December 30, 2019
Here’s the Scoop on How Exercise Affects Your Poop
Cute jack russell pet dog puppy doing his toilet, pooping in the grass.Source: Adobe Stock
Sometimes, you have to get moving in order to get it moving. According to 2018 research published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases, exercise improves gastrointestinal motility – a.k.a. the more you move, the more you poo.
“In addition to eating habits, water intake, and fiber intake, the increased physical activity level as a result of the 12-week combined exercise program reduced the CCT [colonic transit time],” the study says.
Over the course of 12 weeks, patients from the Somang Hospital Psychiatric Unit participated in at least 60 minutes of exercise three days a week.
Their physical fitness and how long it took for food to move through their colon (colonic transit time) were measured twice before and after the program.
Researchers found the total colonic transit time had reduced significantly in the participants, compared to the control group.
Furthermore, a 2018 University of Gothenburg study found physical activity provided gastrointestinal system relief in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
“Physical activity is associated with improved IBS symptoms and psychological parameters in the long term,” the study says. “Increased physical activity is a treatment option in IBS.”
In addition to reducing colonic transit time, exercise positively affects gut microbiota, which is the population of microorganisms in our gut that regulate metabolism and immune functioning, according to 2017 Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity research.
“These changes can be both quantitative and qualitative resulting in variations of the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiota which, in turn, can affect health and different disease processes,” the study explains. “Recent studies suggest that exercise can enhance the number of beneficial microbial species, enrich the microflora diversity, and improve the development of commensal bacteria.”
Their research suggests that exercise has protective effects on the colon, reducing the risk of cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
“Even in the presence of a high-fat diet, exercise may reduce inflammatory infiltrate and protect the morphology and the integrity of the intestine,” the study adds.
However, too much of anything can be a bad thing.
What’s the Downside?
Exercise reduces stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, according to a 2018 Harvard Health article. But exercising too much can stress the body out, too.
The physical and psychological demands of intense exercise can trigger a stress response in the body, says a 2016 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition review.
In turn, this contributes to gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, and mood disturbances.
A 2017 Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics review found strenuous exercise over prolonged periods can impair gastric emptying and cause malabsorption.
Low-intensity workouts like yoga, tai-chi, and walking are less stressful on the body, and therefore, less likely to lead to complications.
In fact, a 2015 Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine review found yoga can help manage symptoms of IBS. Since many yoga poses target the lower abdomen, it can increase circulation in the intestines.
Exercise reduces the amount of time it takes for food to travel through the colon, improves symptoms of IBS, and positively affects gut microbiota.
However, too much exercise can have adverse effects on digestion, whereas low-intensity workouts are less strenuous and still help regulate digestion.
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