Your Healthy Gut, Cortisol, and Exercise


Your Gut and Cortisol News

As if there weren't already enough good reasons to take care of and heal your gut, as well as good reasons to exercise, research has given us more things to consider. The importance of a healthy gut is well known and documented. It is, in fact, connected to optimal function of everything in your body. The first line of action for any cell in the body is to be nourished. Poor gut integrity, including poor colonization and diversity, contributes to poor nourishment, numerous troubling conditions and symptoms.

Prebiotics and the Anti-Stress Connection

Research shows the connection between a healthy gut and cortisol production.  Published in December (2014), the study linked the ingestion of galactooligosaccharides with reduction of cortisol production.  Cortisol is a major stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is a necessary hormone, but in excess creates weight gain, poor overall hormone balance, and susceptibility to stress responses. In the study, not only were the cortisol awakening responses decreased by the ingestion of the galactooligosaccharides, but the subjects were also more attentive to positive information vs. negative information.

What are galactooligosaccharides?  They are prebiotics, produced through enzymatic conversion of lactose from bovine milk.  Prebiotics are primarily indigestible fibers which are beneficial to the host organism through a synbiotic relationship with healthy bacteria in the body. Through fermentation in the gut, they encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, particularly species of bifidobacteria.  They also aid in the absorption of calcium, a major mineral and electrolyte needed for a multitude of physical processes, includung bone building, neurotransmitter release, muscle contraction, and electrical conduction in the heart.

Interestingly, the study did not see the same reduction in morning cortisol production with subjects who ingested fructooligosaccharides vs. galactooligosaccharides.  Both are prebiotics but are derived from different sources, with fructooligosaccharides found primarily in plant sources.  (People with FODMAPS sensitivities must use caution with fructooligosaccharides, but this is not usually the case with galactooligosaccharides.)

Authors of this study stated, "The suppression of the neuroendocrine stress response and the increase in the processing of positive versus negative attentional vigilance in subjects supplemented with B-GOS are consistent with previous findings of endocrine and anxiolytic effects of microbiota proliferation. Further studies are therefore needed to test the utility of B-GOS supplementation in the treatment of stress-related disorders." (1)


The Gut/Exercise Connection

The second study relates to the contribution of exercise to gut bacterial diversity and health.  Also published in December (2014),  the study followed male subjects whose serum creatine kinase levels were measured, along with metabolic & inflammatory markers.  Creatine kinase catalyzes the conversion of creatine (an amino acid which helps to supply energy to all cells in the body) and also consumes ATP to produce ADP.  ADP-ATP cycling is in constant flux in the body as it searches for the most efficient and available energy storage.

The study followed a control group alongside a group of athletes.  In the athlete group the study reported, "Gut microbiota diversity directly correlated with protein consumption and creatine kinase levels." (2)  The researchers concluded, "The results provide evidence for a beneficial impact of exercise on gut microbiota diversity but also indicate that the relationship is complex and is related to accompanying dietary extremes."

This information is important, also, in the sense that many people believe that consumption of probiotics and plant foods are the only ways to improve gut flora.  The truth is that individualized nutrition creates a healthy body, including a healthy gut. If protein consumption and exercise can increase gut microbiota, then it stands to reason that if a body requires a certain amount of protein to have optimal metabolic function, the health of the gut and the whole body will improve with individualized diet.  At True Nature Health Consulting, a foundation is created for both healing and achieving optimal health through individualized nutrition.



(1) Schmidt K, et al.  Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2014 Dec 3

(2) Clarke SF, et al.  Gut. 2014; 63: 1913-20