Can Exercise Affect Your Gut Bacteria

It may not be the topic of conversation over the dinner table, but the discussion of gut bacteria and how it can help your overall health can be quite enlightening. It’s amazing how these tiny microbes either work together or against one another to create a healthy digestive tract or if out of balance, affect your overall health. Various research studies show that there’s a difference in the gut bacteria of healthy people and the gut bacteria of those who are sick. Those that are sick have an imbalance of bacteria or lack the variety of bacteria healthy people have. Exercise can change that.

Serious conditions like diabetes show a link to the bacteria in the gut.

Whether you’re fighting type 2 diabetes, heart disease or obesity, the bacteria in your gut may be part of the cause. The type of bacteria you have can affect your overall metabolism and even determine the amount of calories that you get from the food you eat or the nutrients you absorb. The wrong type or balance of gut bacteria can cause fatty liver deposits by turning fiber into fatty acid. That can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Other serious conditions can come from bacterial imbalances.

Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, colon cancer, arthritis and certain disorders of the nervous system are all linked to different balances of bacteria. Those with colon cancer are found to have more disease causing bacteria than those that are healthy. Believe it or not, your gut has loads of nerve endings that send messages to the brain. It’s called the “gut-brain axis.” There are some studies that show a link to conditions like autism, depression and anxiety based on the gut bacteria. Certain type of bacteria are linked to inflammation. People with rheumatoid arthritis often have more of those bacteria.

Exercise can change the mix of bacteria in the gut.

A study done at the University of Illinois found that as little as six weeks of regular exercise could change the makeup of the bacteria in your gut. In this study, they didn’t introduce diet into the mix, but stuck with exercise alone. The study included both thin and obese people with the researchers measuring the microbes at the start. The participants exercised for six weeks, three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. When the samples were taken at the end of six weeks, the researchers found microbe balances changed, increasing some and decreasing others.

  • The six week exercise study continued by allowing participants to go back to sedentary ways. The microbe balanced returned to pre-exercise levels.
  • Combining health eating habits with regular exercise has an even bigger impact on overall gut health.
  • The study brought attention to an interesting question. Is it the bacteria changes from exercise that brings the health benefits?
  • One reason people often fail at keeping weight off may be that they fail to continue exercise, which can cause gut bacteria to revert back to previous levels and slow metabolism.

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