The microbiome has gained importance in the last years, going from unknown to the headlines. It has been related with diseases such as Alzheimer, Parkinson or diabetes, among others, and is known to play an essential role in its “host”, as we could be considered in this relationship.
The Human Microbiome Project has shown that it comprises thousands of different species of microorganisms, such as bacteria, microbes and viruses. It is a complex and dynamic ecosystem affected by lifestyle, age, genetics and diet, among other factors. A healthier microbiota is directly related with a better health status.
The total microbiome is formed by the microbiote of the gastrointestinal tract, nose, skin, and other body organs, although is the intestinal one the more abundant and varied. It can weigh a total of 1-2kg, and we will focus specially on it in our entry.
Type of childbirth and first three years of life are key in gut microbiota development. There are differences in the microbiota of children delivered naturally or by caesarean section, who show lower numbers of bifido bacteria, related to a higher risk of asthma and rhinitis.
Exercise has been related with an increase in microbes’ species richness and a higher production of short-chain fatty acids, or SCFA. SCFA serve as energy source for many tissues, reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity. A varied microbioma, with a higher SCFA production, could affect athletic performance because of its anti-inflammatory effects, reduction of recovery time, effects on food utilization and even brain function.
A study where lean and obese individuals were subjected to 6 weeks of aerobic exercise training it was found that their gut microbiota composition was already different at baseline. Without changes in diet composition, their microbiota responded differently to exercise. After the exercise training period there was no difference between gut microbiota composition in both groups.
In obese participants the changes in the microbiota were associated with an improvement of cardiorespiratory fitness, measured as VO2max. After returning to a sedentary lifestyle, improvements in VO2max and enriched gut microbiome composition were reversed.
The link between exercise, gut microbiome composition and performance is clear. Therefore, any improvement to the gut microbiome will affect positively your metabolic health and sports results.
What you can do for your gut microbioma? Although there is a genetic base for gut composition it can also be affected by external factors:
- Negative factors: pollutants and pharmaceuticals
- Positive factors: a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics and exercise.
A better understanding of the microbioma will allow its targeted manipulation in the future.
Meanwhile, and once again, exercise is related with a better health outcome. Don´t forget to exercise yourselves and follow a varied and rich diet. It will give you a longer life, and more importantly a healthier one.
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