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Excessive exercise linked to gastrointestinal issues

A study shows that hitting the gym too hard comes with its own set of health risks

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For many people, getting exercise can be problematic because they can’t find the time to get enough of it. But there are some people who have the exact opposite problem – namely, that they exercise too much. It might not sound all that bad, but a recent study shows that excessive exercise comes with its own health risks.

A team of researchers have found that excessive exercise can cause intestinal injury, which could lead to exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome. Unfortunately, all consumers are at risk of acute or chronic health complications from this condition, regardless of their fitness level.

“As exercise intensity and duration increases, there is considerable evidence for increases in indices of intestinal injury, permeability and endotoxaemia, together with impairment of gastric emptying, slowing of small intestinal transit and malabsorption,” the researchers say.

Gut issues

In more basic terms, the study has linked excessive exercise with cell damage in the intestines. When this happens, the intestines become more porous and many pathogenic endotoxins that are usually confined to this area of the body can leech into the bloodstream, which can cause a variety of health problems.

The results of the study show that exercise stress of two hours or more at 60% VO2max – a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that a consumer can use – was enough to cause symptoms of exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome. Exercising in hot ambient temperatures also seemed to exacerbate symptoms more quickly, and the researchers say that consumers with pre-existing gastrointestinal issues may be at greater risk than the average person.

“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,” said lead author Dr. Ricardo Costa.

While the study provides important insights on this health issue, Costa and his colleagues believe that further research is needed to validate their findings.

The full study has been published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics

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