Study reveals that too much exercise can damage your gut

Flickr | Fit Approach

We always hear about how important it is to exercise. So it would seem that the more you exercise, the better. But it turns out that working out too much can actually have some negative health effects beyond just tired muscles or drastic weight loss.

A recent review of already-published studies that appeared in the journal “Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics” found that people who exercise excessively may be prone to acute or chronic gut issues.

This review of studies showed that when intensity and duration of exercise increased, so did the risk of gut damage and impaired gut function, a scenario the researchers called “‘exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome.” According to the study’s release, when exercise becomes too intense or too long, “the cells of the intestine are injured and the gut becomes more leaky, allowing pathogenic endotoxins normally present and isolated to the intestine to pass into the bloodstream.”

And this gut damage can cause more than just discomfort. It can also lead to acute and chronic health complications down the line.

How Much Should You Actually Be Exercising?

So how much exercise is too much? The review found that these negative health effects begin to occur when exercise exceeds two hours and 60 percent VO2max. Working out at 60 percent of V02 max corresponds with a heart rate that’s 75 percent of its maximum, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. On days that you choose to work out at a higher intensity, it can help to cut down on workout time to prevent any unwanted stomach issues.

If you’re someone with gut issues, it can be hard to figure out if your exercise routine is helping or hurting you. The researchers do make note that for patients with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, low to moderate exercise can be helpful with these issues. But go overboard with your workouts and you might find that your fitness habits actually exacerbate symptoms instead.

In these cases, it’s best to consult with a doctor to figure out your perfect formula. “It is recommended that a full gut assessment during exercise should be undertaken by individuals with symptoms of gut disturbances during exercise, to ascertain what is causing the issue and to develop individually tailored management strategies,” says Dr. Ricardo Costa, lead author of the review.

There’s no reason to ditch your workout for now, especially if you don’t have any current complications with your gut. But just to be safe, you’re best not doing too many high-intensity workouts for too long.


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About the Author
Carina Wolff
Carina is a health and wellness journalist based in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing, doing yoga, or exploring mountains and beaches, she spends her time cooking and creating recipes for her healthy food blog, Kale Me Maybe. Carina is also an ongoing writer for Bustle, Reader's Digest, FabFitFun, and more.

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