Exercise and Gut Health
Today we are going to discuss the relationship between gut health and exercise recovery.
This article in particular has a very personal application. 2017 was a really rough year for my GI system. In spite of enduring a few different procedures and trying every prescription drug in the book, my GI doctor could not provide me with answers. On the days my symptoms proved manageable, power lifting provided a great outlet to take my mind off of my health.
However, in the Fall, I noticed something about my recovery was off. What started out as cramps in my chest and back turned into excruciating ripping sensations, for lack of better terminology. If they shot up my back, I struggled to bend over. If they pulled across my chest, I would have difficulty moving my arms laterally. Lifting was miserable and I felt pretty helpless. I knew something was wrong. I shouldn’t be recovering so poorly from training. The only logical explanation that I could come up with was that my dysfunctional GI system prevented me from absorbing the nutrients I needed from food, and thus hindered my recovery.
So, I did a bit of digging, in hope that this information might help you, too. To begin- what characterizes a healthy gut? A healthy GI system properly breaks down food and utilizes the nutrients for energy. The GI tract houses millions of cells known as Gut Flora, which recognize pathogens, facilitate digestion, and regenerate new cells in the intestinal wall. When you work out, a healthy gut shuttles the amino acids from the food we eat to the damaged muscle tissues and rebuilds them.
In contrast, a dysfunctional gut prevents the nutrients and vitamins needed to repair the muscle tissues from being absorbed. Furthermore, the Immune system is compromised from not having enough interferons to fight off pathogens. With the body's energy stores diverted towards preserving its immune function, damaged muscles from exercise are unable to recover properly. Regardless of my level of training intensity, the recovery strategies I utilized (rolling, mobility work etc), or timing of my nutrition, the excruciating pains would arise from the most basic movements. Although I am not 100% certain this was caused by my GI dysfunction, at this point in time, it remains my best guess.
So… ARE THERE ANY SOLUTIONS??
Considering the fact that poor gastrointestinal health has been a lifelong struggle, I found it extremely frustrating to find numerous articles claiming that gut healing is a simple and sustainable process. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have utilized every prescription drug in the gastroenterology medical library.
Treating GI dysfunction includes everything from over the counter to prescription medication, diet changes, probiotic and supplementation regimens, and incorporation of physical activity and lowering of stress levels. However, in more serious cases as evidenced by leaky gut, gastritis, Crohn’s, and severe IBS, there is not always a simple fix. I was pleased to find an informative article from the US National Library of Medicine, examining the link between intestinal permeability and food processing ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898551/ ) . The article provided several supplements that I had never really given much consideration to as a means for reducing gastrointestinal distress.
The first supplement, Glutamine, is claimed by researchers to inhibit the inflammation and oxidative stress linked to tight junction opening (GI problems). While I was well aware of the benefits of Glutamine for muscle recovery, this article gave me the push to actually add it to my supplementation regimen (thanks Slap!). Although, I have been taking it for only a short time, I have noticed a small improvement in the recovery of my back from heavy training. I will have to continue incorporating it daily to determine its actual potency!
The second, is Curcumin (Tumeric). Shown to be effective in experimental colitis by lowering the inflammation of rats exhibiting IBD, Tumeric has the potential to reduce symptoms. However, the article warns against high doses, for too much could actually enhance oxidative stress.
Bottom line.......gut health and poor recovery might go hand in hand. If you are discouraged and are tired of feeling crappy, there might be some answers out there for you. But be patient; these things take time to figure out. Your favorite trainer Hannah will be there for you in the meantime! If there are any other questions i can answer for you about gut health and exercise recovery, let me know!
Otherwise, stay fit, happy, HEALTHY my fit people!
UNTIL NEXT TIME,