro-damage in the lining of the gut that reduces the ability of the small intestine to absorb nutrients from food. Even more significant is the inability to block food particles and toxins from making their way into the blood stream. The body responds by triggering an autoimmune response, with common symptoms that include bloating, gas, diarrhea, fatigue, acne, rashes, food sensitivities…the list goes on.
As you can see, leaky gut syndrome has major health implications. The majority of the our immune system is located in the gut, making it critical player in helping us ward off sickness and disease. When this is compromised, so is our overall vitality and ability to remain healthy.
A leaky gut can pose other problems. Research now shows how this autoimmune reaction is related to our weight and metabolism. If gut bacteria is imbalanced in our bodies it effects our ability to burn fat and get or stay lean!
Probiotics to the rescue?
New studies out are demonstrating the striking connection between the various strains of bacteria residing in our gut and how these microorganisms influence our weight, mood, and much more. Neuroscientists are writing on the possibility on “mind altering micro-organisms” meaning the impact our gut bacteria has on the brain and our mood and feelings.
In one study, probiotics in yogurt taken by women showed decreased anxiety in relation with brain circuit activity. In another study out this year probiotic formulations of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium were shown to calm the central nervous system (CNS) due to an anxiolytic effect.
That being said there is little known about the long-term effects of probiotics to date. While there are numerous cases of improved weight-loss efforts, better digestion, and other positive health effects associated with probiotic use, the science is still inconclusive at this time. If you decide to experiment with probiotic use, it is important to select a high-quality, trusted brand. I have experimented with several strains and you can ask me more via the contact form on this website.
Workout for your gut?
As is the case with probiotics, the studies conducted on exercise and our gut microbiome are still new and no major conclusions can be drawn. That said several studies show how the gut microbiota can be altered to promote a more robust and healthy immune system in individuals who engage in some sort of aerobic exercise several times per week. This effect is due to an increase in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and immunoglobulin A (IgA), both of which are beneficial to the body.
That said, exercise quickly has diminishing returns. In fact, too much exercise has an inflammatory effect that can damage the gut lining. Working out smarter–not harder–is all the more important for our overall health and vitality.
The Bottom Line:
The integrity of your gut matters. This is an exciting field of research with new information coming out daily connecting our gut micro-biome with various aspects of our health. Combining smart exercise (several times per week, a mix of resistance training and body weight exercise) along with a diet comprised of whole, real foods found in nature will greatly minimize toxins present in processed foods that are contributing to our declining health. Trying out probiotics or drinking kombucha several times per week may very well help, too.