Exercise is good for us, yes?
With its wide-range of benefits that include supporting heart, muscle and bone health, the short answer is yes.
But could there be repercussions in over-exercising?
For some people, yes; intense exercise can lead to leaky gut. In the literature (1), it is referred to as “exercise-induced gut permeability,” and the mechanism for damage stems from changes in blood flow and neuronal functioning.
During exercise, blood flow is diverted from the intestinal tract. Also, changes in the nervous system work to decrease intestinal motility. Our bodies move the resources to the arms and legs, and away from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Similarly, stress of any kind can exacerbate leaky gut for the same reason. Adrenal hormones move resources away from the GI tract and into skeletal muscle, away from the intestines. In addition, any type of stress can cause oxidative damage.
The concept of leaky gut has been slow to infiltrate traditional medical circles. A recent article (2) sums up the current opinion, but there is a growing body of literature (3) characterizing the nature of leaky gut. Many practitioners see it as the underlying cause of conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, food sensitivities, thyroid abnormalities, mood swings, skin conditions and autism.
The authors concluded, “Strenuous exercise has a major reversible impact on gastrointestinal integrity and function of healthy populations. The safety and health implications of prolonged strenuous exercise in patients with chronic gastrointestinal diseases/disorders, while hypothetically worrying, has not been elucidated and requires further investigation.”
Another study (4) looked at what could be done to protect the GI tracts of elite athletes. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested whether zinc carnosine and/or bovine colostrum (a natural source of growth factors) would help with the negative GI effects of intense exercise. It was a crossover study, with the volunteers taking placebo, zinc carnosine, colostrum or a combination of zinc carnosine and colostrum before undertaking exercise. After exercise body temperature increased 20 C and intestinal permeability increased as measured by five-hour urinary lactulose/rhamnose ratios. The authors concluded, “ZnC [zinc carnosine], taken alone or with colostrum, increased epithelial resistance and the TJ [tight junction] structure and may have value for athletes.”
Zinc carnosine and colostrum are only two substances that are useful for healthy intestinal support. Studies have not been designed yet, but other GI protective substances should also be beneficial to those who exercise intensely, especially when you consider what Dr. Costa had to say after the findings in his study. Clinical studies show other substances such as aloe (5), bone broth, L-glutamine (6), and MSM (7) support the health and integrity of the gastrointestinal tract.