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Why Gut Health Is Important for Athletes: Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Digestive System

The athlete’s gut: What you need to know

  • During exercise, blood is moving away from the gut towards the muscles, blunting the gut’s ability to function properly and negatively impacting it’s ability to process and move food and nutrients. This can lead to nausea, diarrhea, poor nutrient absorption, inflammation and gastroparesis (paralysis of the gut).

  • Factors that further impact gastrointestinal symptoms: high intensity exercise, exercise for long durations, endurance exercise, temperatures >95 degree Fahrenheit, exercise at altitude, exercise at night, biological sex (women are more prone than men), hydration status, presence of gastrointestinal disorders.

While the gut is complex, there are things we can do to help take care of it...


1. Eat as consistently and adequately throughout the day while ensuring as much variety in your diet as possible

2. Consume foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics

  • Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Examples include: Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread.

  • Prebiotics are substrates that are selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit. Examples include: Whole grains, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, chicory root, garlic, onions, leeks.

3. Ensure adequate carbohydrate intake, with adequate plant-based foods containing fiber (fiber should not be consumed before/during training, however)

4. Ensure adequate hydration


The most substantive evidence for probiotic benefits is improvements in the incidence, duration, and severity of upper respiratory tract infections. The studies reporting improvement in respiratory symptoms include organisms from the Lactobacilli family.


Gut Health
Gut Health


Citations:

Rinninella, E. ; C., Marco ;. Raoul, Pauline ;. Lopetuso, Loris Riccardo ;. Scaldaferri, Franco ;. Pulcini, Gabriele ;. Miggiano, Giacinto Abele Donato ;. Gasbarrini, Antonio ;. Mele, Maria Cristina. (2019). Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition. Nutrients, 11(10). U-M Articles Search. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102393


West, N. P., Colbey, C., Vider, J., & Cox, A. J. (2017). NUTRITION STRATEGIES FOR GUT HEALTH AND IMMUNE FUNCTION — WHAT DO WE KNOW AND WHAT ARE THE GAPS? 30(179).


VitalSource Bookshelf: EBook Clinical Sports Nutrition


Hughes, R. L. ; H., Hannah D. (2021). Fueling Gut Microbes: A Review of the Interaction between Diet, Exercise, and the Gut Microbiota in Athletes. Advances in Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 12(6). U-M Articles Search. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmab077



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