Exercise and Your Gut, by Charlyn Fargo

We’ve all heard a lot about our gut microbiome and its importance to good health. What you may not have heard is that exercise can be as important as any probiotic for building a healthy gut microbiome.

What is our microbiome? Our gut microbiota begins at birth and affects functions throughout the body. Literally billions of bacteria live in our digestive tract and play an important role in our health. Of the thousands of species of gut microbes that live inside of us, some are healthy, some are not.

Good gut bacteria break down food, make vitamins and train our immune system. When we have more good bacteria than bad, our health improves. Similarly, imbalances in gut bacteria have been linked to obesity, mood disorders and an impaired immune response.

We know that eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes high-fiber, fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt) can help our gut bacteria thrive. Fiber-rich foods — like raspberries, artichokes, green peas, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, beans, whole grains, bananas, and apples — promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Other helpful foods include chicory root, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, whole wheat, spinach, oats, and soybeans.

Two studies conducted at the University of Illinois found evidence that exercise can alter the composition of microbes in the gut. In the first study, scientists at the U of I and the Mayo Clinic transplanted feces from exercised, sedentary mice into the colons of germ-free sedentary mice, which had been raised in a sterile facility and had no clean microbiota. They found that recipients of the exercised mouse microbiota had a higher proportion of microbes that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes gut cell health, reduces inflammation and generates energy.

In the second study, the team tracked changes in the composition of the gut microbiota in human participants as they transitioned from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle – and back again. Researchers recruited 18 sedentary lean adults and 14 obese adults, sampled their gut microbiome, and started them on an exercise program in which they performed supervised cardiovascular exercise for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week for six weeks. . The researchers sampled participants’ gut microbiomes at the end of the exercise program and after another six weeks of sedentary behavior.

Faecal concentrations of SCFAs, particularly butyrate, were increased in the human gut following exercise. These levels declined again after the participants returned to a sedentary lifestyle.

The bottom line? Here’s another reason to add daily exercise to your routine, along with healthy eating habits and lots of fiber. Your instincts will be glad you did.


Q: Do you need to refrigerate almond butter and peanut butter after opening?

A: Knowing when to refrigerate nut butters can be tricky. Your best bet is to read the label. If it says “refrigerate after opening” you must. If you’re buying all-natural peanut butter, you’ll want to store the jars in the refrigerator. Processed peanut butter brands are designed to have a long shelf life, thanks to the addition of stabilizers like palm oil and hydrogenated oils, so once opened they can be stored in a cool, dry cupboard . The National Peanut Board states that open jars of commercial processed peanut butter can be stored in a cupboard for two to three months. After that, they recommend storing the jars in the refrigerator, which extends the shelf life by another three to four months. Unopened jars will last six to nine months in the pantry; however, be sure to check expiration dates.


We’ve had a taste of fall temperatures lately in central Illinois. This, along with back to school, makes me think of fall foods. I’m a big fan of soup: it’s usually low in calories, nutrient-dense, and easy to make. This one can be made in a Dutch oven or in a slow cooker. If using the slow cooker, add the rice 30 minutes before serving.


Servings: 8

2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey

6 cups of water

1 can (28 oz) tomato sauce, no salt added

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained, no salt added

2 cups chopped green bell peppers (can use red, orange, yellow for color/taste)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons reduced-sodium beef broth granules (or alternative)

1 teaspoon of pepper

2 cups cooked long grain rice

Optional: chopped onion, chopped garlic and fresh basil to taste

In Dutch oven over medium heat, cook and stir beef (or ground turkey) until no longer pink, breaking into crumbs; drain. Stir in next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Lower the temperature; simmer, uncovered, until peppers are tender, about 30 minutes. Add cooked rice; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes longer. If desired, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serves 8 (portion: 1 cup).

Per serving: 337 calories; 24 grams of protein; 30 grams of carbohydrates; 14 grams of fat (5 grams saturated), 70 milligrams of cholesterol; 4 grams of fiber; 13 grams of sugar; 466 milligrams of sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To learn more about Charlyn Fargo and read articles by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Pexels on Pixabay

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