The Ireland national Rugby team participated in a pioneering study that looked into how exercise affects your gut bacteria. It was already known that what you eat affects what bacteria live inside you (your gut microbiome) – and that can have implications for your health. What was not so clear was whether exercise also had an effect. Professional athletes and sports people are obviously a good place to start looking for an effect of exercise.
The study was done by a team from Cork who worked with the Irish Rugby Football Union to study the microbiomes of the team while they were in their training camp for the Rugby World cup. Importantly, the team also looked at what the team were eating so that they could separate the effects of diet and exercise.
To act as controls for the study, two additional groups of volunteers were recruited; one group had BMIs (body mass index) that matched the rugby team; another group was matched for age and gender, but were otherwise typical of the normal population.
What did the study find?
First of all, exercise increased the diversity of gut bacteria. Having a varied population of different types bacteria in the gut is beneficial for your health. Higher levels of protein (often found in athlete’s diets) also increased the diversity.
Secondly, the low BMI group had higher levels of a particular bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila. This is known to be beneficial in a number of ways, including reducing inflammation and improving your gut’s barrier function.
So your fitness routine is an effective way to improve the make-up of your gut microbiome, especially when partnered with the right diet.
If you’d like to know more about your bacteria, what they say about your health and fitness, and get some personal tips on improving them, our HolistX Sports Microbiome kit can give you the answers.