This is a guest post Written by Heather L. Donahue, CHN. Visit her at Heather’s Health Habits
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: regular exercise improves your health! But did you know that your gut health could improve and even thrive because you were exercising? It is true! Exercise creates good gut health.
A healthy gut is critical to achieving optimal wellness. The gut regulates our immune system, improves brain health and extracts key nutrients to keep our bodies healthy and disease-free. Taking steps to keep the gut healthy, like regular exercise, will help you live a long and healthy life.
Before I tell you 5 proven reasons exercise improves your gut health, let’s look at just a few of the symptoms of an unhealthy gut.
INFREQUENT BOWEL MOVEMENTS
You have been misled about your bowel movements! Bowel movements are not according to your own unique, personal schedule. It must happen every day, at least once a day. If you wait 2, 3 or even 5 days to have a bowel movement, your gut is unhealthy. Why?
Poop is made up of 75% water and 25% waste. When waste is allowed to sit in the colon waiting to be released, bacteria begins to grow. Bacteria can start making its way into the digestive system or even worse, get into the bloodstream. Eliminating waste from the body once a day ensures bad bacteria is removed.
BLOATING, GAS AND BELCHING
Bloating, gas and belching are a sign of a potential food allergy, food sensitivity or high stomach acid. Unfortunately, many people buy over the counter antacids instead of getting to the root of the problem. Taking over the counter antacids results in suppressing the symptoms. Taking an at home food sensitivity test from Everly Well or The Great Plains Laboratory identifies what foods to eliminate from your routine to keep the gut healthy.
EXHAUSTION, MEMORY PROBLEMS, ANXIETY
The gut has a direct communication system with the brain. When the gut is unbalanced, we feel tired, can’t remember information and easily succumb to anxiety. These symptoms are a sign that bad bacteria has taken over in the gut, affecting the communication path to the brain.
As I mentioned, those are just a few symptoms of an unhealthy gut. Here are 5 proven ways exercise overcomes the above symptoms and others. While the information below may motivate you to start exercising, as always make sure to check with your physician to ensure you’re healthy enough to start an exercise routine.
#1 EXERCISE INCREASES GOOD BACTERIA IN THE GUT
The gut contains both good and bad bacteria. Both bacteria are needed to fight pathogens and keep the body balanced. The good bacteria help to break down food that we can’t digest in order to get nutrients from that food. The more good bacteria we have, the more nutrients are delivered to the body to keep us healthy. Exercise boosts the amount of good bacteria in the gut by reducing inflammation in the gut and protecting the integrity of the intestine.
#2 EXERCISE STRENGTHENS THE ABDOMINAL WALL
When we exercise, the abdominal wall gets stronger. A strong abdominal wall helps with the movement of waste through the intestines and colon. Remember earlier when I mentioned a bowel movement every day is key to a healthy gut? When the abdominal wall is strong, it stimulates the removal of waste. Exercise is one way to stimulate a bowel movement every day.
#3 EXERCISE FIGHTS OBESITY
Obesity is a disease caused by an unhealthy gut. Eating processed foods, loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, lacking in fiber and containing a lot more calories than we need to eat in a single sitting, results in the gut bacteria becoming unbalanced. Moving our bodies restores bacteria balance in the gut, which helps process food more efficiently.
A study of obesity-induced mice showed that even with a high fat diet, exercise prevented obesity and produced changes in the microbiota. Let me be clear, a high fat diet combined with exercise is not the recommendation. Other health issues can arise when following a high fat diet. This study simply shows that the gut has more protective properties against obesity than you may think. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357536/
#4 EXERCISE STOPS BLOATING AND GAS
Two very common symptoms of an unhealthy gut are bloating and gas. It is embarrassing and makes you feel awful. Exercise eliminates bloating and gas by moving gas through the digestive tract and helps prevent it coming back.
A small study was performed on eight people who suffered with gas and bloating. They were infused with a gas mixture and measured for bloating and gas while they were not moving. The same people were then infused with gas again and measured while riding stationary bikes for 5 minutes and taking 3 minute rest periods. The study showed that gas moved quicker through the digestive system when the people were active. (Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17029608/)
#5 EXERCISE IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH
You may be wondering what mental health has to do with gut health. As mentioned earlier, the gut has a communication pathway to the brain and our emotions. In fact, 90% of serotonin (our happy hormone) is produced in the gut and then delivered to our brain.
Research has found, for example, that tweaking the balance between good and bad bacteria in an animal’s gut can alter its brain chemistry and lead it to become either more bold or more anxious. (Source: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling) Since exercise promotes the development of good bacteria in the gut, it would naturally support good mental health.
To get the full benefit of feeling good from the exercise, both in the gut and the mind, make sure the exercise is something you like doing! If you aren’t looking forward to the exercise, it will have the opposite effect on your mental health.
You may be thinking that in order to restore gut health through exercise that you have to belong to a fancy gym or take expensive classes. It’s not true! Even low impact exercise will restore gut health, as long as it is routine.
It doesn’t take long to get the effects of increased good bacteria in the gut from exercising. In a study from the University of Illinois, researchers found that exercising for just six weeks could have an impact on the good bacteria in the gut. (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/exercise-improves-your-gut-bacteria)
I hope you enjoyed this article on how exercise improves gut health. Regular movement of low-impact exercise will help restore gut health and reduce the symptoms of an unhealthy gut.
Heather L. Donahue, CHN
Heather is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist passionate about teaching others how to get to the root cause of the embarrassing symptoms of an unhealthy gut. Stop suffering and start living! Contact Heather for a Free 30 minute strategy session by clicking here: https://www.heathershealthhabits.com/book-online