For the exercise lovers amongst us, it can sometimes be hard to get the balance right- especially when it comes to saying no to a workout. At Alt Healthy, we believe in moving your body in a way that nourishes the mind too and isn’t overly taxing on the body, but even so, over-doing any form of movement can be the beginning of a slippery slope.
Yes, overtraining is a thing. Not only can it lead to exhaustion, sore limbs, joints and muscles, but it can also spike anxiety levels, heighten emotions, boost food cravings – often for the wrong sort of foods – and make everything just seem significantly less enjoyable. Believe it or not, going OTT on the workouts can also be super taxing on the gut. If you’re a gym junkie and constantly find yourself bloated and gassy or dealing with regular bouts of diarrhoea or constipation, it might be time to step back. Right back.
Why, you ask? Exercise is a huge stressor on the body, increasing cortisol levels and triggering the well-known ‘fight or flight’ response. And as many of us are beginning to learn, stress can be a major player in wreaking havoc on the gut.
For the majority of my twenties I have dealt with incessant bloating, constipation and or diarrhoea, gas so bad often found myself avoiding social events, and intense cramps after eating certain foods.
I’ve also gone through periods of two-a-day intense workouts, lifting weights, smashing out HIITs, punching a boxing bag for 45 minutes….yes, it was fun but the multiple digestive dramas that also coincided with these workout-filled periods?
They were certainly NOT fun.
Leading Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert explains: ‘Overtraining can put the body under stress, and physiological stress has been associated with digestive disorders, such as diarrhoea.’
She adds: ‘Your gut acts as a second brain and correlates with your mood. When you’re stressed or nervous, your gut similarly responds with frequent trips to the toilet. This is why, listening to your gut is important when it comes to exercising, as it all links back to gut health.’
Gut health; probably one of the most over-heard terms of 2018 so far. But, rightly so- after all, the gut is often dubbed ‘the second brain’.
Added to my digestive dramas, in my twenties I developed an egg and a lactose intolerance. Normal things to develop, but could food intolerances be caused by an unhealthy gut, which has become unhealthier partially due to extreme stress on the body? Rhiannon says: ‘If your gut isn’t working properly you may not be absorbing nutrients effectively, which may cause discomfort and leave your stomach feeling more sensitive.’
She adds: ‘More variety and nutrient dense foods will help encourage diversity in the microbiome and help lessen digestive issues.’
If you’ve been burdened by tummy traumas for what seems like an eternity, then this could offer a small light at the end of the tunnel. Put pen to paper and note down your workouts and how your tummy behaves over a two-week period. If you notice that multiple rounds of HIIT a week are followed by flare ups, consider going back to the drawing board and incorporating more low impact and mind-soothing forms of movement. ‘Introducing light exercise such as Pilates and yoga can be great for reducing stress and anxiety, which ultimately will affect the gut, as the brain and gut are linked through the vagus nerve,’ says Rhiannon.
Rhiannon also reveals that problems from exercising can also arise due to dehydration. ‘Our bodies need for water increases when exercising, and when we don’t drink enough, this can lead to constipation, acid reflux and bloating,’ she explains. What’s more, giving your body enough time to digest food before exercising will decrease the chances of gastro problems such as heart burn, stomach pains and even vomiting. So no chowing down on breakfast and heading immediately to the gym…
So, while there are a variety of factors that could be triggering your tummy troubles, it could be something as simple as the stress put on your body by overtraining. Keep your movement mindful, intuitive and do what you can to remove the element of anxiety from your training. As always, we recommend seeing a health care professional if you feel like your tummy issues aren’t improving. Our bodies are beautiful in their uniqueness, and one size most definitely doesn’t fit all. Make your movement intuitive. Begin to move with your body rather than against it, and notice how everything changes.