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Exercise Changes Your Gut

Exercise is one of the best things you can do, not only for improving your physical and mental health. Fact is, exercise can help your body work and sleep better and may even help you live longer too.

In some cases, exercise may promote a stronger immune system, based on findings from a pair of related studies on mice and human subjects appearing in Gut Microbes and Medicine & Science in Sports & Science.

Running mice beat colitis

The animal study, conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois and the Mayo Clinic, started by letting a group of mice either run around or be sedentary for most of their lives.

Then, researchers transplanted gut bacteria from those two groups of mice into rodents that were bred to be germ free, so their microbiomes would more easily adapt to the new bugs.

Several weeks later, those younger mice were exposed to chemicals that induced ulcerative colitis to test the health of their microbiomes.

No surprise, those germ-free mice conformed to the bacteria they received, and the changes in their gut health were plain to see. But how?

Mice receiving transplants from active animals experienced less inflammation and healed damaged tissues better and faster than those receiving bacteria from sedentary animals. The tell-tale sign: Higher amounts of gut bugs producing butyrate.

In humans, the presence of butyrate (a short-chain fatty acid) protects your gut from harmful bacteria like E. coli and keeps gut inflammation in check.

The human touch

Researchers took a different approach with their follow-up work on human subjects (18 lean and 14 obese patients). First, patients were assigned to an ongoing cardiovascular exercise program (30-60 minutes, three times per week) for six weeks.

After completing the exercise cycle, microbiome samples were taken, and then a final one after six weeks of no exercise.

Just like their animal counterparts, the guts of humans produced more butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids during the exercise cycle, then declined during the sedentary period of rest.

Also, levels of butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids rose dramatically in the guts of leaner patients, compared to that of obese patients. Moreover, there were very consistent differences in the ratios of gut microbes between obese and leaner patients at every point in the study.

“The bottom line is that there are clear differences in how the microbiome of somebody who is obese versus somebody who is lean responds to exercise,” says Dr. Jeffrey Woods, a University of Illinois professor of kinesiology and community health. “We have more work to do to determine why that is.”

An additional factor that may have been a difference maker on the human side of this study: Patients ate what they wanted and weren’t assigned special diets.

A lot more to learn

There’s more work being done at other research venues to determine how much exercise benefits the human gut and how frequently one needs to be active in order to maintain those healthy rewards.

As is the case with many healthy things, however, the benefits of exercise have their limits, especially when you overwork your body. Pushing it with excessive exercise can become a big problem to the point that it can reverse the physical benefits you hoped to achieve.

Exercising to an extreme can take a huge toll on the health of your gut too, promoting leaky gut in as little as two hours.

However, one of the chemical triggers of leaky gut – the production of zonulin – was eased in a human study by taking a probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics are Effective Treatment for Pediatric IBS

If you’re a parent, then you are probably familiar with the phrase, “My stomach hurts!”

This is often a self limited problem, but some children do experience recurrent abdominal pain which is often diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

A recently published study examined the benefits of probiotics for alleviating the symptoms of IBS in children(1). IBS is a common problem in pediatrics, and no safe and effective treatment has been available up until now(2).

Suspected Causes of IBS

The symptoms of abdominal bloating, gas, pain and change in stools are very common in both children and adults. Once appropriate tests have ruled out any underlying disorder like ulcers, colitis, or celiac disease, the diagnosis is often IBS.

Between 5 to 20% of kids have IBS, and about one in five adults do, too. It’s not fun, but the good news is that IBS doesn’t lead to more serious problems. It is more about quality of life for the child and the family.

Since the cause is not really known, and the symptoms can vary, IBS can be hard to treat.

Over the years a variety of theories have been offered to explain IBS symptoms in children. These have included emotional stress, intestinal hypersensitivity, altered intestinal motility, dietary intolerances and genetics(3,4).

In the last several years there has been a shift in the paradigm, and now alterations in the intestinal bacteria are thought to be a major factor leading to IBS.

We are all familiar with the term “food poisoning” — a bout of infectious diarrhea due to the consumption of harmful bacteria in contaminated foods or drinks.

Researchers in the area of IBS noted that many of the people who developed symptoms of IBS had experienced a recent episode of food poisoning(5). It was theorized that the infection caused a disruption of the healthy intestinal bacteria resulting in ongoing intestinal inflammation and GI symptoms(6).

Recent studies have supported this association and identified post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS) as a disorder due to a previous bout of  infectious gastroenteritis. Approximately 30% of individuals with IBS can date the onset of their symptoms following an episode of gastroenteritis(7).

Pediatric Medical Studies

In February of this year, a study(8) was published that documented for the first time that exposure to acute gastroenteritis in childhood is associated with an increased risk of IBS in early adulthood. There was an outbreak of infectious gastroenteritis due to drinking contaminated city water. Children were followed for 8 years after the exposure. The children who had a bout of gastroenteritis had a greater than fourfold increase in IBS compared with unexposed children.

This now brings us back to the new medical article that I mentioned at the beginning of this newsletter. The study(1) enrolled children 4 to 18 years of age who fulfilled the criteria for IBS. The children received a probiotic or a placebo. A daily record of their symptoms was maintained. At the end of the study, the results were reviewed.

The group receiving probiotics had a better than 50% improvement in their symptoms of abdominal pain, and bloating compared to the placebo group.  There was also an improvement in the passage of stools. Additionally, no adverse effects were noted in the group taking probiotics.

In 2008, a review article(2) on medications to ease the symptoms of IBS in children stated, “The lack of clear evidence of effectiveness for any of the recommended drugs suggests that there is little reason for their use outside of clinical trials.” The new study on childhood IBS, though, does show that probiotics are effective.

Take Home Message

If your child has IBS, probiotics may help to ease their symptoms. Fortunately, there have been no adverse effects associated with their use. Consider using EndoMune Jr for children less than 8 years of age and EndoMune Advanced for older children. It won’t hurt, and it certainly may help!

Eat healthy, exercise and live well!
Dr. Hoberman

(1) VSL#3 improves symptoms in children with irritable bowel syndrome: a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study.Guandalini S, Magazzù G, Chiaro A, La Balestra V, Di Nardo G, Gopalan S, Sibal A, Romano C, Canani RB, Lionetti P, Setty M.J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Jul;51(1):24-30.

(2) Pharmacological interventions for recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in childhood.Huertas-Ceballos ALogan SBennett CMacarthur CCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1).

(3) Irritable bowel syndrome: epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment: an update for health-care practitioners.Grundmann O, Yoon SL.J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Apr;25(4):691-9. Epub 2010 Jan 13.

(4) Pathogenesis of IBS: role of inflammation, immunity and neuroimmune interactions.Ohman L, Simrén M.Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Mar;7(3):163-73. Epub 2010 Jan 26. Review.

(5) The irritable colon syndrome. A study of the clinical features, predisposing causes, and prognosis in 130 cases.CHAUDHARY NA, TRUELOVE SC. Q J Med. 1962 Jul;31:307-22.

(6) Bacillary dysentery as a causative factor of irritable bowel syndrome and its pathogenesis . Wang LH , Fang XC , Pan GZ . Gut 2004 ; 53 : 1096 – 101.

(7) Postinfectious irritable bowel syndrome–a meta-analysis.Halvorson HASchlett CDRiddle MS.Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Aug;101(8):1894-9; quiz 1942.

(8) An Outbreak of Acute Bacterial Gastroenteritis Is Associated With an Increased Incidence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children Marroon Thabane, Marko Simunovic, Noori Akhtar-Danesh, Amit X Garg, William F Clark, Stephen M Collins, Marina Salvadori, John K Marshall The American Journal of Gastroenterology 105, 933-939 (23 February 2010).


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