We’ve all heard how good running can be for you. Running helps to lose weight, prevent disease, lower stress, strengthen joints, manage blood pressure… the list goes on and on. But there’s a surprising problem you may be experiencing if you’re a long distance runner. It’s called leaky gut. I know, it sounds gross, but if you’re a runner then it’s something to keep in mind. How do you know if you have a leaky gut? Read on to find out common symptoms and how to treat it.
What is leaky gut, anyways?
Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability, is a dysfunction in the lining of our intestine. Our intestinal walls are only one cell layer thick. Their job is to absorb nutrients and prevent bacteria from getting into our bloodstream. When the cells of the gut lining start to separate and let bacteria enter the bloodstream, we get what we call leaky gut. This can lead to all kinds of health issues, including:
- autoimmune disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- food sensitivities
- irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- ulcerative colitis
- thyroid problems
- nutrient deficiencies
- depression and other mood disorders
How does running lead to leaky gut?
It’s actually not just running that can lead to leaky gut. Powerlifters and people who do cross-fit are at risk, too. Same goes for anyone who does vigorous strength training or heavy exercise. The gut lining becomes more permeable due to the amount of stress put on your body by these types of activity. High physical stress leads to higher metabolic demands. Endurance sports do appear to have the most profound effect on leaky gut though, which is why you might be more concerned if you’re a marathon runner, cyclist, or triathlete.
When you exercise, plant-derived carbohydrates are digested and fermented by the gut. This can create some harmful byproducts that play a role in creating leaks in your gut. Once you have a leaky gut, toxins are more easily able to cross from your intestines into your bloodstream.
Endurance exercise can also increase our secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This means that more inflammation is happening in the gut, which can throw off the balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria in the intestines.
If you know me, you know I don’t like talking about health issues without some scientific studies to back up what I’m saying. So let’s take a look at one. Researchers looked at LPS (lipopolysaccharide) levels in athletes. They chose to look at LPS because it is a toxin found in bacteria. They measured LPS from blood samples of 29 athletes before, immediately after, one hour after, two hours after, and 16 hours after a triathlon. What they found was that LPS in the blood increased immediately after the race. But guess what? LPS was even higher than that one hour later. This demonstrated that there was an increase in leaky gut both during and after intense exercise.
I think I might have a leaky gut… now what?
Don’t hang up your running shoes just yet, folks. There might be a solution to those leaks in your gut. Remember how I mentioned that the balance between good and bacteria in the gut can get thrown off? Well, one way to help restore that balance is by taking probiotics. Probiotics are known as the good, healthy bacteria that we want and need in our gut. There are many different strains of probiotics. The two that have been shown to be most helpful with leaky gut are called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These strains help cells of the intestinal wall to tighten up the gaps between them.
A study demonstrated that probiotic supplements reduced LPS levels in the blood. This led to less leaky gut as well as an increase in the amount of time it took to reach fatigue while exercising in hot temperatures. This means that probiotics could actually help to improve athlete performance, too!
If you are a runner and suspect you may have a leaky gut, don’t wait until deteriorating health issues come along. Act now by booking your appointment with Dr. Corina Kibsey, ND today.