Exercise and the healthy gut

Given we are just a few days away from our Yatra to India, you’ll forgive us if the bugs in our bellies are a little more on our minds than normal.

Among his many guidances, our trip leader, Robert Moses of Namarupa, has stressed smart eating habits during our trip (as has our Ashtanga teacher, Kate O’Donnell). In other words, no street food.

So a study finding exercise helps boost all the healthy and diverse organisms that live inside us — to our benefit, just to be clear — is super timely.

The New York Times — the same one I equally lambaste and praise — has the details:

In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in the role that gut microbes play in whole-body health. A multitude of studies have shown that people with large and diverse germ populations in their digestive tracts tend to be less prone to obesity, immune problems and other health disorders than people with low microbial diversity, and that certain germs, in particular, may contribute to improved metabolic and immune health.

But little science had examined the interplay between physical activity and gut bugs in people. So, for a study published this month in Gut, researchers at University College Cork, part of the National University of Ireland, and other institutions, set out to learn more by turning to a group of people who exercise a lot: the national rugby team of Ireland.


As it turned out, the internal world of the athletes was quite different from that of the men in either of the control groups. The rugby players had considerably more diversity in the make-up of their gut microbiomes, meaning that their intestinal tracts hosted a greater variety of germs than did those of the other men, especially the men in the group with the highest B.M.I.

The rugby players’ guts also harbored larger numbers of a particular bacterium, uneuphoniously named Akkermansiaceae, that has been linked in past studies with a decreased risk for obesity and systemic inflammation.

Interestingly, the rugby players’ blood showed low levels of markers for inflammation, even though the men were exercising intensely. Their muscles were being pummeled but, in physiological terms, recovering well.

The researchers are quick to note that these results are very preliminary and the size of the groups small. But still, it seems that exercise promotes a healthy gut.

So no skipping those morning Ashtanga practices while we travel.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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