Wegierska, A. E. et al. The Connection Between Physical Exercise and Gut Microbiota: Implications for Competitive Sports Athletes. Sports Med 1–15 (2022)
Gut microbiota refers to those microorganisms in the human digestive tract that display activities fundamental in human life. With at least 4 million different bacterial types, the gut microbiota is composed of bacteria that are present at levels sixfold greater than the total number of cells in the entire human body. Among its multiple functions, the microbiota helps promote the bioavailability of some nutrients and the metabolization of food, and protects the intestinal mucosa from the aggression of pathogenic microorganisms. Moreover, by stimulating the production of intestinal mediators able to reach the central nervous system (gut/brain axis), the gut microbiota participates in the modulation of human moods and behaviors. Several endogenous and exogenous factors can cause dysbiosis with important consequences on the composition and functions of the microbiota. Recent research underlines the importance of appropriate physical activity (such as sports), nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle to ensure the presence of a functional physiological microbiota working to maintain the health of the whole human organism. Indeed, in addition to bowel disturbances, variations in the qualitative and quantitative microbial composition of the gastrointestinal tract might have systemic negative effects. Here, we review recent studies on the effects of physical activity on gut microbiota with the aim of identifying potential mechanisms by which exercise could affect gut microbiota composition and function. Whether physical exercise of variable work intensity might reflect changes in intestinal health is analyzed.