A healthy microbiota is considered to have rich biodiversity and functions symbiotically with its host to promote wellness. However, dysbiosis is widely associated b a multitude of gastrointestinal diseases, as well as cardiometabolic conditions. A disbalance or rupture of the microbial homeostasis can trigger metabolic disturbances reflecting chronic disease. Consequently, environmental factors play a leading role in the modulation of microbiota-host interaction. Recently, exercise is considered a potent influence in promoting a healthy microbiome resulting in lower cardiometabolic risk.
All diseases start in the gut.
It has been previously stated that the microbiome is composed of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and Archaea; it is an ecosystem that functions symbiotically with the host. Besides this, an individual’s microbiome profile establishes early in life, and it is strongly influenced by breastfeeding, birth delivery, dietary intake, weaning, and exposure to different environmental bacteria. Eventually, the microbiome will affect the immune system’s development and the pathophysiology of different conditions.
Consequently, dysbiosis comprises reduced biodiversity, and the loss of beneficial bacteria resulting in the overgrowth of opportunistic pathogens promotes an equilibrium dysfunction. Besides, intestinal permeability and the overproduction of toxic bacterial-induced metabolites result in the host circulation’s translocation. Furthermore, these harmful pathogens in the host circulation promote subclinical inflammation, inducing a suitable environment for gastrointestinal and metabolic conditions.
How exercise influences microbiota
Across the years, the hypothesis that exercise could be a powerful microbiota modulator was proposed. However, it is only recently that studies have been able to confirm its interaction. Human studies have demonstrated that microbiota diversity increases in athletes compared to age-, sex- and body size-matched controls not involved in sports activities. In this same sample, athletes showed an increased microbial representation of genes involved in carbohydrates, amino acids, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).
Despite this and other studies’ exciting findings, microbiota biodiversity induction through exercise was not fully understood. Hence, it is crucial to consider that these groups of people were consuming different dietary regimens.
Recently, it has been elucidated the biodiversity of microbiota is correlated to cardiorespiratory fitness in adult patients. On the other hand, other studies have found that body composition, dietary habits, and nutritional intake are important confounders that should be considered when assessing gut microbiota diversity.
· Microbiota, exercise, and body composition
Studies performed in humans suggest that exercise modifies microbiota, metabolic output, and functional capacity. However, body composition plays a determining role in these alterations.
A research study to demonstrate the effects of exercise and body composition on gut microbiota found interesting results. Furthermore, this study included 18 lean and 14 obese participants and participated in a 6-week supervised exercise training. Subsequently, the participants returned to a sedentary lifestyle. To observe the results, fecal samples of each participant were collected before and after the 6-week intervention period and after the sedentary washout period.
Lean vs. Overweight subjects
In this particular study, the workout sessions were supervised and consisted of endurance-based exercises. Following this, the baseline started at 30 minutes and progressed to 60 minutes, from moderate to vigorous intensity. Consequently, this intervention resulted in the acknowledgment that gut microbiota is dependent on obesity status. On the other hand, fecal samples increased short-chain fatty acids concentration in lean participants, but there was no beneficial effect in obese subjects. Another exciting result was that exercise could modulate microbiota’s metabolic output and this increased bacterial genes that produced elevated levels of short-chain fatty acids. This study also found that all of the beneficial effects and shifts induced by exercise were reversed on the sedentary washout period. To know more about your body composition, visit us at El Paso Functional Medicine where we can measure your body composition!
Exercise, microbiota, and women’s health
Gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease are commonly found in women. Consequently, the treatment of these conditions tends to fall under the prescription of probiotics and prebiotics that result in improvements. This clarifies that manipulating gut microbiota to retrieve microbial balance by reducing dysbiosis is a viable therapeutic strategy.
Furthermore, a Spanish study observed the effect of exercise on microbiota on women. This study’s particular setting was that they used the World’s Health Organization exercise recommendations and compared them to the microbiota of sedentary women. To measure the results, they used 16s rRNA gene sequencing and PCR. Conversely, these authors observed that those active subjects had a higher abundance of health-promoting bacterial species, including Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Roseburia hominis, and Akkermansia muciniphila.
Another important contribution of this study was that the body fat percentage of those active subjects was lower when compared to their sedentary counterparts. While this was not part of the initially considered factors, it contributed to manipulating the final observations.
When we say you are what you eat, we mean that we are the interaction between our microbiome, what we eat, how it processes it, and what we do. Therefore, we are the result of our symbiosis with our environment. However, the influence that the microbiome has on our health is dependent on our cardiac output. Consequently, the microbiome can protect us from the development of cardiometabolic diseases by reducing gut permeability and keeping a balanced profile. The overall conclusion of these and many more studies is that the microbiome can be easily modified, reversing its original state. Therefore, it depends on and reflects our nutritional and lifestyle habits.
The symbiosis among the gut microbiome, health, nutrition, and exercise reflects on a deeper level the amount of knowledge collected over the years. Now we know that exercise does not work as an “energy in- energy out” diagram, but it exerts beneficial health effects in a dynamic way. However, its microbiome-related effects are more beneficial on lean subjects than in obese patients. In addition, this is not an excuse to keep an unhealthy lifestyle, if you are overweight. On the other hand, it is a pointer that allows us to know that your intervention might need a little more help in this particular area. Your health goals are unique! – Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega, MS
Allen, Jacob M., et al. “Exercise alters gut microbiota composition and function in lean and obese humans.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 50.4 (2018): 747-57.
Bressa, C., et al. “Differences in gut microbiota profile between women with an active lifestyle and sedentary women.” PLoS ONE 12.2 (2017): e0171352.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, CTG*
Licensed in Texas & New Mexico