Effects of Physical Activities on the Digestive System

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The beneficial effects of physical activities on human health are undisputed. Indeed, practicing physical activity greatly improves your health and decreases the risk of contracting illnesses such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and even colon cancer. Your digestive health will also be affected by the practice of one or more sports.

Although the positive effects of sports on your digestion are numerous, intense physical activities may lead to adverse health effects. This article explains everything there is to know about physical activities and their effects to the digestive health.

The effects of sport on digestive health

Physical activity causes the contraction of the intestinal muscles, thus promoting the absorption of nutrients by the intestine. Also, since many sports demand the work of the abdominal muscles, their practice supports the proper functioning of the digestive system and removal of stool. Physical activity is therefore ideal for individuals with constipation problems. Indeed, the latter is favored by a sedentary lifestyle, that is to say, individuals who do not practice any physical activity are more likely to suffer from constipation.

Physical activities increase the body's oxygen supply, which leads to a reduction in the level of stress. Since stress can have adverse effects on the digestive system, the practice of a sport is conducive to its proper functioning.

Mechanisms of digestive complications related to intense physical activities

Intense sports practice, when poorly supervised, can lead to digestive complications; some of the effects include;

Ischemic complications

During intense physical exertion, the blood is directed primarily to the muscles, lungs, heart, and brain. As a result, the amount of blood to the organs of the digestive tract reduces by 80%. Thus, intense physical exercise will cause ischemic lesions (lack of oxygen) in the digestive mucosa. This effect weakens the digestive system and induces the production of toxic substances (such as endotoxins), these toxic substances will cause several symptoms including diarrhea.

Athletes are often affected by digestive disorders; diarrhea or gastric reflux. These diseases are common especially when the athletes practice over a long distance.

Mechanical complications

In runners, the impacts on the ground generate vibrations in the abdominal wall, which can cause a sensation of digestive discomfort. There are contradictory studies on the effect of running on intestinal transit; however, it is undeniable that runners are more likely to suffer from diarrhea and bloating as compared to the general population.

Here are some tips to avoid suffering from a gastric disorder when practicing a sport:

  • Avoid fatty, spicy, fermented and acidic foods since they are more difficult to digest.

  • Avoid eating legumes if your intestinal transit is usually affected.

  • Avoid doing physical activity directly after eating. It is best to wait 3 hours after a meal to avoid physical activity during the digestive process.

  • Drink a small amount of water during the practice of the sport to avoid overloading the stomach which works then in slow motion.

  • Avoid feeling too much stress if you participate in a competition, stress being harmful to digestion.

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