The Effects On The Microbiome With Regular Prolonged Endurance Exercise
For many years our microbiome has received very little interest particularly in the line of sport and endurance sport. Our microbiome (bacterial community) begins in our mouth and inhabits our entire digestive system from mouth to anus, also inhabiting our skin. It has many roles to play in our overall health and wellbeing, and how we maintain it can have a huge knock on effect on our sporting performance.
There are many molecules along with our gut flora that are involved in our overall immunity. Our gut is a barrier between the inside of our bodies and the outside world. As strange as this may sound, what lies inside our digestive tract is actually outside our body, and unbelievably this barrier is only one cell thick! This is extremely important, as our gut barrier is responsible for keeping ‘foreign particles’ out of our system but also ensuring that our tight junctions in our small intestines allow nutrients to diffuse through and into our bodies for nourishment. It is estimated that up to 75% of our entire immunity is found in our intestines and there are a number of molecules along with our bacterial community that make up this vast number.
One in particular is an antibody known as secretory IGA (SIgA), this is found in our mucous membranes including mouth, lungs and our digestive tract. After our stomach acid, this is our first line of defence on our mucosal lining and in turn makes up a large portion of our entire immunity. SIgA helps in shaping the composition of our gut microbes, therefore protecting us against infection, food proteins, toxins and pathogens. SIgA is also what tags foods that come into our digestive tract and determine whether these foods are allowed to diffuse through our gut lining or whether our immune system needs to eradicate these. Initially if we have an overgrowth of bacteria (dysbiosis) or parasites for example, our SIgA can increase as it is working overtime to alert our immune system to remove these unwanted pathogens, however it does not have the ability to maintain this overproduction over a long period and eventually levels begin to plummet which means that in theory any ‘foreign particles’ or food proteins are no longer tagged for removal and can continue to grow and damage our very delicate gut lining. Over time any particle that enters the digestive tract be it a bacteria/virus/parasite or food protein can now diffuse through the gut lining and invade our body by means of our blood stream, unfortunately this can be the trigger and driver of numerous autoimmune diseases. There are many factors that can reduce our bodies’ production of SIgA, some including genetic factors, chronic low grade infections, parasitic overgrowths, food intolerance, toxins, hormone imbalance, alcohol and agglutinins found in grains and legumes and one very important and often overlooked factor is stress! It is important to understand that stress can be emotional but can also be caused by physical factors, one vital part of this puzzle is that our brains have not yet evolved to decipher whether a bereavement, parasitic infection or endurance sport should or should not receive a different level of stress response to the others, so unfortunately our bodies being the only and most amazing machinery that we will ever possess will always react the very same way, with over production initially and fluctuation of our stress hormones.
What this means in terms of sports and in particular endurance sports is that our body perceives this as a large stress to our system, which can switch on our stress response with overstimulation our sympathetic nervous system. Of course exercise is a vital addition to anyone’s lifestyle and a variety of studies have shown that exercise improves psychological well-being and mood as well as resilience to chronic and acute stress. For example, the amount of cortisol (our stress hormone) secreted in response to an acute psychological stress was much lower in aerobically fit individuals than in unfit individuals. However the important take home here is that too much of something is not always better and this is certainly true with regards to sports.
So how exactly does strenuous/endurance exercise affect our digestive tract and immunity? In order to prioritise blood flow to the heart and skeletal muscles during exercise, blood flow is shunted away from the GI tract and our organs (liver etc) and our core temperature rises. Less blood to internal organs and particularly to our gastrointestinal lining is disastrous and an increased internal temperature can disrupt the intestinal lining, setting off the inflammatory response and increasing the risk of damage to our gut barrier. High training loads, training hard for several hours a week can create a chronic stress from which the body struggles to recover.
Because our delicate gut flora makes up a whopping 75% of our immune system, before you know it, you’re sick with a chest infection or the flu. Many who are involved in endurance sports will be no stranger to stomach cramps, gas, flatulence and the dreaded ‘runners diarrhoea’! If you can now see the vast interrelationships with our endurance sports and how its effects our entire system, it’s not hard to see how! All of these symptoms that are extremely common are signs that our gut is not operating as it should be and pushing ourselves too hard can actually have a long term effect on our entire body. While some endurance athletes report no symptoms of any gastrointestinal upset, there are numerous studies documenting these very athletes do in fact during biochemical blood and stool analysis, show signs of damage to their gut lining with increased permeability and inflammatory cytokines.
As many are aware there a numerous companies producing probiotic supplements in the past ten years, a number that continues to grow annually. It can be extremely difficult to decide which type and in particular which strains we need.
There are numerous studies showing how different strains of probiotic bacteria can target different illness or ailments again some being used by athletes. Despite using dozens of brands of probiotics, we find NDS probiotics superior for our clients than most leading brands.
What is very unique and impressive about NDS probiotics is that each product is specifically designed using the vast evidence based research available, using this science based research to tailor unique products to specific symptoms and disorders. Products vary from sports specific probiotics, intestinal permeability to inflammatory bowel disorders. Another unique factor that makes NDS products to effective is the use of powder and not capsule form. When many probiotic products are produced, companies freeze dry the bacteria strains, which allow a longer shelf life and also suitability to room temperature. If these are freeze dried and taken directly it may take some time for the bacteria strains to regain their vitality and full potential, this is another impressive area where NDS are allowed to sit in slightly warm water for fifteen minutes in order to absorb water to allow their full potential in the gastrointestinal tract. Some are also contained with a specific electrolyte mix that ensure the bacteria strains can absorb maximum hydration.
For bysy, stressed or sporting clients we recommend NDS S60 or NDS Performance – FXsupplements