Move to Improve your Gut, and Improve your Life
Our microbes need us to move.
Researchers have discovered that the composition of our gut microbes can be improved by exercise alone. How?
The first experiment compared faecal samples from mice that were sedentary with mice that were active. The diets and living conditions of the two groups of mice were otherwise identical. The only difference was whether or not they engaged in physical exercise.
The mice who exercised had enhanced microbial diversity (one of the keys to a healthy gut and immune system) as well as a higher number of butyrate-producing bacteria. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) known to be vital for colon health and energy production as well as helping to protect against colon cancer. The exercising mice also exhibited less inflammation and a faster recovery when exposed to toxins.
But can these results be translated to humans? Yes! When subjects were put on an exercise program consisting of 3 hours of cardiovascular activities per week for six weeks (walking, running, cycling or swimming), similar changes were seen in their gut flora. Once again, they made no changes in their diet so the effect was due to exercise alone. Note that the exercise was not excessive – an average of half an hour a day. However if they stopped exercising, the positive effects on their microbes started to wear off after six weeks. We need to keep moving for life.
Another simple measure that has been shown to produce a positive shift in our good bacteria is overnight fasting for 12+ hours between dinner and breakfast (it is said that 16 hrs is ideal, however for those of you that are training hard for events this is not practical nor recommended). A species of bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila lives off the mucous that lines the inside of our gut wall and it needs the gut to be empty in order to feed. The significance of Akkermansia is that lean people have much more of this bacteria than obese people. Experiments have demonstrated that placing Akkermansia into the gut of overweight mice stops them becoming obese and prevents them from developing diabetes. Scientists are therefore madly trying to breed Akkermansia so they can put them into probiotics. But until this happens, leaving as long a gap as you can between dinner and breakfast is your best bet. Some studies suggest that 13-16 hours is ideal but do what fits in with your lifestyle and training.
And yes, that means you don’t have to eat breakfast first thing in the morning. I know this goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about healthy eating but it’s OK to skip breakfast! (times change as does the information we receive over years thanks to new research). Have your first meal of the day when you get hungry – be that 6am or 2pm or any time in-between. Your gut will tell you when it’s time for you to eat. It’s called hunger.
Why do we need a Healthy Gut?
Digestion – If you have a healthy digestive tract, you can expect to have good digestion. Maintaining a balanced gut bacteria is key for regular bowel movements.
Common digestive issues are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) that affects millions of people. Worse still is and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These are both severe and can mean a lifetime of treatment and dietary limitations.
For people with digestive issues, doctors have found unbalanced gut bacteria plays a large role. Proof of that lies in fecal transplants. A fecal transplant is a procedure where stool (a poo) is taken from a healthy poo donor and placed into an ill patient’s colon. It sounds gross… but the point of the procedure is to repopulate the ill patient’s gut with healthy bacteria. According to a study published in the journal of Gastroenterology Hepatology, fecal transplants have a 93 percent success rate in curing and/or healing digestive issues. Within 12 months you will hear a lot more about these ‘poofusions’.
Immunity – Your gut is very closely linked to your immune system. In fact, approximately 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. So if your gut bacteria is properly balanced then your immune system will most likely function properly and help ward off illnesses.
Mood & Mental Health – The gut is often referred to as “the second brain.” In multiple case studies with mice, researchers were able to completely alter the mice’s behavior by changing their gut bacteria. The mice that had balanced gut bacteria were less anxious, more adventurous, and seemed to be in a better mood. Researchers wanted to find out if the same reaction would happen in humans.
In the study healthy women were given a fermented milk beverage. Some women were given milk that had a probiotic supplement in it. Other women were given milk without probiotics. Next, researchers scanned their brains while showing them photos of people with emotional facial expressions. They found the two groups of women had different reactions. The women who were given the probiotics showed a reduced brain response, meaning they weren’t as emotional when viewing emotional expressions. This = a better mood!
Weight – Do you eat healthy and workout, yet still struggle to lose weight? Have you ever wondered why your skinny friend who seems to be able to eat anything and everything can still fit into her skinny jeans? This reason may lie in your gut bacteria.
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Gut Bacteria, Your Genes (and your Jeans!) and Obesity
A number of studies show that a diverse gut microbiome is key to staying lean. A 2013 study found that thin people have 70 percent more gut bacteria than people who are overweight.
Getting even more in depth, researchers found that the species of bacteria are different in people who are obese compared to those who are slim. A recent study found obese individuals to have about 20 percent more of a bacteria strain called firmicutes. Firmicutes help the body pull calories from complex sugars and turn those calories into fat. When firmicutes microbes were transplanted into normal-weight mice, researchers noticed those mice started gaining twice as much fat.
There’s a growing amount of research that suggests your gut bacteria actually influences food cravings, metabolism, and how many calories your body absorbs from the food you eat. Each person’s microbiome is unique, which means each of us responds differently to carbohydrates and fats and sugar. Our genes also play a huge role in our gut health, and there are now tests (homekits) available to find out how your genes can affect your ability to tolerate and metabolise starch carbohydrates, which can then provide a guide on nutrition and exercise required for your body type. Go to mycarbchoice.com.au to find out more. This new research is fascinating and you will be hearing much more about it and the importance of gut health in the future.
The point here is – if you want to drop a dress size, you should focus on improving your gut health!
For anyone wanting to restore their gut and lose weight, ditching sugar and alcohol is a must to start with for 1-2 weeks to reset your gut, as these stop good bacteria from growing in your gut and feed bad bacteria. By cutting these out you’ll feed better almost immediately in regards to your weight and energy levels. Extremely overweight people may need to start with a detox or intermittent fasting to help remove the toxins that have built up in their microbiome before they will see results. Overweight people are essentially ‘unwell’ people, so they need to get well before they can start to lose weight. But its worth the effort and time isn’t it??
GMO’s, Pesticides and Chemicals
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Foods To Help Your Gut
Grass Fed Meat
Fatty Fish such as salmon and/or fish oil supplements
Non-Dairy Fermented Foods such as unsweetened cocnut milk yoghurt, coconut mil kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi
Daily Probiotic supplements such as Inner Health
And most importantly – MOVE!