Exercise may have an unanticipated benefit. Irish researchers examined the DNA markers in stool samples from professional rugby players. Sequencing DNA allows scientists to analyze the diversity of bacteria living within the digestive tract.
Compared to overweight sedentary individuals, the athletes had many more different types of healthy organisms in their microbiome. They also had lower levels of inflammation. The more diverse the bacteria in the gut, the better our immune systems function. More diverse gut bacteria are also associated with leaner individuals, though whether that is cause or effect is unclear. The scientists admit they do not know if the additional microbiota diversity is due to the exercise itself or to the diets these high-level athletes follow.
There is an editorial comment on this article suggesting that both diet and exercise are related to microbial diversity.
The People’s Pharmacy Perspective: New research increasingly shows the critical role our gut microbes play in our health. Keeping them healthy, happy and well diversified is a worthwhile effort! If your own digestive tract could use a tune-up, you may want to check out our Guide to Digestive Disorders.