How movement and exercise help your IBD

Chronic inflammation plays a central role in the pathology of many diseases.

Physical training (movement and exercise) has been suggested to be protective against the onset of IBD.

When you improve your mobility and range of motion your body is more capable of bigger movements (think pushups or squats for example). The more of these bigger movements you are able to perform the more muscle stimulation occurs (hypertrophy). Some studies suggest that hypertrophy could play a role as a barrier to the inflammatory process. Contracting skeletal muscles release biologically active myokines, known to exert the direct anti-inflammatory effects, and inhibit the release of proinflammatory mediators from visceral fat.

The well-documented observations that physical activity is inversely correlated with systemic low-level inflammation lead to the suggestion that the anti-inflammatory activity induced by regular exercise may be responsible for some beneficial health effects in patients with chronic diseases.

  1. Begin moving better
  2. Move more often
  3. Move for a longer duration of movements (time, sets/reps, volume)
  4. Create more muscle growth
  5. Benefit more with less inflammation

How good nutrition helps your IBD

Good nutrition is defined by Precision Nutrition in The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition as having these following four characteristics:

  1. Properly controls energy balance
  2. Provides nutrient density
  3. Achieves health, body composition, and performance goals
  4. Is honest and outcome-based

With IBD, practicing good nutrition (and the habits taught in the online coaching program) help to promote a healthier gut barrier. Improving your gut barrier with IBD may help to improve your body’s ability to:

  • promote a more balanced intestinal bacteria
  • keep your mucosa intact
  • maintain a healthy immune system

How to improve your gut health¹

  1. Get to the root cause. While there can be many causes of gut troubles, there is always a cause.  Identify it with your doctor before you mask or ignore symptoms.
  2. Eliminate any foods/drinks you know to be problematic.  Do this on your own (see here: and How To Do an Elimination Diet) or set up an elimination diet with a professional (we’d cover this in the online coaching program)
  3. Balance your bacteria.  Beneficial bacteria strengthen the intestinal barrier.  Choose 1-2 probiotic/prebiotic rich foods/drinks and consume them regularly.  See here for ideas: All About Probiotics 
  4. Eat when hungry, stop when satisfied.  If someone is having gut problems (and still gaining body fat), the first place to look is overconsumption of sugars, processed grains, processed meats, dairy, and rich meals.
  5. Sugar alcohols can wreak havoc in the gut. If you are struggling with bloating and cramping, eliminating sugar alcohols might be a wise place to start (think sugar free desserts, gum, protein powders, protein bars, etc).
  6. Slow down.  The process of slowing down and chewing is important for enzyme release and breaking food down into particles that are manageable for the gut.
  7. Consider glutamine.  Glutamine can help reverse excessive intestinal permeability, act as fuel for intestinal cells, and might attenuate the allergic response.
  8. Consider digestive enzyme supplements. Look for a broad-based multi-enzyme formula. Many of us produce less hydrochloric acid — a key digestive component of our stomachs — as we age; look for a formula that includes betaine HCl. (However, if this type of formula gives you heartburn, stick to the regular enzyme supplements without betaine.)
  9. Check vitamin D levels.  Low vitamin D status might decrease immune function and is associated with IBD.
  10. Check iron levels.  Decreased iron status is associated with poor gut function. This can result from gut malabsorption with the consumption of mineral-binding foods such as grains and legumes, or simply a low iron intake. Vegetarians/vegans and endurance athletes are especially prone to this.
  11. Supplement wisely. Natural compounds that might help gut health include St. John’s Wort, melatonin, curcumin (turmeric), Iberis amara, chamomile, arrowroot, peppermint, Boswellia carterii, artichoke leaf, clove, zinc, quercetin, gamma oryzanol, licorice root, CoQ10, phosphatidylcholine, aloe vera and psyllium. But ideally, solve the underlying problem (e.g. digestive intolerance) first.
  12. Eat plenty of omega-3s (flax, walnuts, hemp, chia, fish, algae) and other whole food fats (olives, avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds, etc) to help moderate inflammation.  Also note that medium chain fats, found in coconut, can also help with gut health.
  13. Flavonoids (this includes isoflavones, anthocyanidins, flavones, flavonols, flavan-3-ols and flavonones) can help improve gut health.  Fruits, vegetables, beans (including soy), tea and coffee are the major sources of flavonoids in the human diet.  Foods in the cabbage family and vegetable broths can also help here. On the other hand, if FODMAPs are a problem for you, choose carefully, as some of these foods may cause more trouble.
  14. Recover well. Sleep, stress management (e.g., meditation, yoga) and exercise are necessary for renewal of the body and controlling inflammation.  Improving these areas may improve gut health.   Remember that excessive exercise can lead to poor gut health.  Avoid big meals before exercise.
  15. Eat real food. Our bodies have a longstanding relationship with whole/real foods.  Food preservatives and additives, on the other hand, present a new (and perhaps impossible) challenge for our bodies.
  16. Get fibre. Nutrient-dense, high-fibre carbohydrates like vegetables are important in the diet. Eat your veggies! And if you’re like most Westerners, you probably need more fibre.  Try beans, peas, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits and whole grains.  For more see here: All About Fiber
  17. Breast-feed.  Children who are breast-fed tend to have less gastrointestinal infections and inflammatory disorders.
  18. Avoid common triggers such as:
    • added sugars;
    • refined grains;
    • MSG (see here: Hidden Sources of MSG);
    • NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen drugs);
    • acid blockers; and
    • alcohol (except red wine in moderate amounts).

    These harm our healthy bacteria, disrupt the delicate chemical ecosystem of our GI tracts, and/or cause additional gut damage (e.g. NSAIDs can cause GI bleeding).

  19. Reduce your chemical burden.  Choose organic when possible, avoid heating foods in plastics, use clean body products, avoid food colorings/preservatives and avoid fish high in toxins.
  20.  When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. If you need to evacuate your colon, do it. Avoid waiting.  One to three bowel movements per day = good.(1. information sourced from Precision Nutrition’s “All About Nutrition & Gut Health” by Ryan Andrews)

(1. information sourced from Precision Nutrition’s “All About Nutrition & Gut Health” by Ryan Andrews)

IBD Resources