When I was in medical school, bacteria were still considered one of the biggest public health threats we faced.
And antibiotics were believed to be the Holy Grail that would wipe them out.
The “conventional wisdom” was that if you got rid of bacteria, you would eliminate deadly diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis.
In fact, a whole industry designed to kill these germs was born. It started in the late 1980s when GOJO Industries invented Purell, the world’s first hand sanitizer.
But even back in school, I was fascinated by the complex ecosystem of microbes that we carry around in our gut. It’s called your “microbiome.” And I realized these bugs had to play an important role in our overall health.
You see, your body is host to 100 trillion or more bacteria, viruses and fungi.
That’s about 10 times more than the human cells in your body.1
Even as a student, I wasn’t convinced we should kill off these microbes with antibiotics. And I was right…
We need a balance between good and bad bacteria in our body.
When the bad bacteria in your gut crowd out the good bacteria — or “probiotics” — inflammation becomes chronic. Your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer goes up. So do rates of allergies, asthma, autism and autoimmune diseases.2
So how do you keep your gut bugs in balance?
Fermented foods rich in natural probiotics are the best way to regulate your microbiome.
And the food I recommend most to my patients is seaweed.
Good microbes hitchhike into your gut on raw seaweed. Even cooked seaweed promotes the growth of good bacteria. Marine plants actually ferment in the digestive tract and release compounds that feed good gut bacteria. You can buy several varieties of seaweed at health food stores and specialty grocers. Look for arame, kombu, nori or wakame.
But new research shows that exercise can also improve your gut balance.
Studies show elite athletes have a much more diverse set of microbes in their guts. But you don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit…
In a study from the University of Illinois, scientists took samples of gut microbes from 32 sedentary adults. Then the participants started a six-week exercise program. They did a cardio workout for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week. Then for another six weeks they returned to their sedentary ways.4
Results showed that after exercise study participants had more good gut microbes. And those bugs produced butyrate. This short-chain fatty acid promotes healthy intestines, generates energy, and reduces inflammation. But when they stopped exercising their butyrate levels dropped.
Studies show butyrate helps:
In other words, keeping the right microbes in your gut to produce butyrate can help you avoid many modern diseases.
I advise my patients to boost their good gut bugs with a simple 12-minute routine from my PACE exercise program.
With PACE, your goal is to hit a peak of intensity in a short time frame and then rest. Instead of spending an hour doing cardio, you get the benefits in just minutes.
PACE is safe at any age. And it doesn’t matter if you’re out of shape. You can start out easy, at your own level. Gradually, you increase your intensity as each move becomes easier.
Start with one of my favorite low-impact moves. You don’t need to warm up, because the warm up is part of the progression you’ll make as you repeat the exercise.
- Stand upright with your legs together, arms extended in front of your chest, and elbows bent.
- Lift your right knee toward your left elbow. At the same time, swing your right arm down and behind you
- Return to starting position.
- Repeat motion on the other side.
Alternate those two marching-style movements until you reach your desired intensity. Then rest and recover. At first, you’ll have to take longer breaks, but they’ll get shorter as you progress.
Try doing three sets like this. To make it a PACE workout, increase the challenge. Instead of marching, add a little hop or jump. At the same time, shorten your recovery time between sets.
If you want to learn some other good PACE exercises, go to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/AlSearsMD/videos. I have more than 30 different exercises and a complete workout to help you get started.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Conlon MA, Bird AR. “The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health.” Nutrients.2015.
2. Logan AC., et al. “Immune-Microbiota Interactions: Dysbiosis as a Global Health Issue.” Curr. Allergy Asthma Rep. 2016 Feb.
3. Clarke SF., Murphy EF., O’Sullivan O., et al. “Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity.” Gut. 2014 Dec.
4. Allen JM., Mailing LJ., Niemiro GM., et al. “Exercise Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and Function in Lean and Obese Humans.” Med Sci Sports Exerc.2017 Nov 20.