You may not think about keeping your digestive system on track—but a healthy gut allows you to maintain effective workouts, eat delicious foods, and reduce stress throughout your body. Some research suggests exercise can benefit your gut health for the better; however, other studies indicate the exact opposite.
To get to the truth of the matter we spoke to Soyona Rafatjah, NYC Medical Director for Parsley Health. She helped shine a light on how gut health affects overall fitness.
Let’s get right to it—is too much exercise bad for your gut health?
“Too much of anything can be harmful, and that includes exercise. It can cause elevations in stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, which when chronically elevated do have negative repercussions such as insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, elevated blood pressure, emotional disturbances, and muscle fatigue and break down.”
How much exercise is technically “too much”?
“For most people, 30-60 minutes of exercise, 4-6 days per week is great. For some, it may be too much, and for others, it may be too little for them to reach their personal goals. In general, it is important to take at least one day off from strenuous exercise per week to let your body rest, and it’s important to not stress the same muscles multiple days in a row.”
How does gut health affect your overall fitness?
“Your gut is the center of health for your entire body, and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is the filter between our bodies and the outside environment. This decides what is friend or foe—what to incorporate into the body and what to eliminate from it.
If this interface is going well, then we get the nutrients we need from our food and eliminate waste appropriately. If it’s not functioning appropriately, then we can be depleted of important nutrients, absorb excessive waste, food particles, and bacteria, and as a result, our immune systems can be thrown into a state of chronic inflammation.”
Learn how a Parsley doctor can help you heal your gut issues for good.
What are some warning signs or symptoms that may indicate an issue with gut health?
“Common gut-related symptoms include bloating, reflux, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. However, since gut issues can cause inflammation in other areas of the body, people with gut issues can experience emotional or mental issues, skin inflammation, neurological problems, or even joint pain.”
Is “leaky gut syndrome” a related issue to gut health?
“Yes. Since the lining of the intestines is only one cell layer thick, if the gut is exposed to something that causes inflammation there, then the cells will open up in an attempt to expel whatever is causing the inflammation. The end result is intestinal permeability or ‘leaky gut.’”
What are a few ways you can improve your gut health?
“First, eat a diet rich in real food: things are are not packaged, come from the earth (growing or grazing), and are rich in phytonutrients (not sugar and refined carbohydrates).
Make sure to relax and rest. In this busy, hectic world, we need to strive for down time and quality sleep—meditation and having a spiritual practice can be extremely helpful, whether it’s using an app for 10 minutes per day or writing in a gratitude journal.
Finally, give your digestion a break sometimes. We don’t need to be eating 24/7; the idea of constant snacking to never be hungry is something that the food industry has pressed into our brains as a necessity. Giving your digestive tract a break of four hours between meals ensures the peristalsis in your gut happens efficiently.”
What do you wish more people knew about gut health?
“There are 100 trillion+ bacteria living in your gut. The ones that will keep you healthy thrive on foods that are natural and rich in fiber. It’s not what you’re eating, but who you’re feeding—so keep that in mind when making everyday dietary choices.”
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