Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Exercised-induced gastrointestinal syndrome

Watch Ricardo present an overview of exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome, and provide further detail on how it can impact the body.
RICARDO COSTA: So what is exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome? So when you start exercising, the body undergoes some natural changes to prepare the body for the actual exercise stress. And because of these natural changes, the gastrointestinal tract can be perturbed. When you start exercising, two main things occur. First of all, you have an increase in sympathetic drive. So you have an increase in sympathetic nervous system and a reduction in your parasympathetic nervous system. And this has a tendency to reduce the overall function of the gastrointestinal tract. So that means you have a reduction in your gastric emptying, intestinal motility, and this can impair the transport mechanisms of nutrients along the intestinal wall.
So that means if consume food during exercise, when it hits the intestine, the uptake of those nutrients into the body and into circulation may be impaired because of the disturbances to these transport mechanisms. So that can lead to some malabsorption. Simultaneously, we have a change in the blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, meaning that when you start exercising, the blood flow moves into the muscles to provide muscles with the oxygen, removal of carbon dioxide, but also provide them with nutrients for the energy needs. This is at the expense of the blood flow to what we call the splanchnic around the gastrointestinal tract. So that creates a situation of ischaema.
So the problem with ischaema along the gastrointestinal tract, it will lead to damage and injury to cells along the intestine. So more specifically, along the epithelium, you’ve got important cells, such as goblet cells, paneth cells, and your enterocytes. The damage will create local inflammation, and that will increase your pro-inflammatory cytokines at the intestine epithelium. Both, with the damage and the increase in your localised inflammation, this prompts the increase in intestinal permeability, meaning that the tight-junctions which hold all the cells of the epithelium together start to open, and, therefore, there’s more space for the bacterial content of the intestine to leech into normal circulation.
If this occurs, we’ll have the immune system going into action and producing a systemic inflammatory response to try and protect the internal body. In normal, healthy people, that’s not a problem because the body has the ability to counteract that systemic response in the form of anti-inflammatory agents such as Interleukin 10. Many people that aren’t fit for purpose or may be ill or immuno-compromised, this is where the systemic response can lead to health implications.

Watch Ricardo present an overview of exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome, and provide further detail on how it can impact an athlete’s gut and performance.

Find out more

Consider exploring a schematic description of exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome to find out more about the changes that take place in the body and the impact on the gastrointestinal tract.

You may also be interested in Systematic review: exercise‐induced gastrointestinal syndrome—implications for health and intestinal disease and Exertional-heat stress-associated gastrointestinal perturbations during Olympic sports: Management strategies for athletes preparing and competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which further explore this research area.

It’s worth noting that these papers are included to help demonstrate some of the research in this area, but we do not expect you to purchase a subscription to read the full paper.

Hopefully, just reading the summary provided in the free abstract will be sufficient for those that are wanting to know more about this study.

This article is from the free online

Food as Medicine: Food, Exercise and the Gut

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education