The gut microbiome is the bacteria that lives in our gastrointestinal tract, primarily in our small intestines. We are host to more good bacteria cells than we have human cells. A healthy gut microbiome has been linked to healthy body weight, proper digestion, reduced inflammation a joint pain, and improved immunity. These are all things that are critical for an athlete if they want to be the best that they can be.
“…Understanding the role of the gut microbiome in determining response to diet may also lead to improved personalization of sports nutrition for athletic performance. The gut microbiome has been shown to modify the effect of both diet and exercise, making it relevant to the athlete's pursuit of optimal performance."
Here are five facts that can help you understand how our good microbes can help support good athletic performance outcomes:
Good bacteria in our gut feed off of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds. Aim for a variety of seasonal nutrient dense foods. These foods are where we get fiber from, which a healthy gut microbiome loves.
Bad bacteria, the kinds that will make us sick or sluggish, feed and thrive off of processed foods, dairy, and animal based products. Highly processed foods that contain large amounts of saturated fats or sugars can increase the colonies of bad bacteria.
Consume adequate water daily. A hydrated digestive tract is a healthy digestive tract.
Fermented foods, such as kombucha teas and kimchi vegetables, are known to be excellent foods to support gut health.
Taking a probiotic supplement can also help to improve and shift the balance to more good bacteria. This is not a supplement you need to take daily, but may be recommended after taking a course of antibiotics.
So long as you are choosing whole foods as much as you can, and including servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal, than you are making good food choices to support gut health. There are a lot of dietary supplements, products, and cleanses that claim to do this in a pill or a juice. The best trick in the book is choosing food first. For more personalized health information, please seek an appointment with your Sports Dietitian.
The Athletes Gut, by Patrick Wilson, Velo Press, 2019.
“Gastrointestinal Disorders.” Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care, by Sylvia Escott-Stump, 8th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2015, pp. 400-486.