Why Healthy People Get Broken Guts, And What You Can Do About It.

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Digestion, Podcast

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You've probably seen it before.

The classic photo of a marathoner bent over the road, puking their guts out.

Or a triathlete hunched over with abdominal pain on the bike.

Or the bodybuilder wandering around the gym with persistent annoying gas, the weekend warrior unable to get through a single run without bloating or diarrhea, or the health nut who seems to be constantly constipated no matter what they do.

Today, we're going to delve into why apparently healthy people, especially athletes and exercise enthusiasts, get broken guts, and what they can do about it.

Dr. Michael Ruscio is considered a leader in the functional medicine movement, as both a clinician and lecturer. He frequently speaks nationally to health care professionals as well as to the public. Dr. Ruscio has lectured at UC Berkeley, at the Ancestral Health Society and performed numerous interviews.

Dr. Ruscio is a post graduate continuing education provider at Life Chiropractic College West. He has a clinical practice in Northern California where he specializes in functional medicine and sees patients both domestically and internationally. He is currently writing a book on digestive conditions and thyroid disease. He is also currently working toward launching a clinical trial in his office in 2015.

Dr. Ruscio obtained his Doctorate of Chiropractic from Life Chiropractic College West and has completed post-doctoral specialty training in Functional Medicine. Prior to his specialty training, Dr. Ruscio obtained his B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

-Dr. Ruscio's personal diet, and what his typical day looks like (including his meal of choice at Whole Foods)…

-The surprising things that happen to your gut when you combine calories and high levels of physical activity…

-Whether athletes should fast, and what happens when an exercise enthusiast “stops the flow of calories” and fasts

-How an “elemental diet” works to reduce stress on the gut…

-When you actually should consider starving the bacteria in your gut…

-Whether you can combat “overstressing” the gut with food by simply using things like digestive enzymes…

-The biggest mistake most people make with cleanses, enemas and detoxing…

-How you can heal damage to the valves passing through your gut…

-If you could test anything and everything going in your gut, what you should test…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Dr. Ruscio's website and special gut testing discounts for BenGreenfieldFitness listeners

-Study: Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity

Toll-like receptors and their downregulation in exercise enthusiasts

Elemental diet instructions

Digestive enzymes


Iberogast for gut motility

Motilpro for gut motility

Wurn protocol

Interstitial cells of cajal

Three day gut panel (stool test)

The bonus materials Dr. Ruscio and I discuss

More notes:

·        This study was in the journal Gut in 2014:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25021423  This study compared activity level and diet of professional Rugby players to that of non-athletes of similar size, sex and age.

·        Your gut contains many sensors called toll-like receptors or TLRs.  These TLRs are responsible for monitoring “stuff” in the gut; specifically they help us identify good stuff from bad stuff.

·        Exercise may modulate these sensors http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25825908  and even prevent them from telling your immune system to attack.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17201071  Remember too much “attack” signaling can occur in autoimmune conditions.

·        It has been shown that hormones releases during exercise, like noradrenaline, stimulate the growth of non-pathogenic, commensal (aka ‘good’) E.Coli, as well as other gram-negative bacteria.

o    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12412628

o    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1731173

o   E. Coli is often stereotyped as being a bad guy, however there are many types of E. Coli, several are good guys. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9199437  In fact some E. Coli probiotics have shown impressive results for treating inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease)

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15479682

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10466665

o   and IBS

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22130826

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18331331

·        However, just because some exercise is good does not mean more is better.  It has been shown that those who perform extreme levels of exercise are at increased risk for infection.  

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11050532

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16558471

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10910297

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11050537

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10893023

·        Too much exercise may also cause leaky gut



·        This is likely because too much exercise can cause immune suppression.  This hints at the importance of balance.  For example other studies have shown moderate exercise may also reduce levels of colon cancer, while excessive amounts may be damaging to your gut. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11171839    

·        Mice who get physical activity show increased fermentation of prebiotics and well as a decreased inflammatory response.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25695388

o    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18256465    Other animal studies also show exercise reduces intestinal inflammation

o    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22647663

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20510350

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18317386

·        Exercising without a break may be the most stressful on your body.  For example short circuits with not rest or prolonged cardiovascular exercise with no rest may be the more problematic for those trying to recover from burnout or illness. 

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22561973

o   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23667795

§  The most important factor is ensuring you are exercising enough, but not too much. 


§  If you are ill or trying to recover from burnout, I recommend:

·        Getting light activity, outside (ideally in a forest-like environment) and preferably with a friend.

o   Start with 1-2 days a week, around 20-30 minutes and push yourself hard enough to break a light sweat.  Pay attention to the signs of overtraining.  If you do not experience any of these you can slowly ramp up your amount of exercise.

·         HRV (heart rate variability) is a simple and very inexpensive way to monitor yourself.

o   See here for more, http://drruscio.com/hrv-novel-tool-assessing-stress-levels-podcast-28/

·        Exercise is an example of how we can modulate our internal environment making our bodies a hospitable place for good bacteria to grow.  By obtaining the appropriate amount of exercise you will modulate your immune system to allow more good bacteria to growth, thus optimizing your microbiota and overall health. 


Do you have questions, comments or feedback and why athletes get broken guts? Leave your thoughts below and either Dr. Ruscio or I will reply, and click here if you want access to a consult with Dr. Ruscio!

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3 thoughts on “Why Healthy People Get Broken Guts, And What You Can Do About It.

  1. happykitchen393 says:

    hi ben, I loved this podcast! michael is not overly obsessed with foods! I agree that the body is resilient & can handle the 80/20% ratio of a 'normal' lifestyle!! I also liked the fact he's not greedy & is aware of all the costs of being healthy!! I'm certain I must have a gut problem as I do my best to eat clean when I'm home but I'm in asia & india half of my life so plenty of sugar & salt are being consumed & there is no escape since the cuisines are completely irresistable for me! I do my best with choices!
    I will listen to the other 'gut' podcasts! thanxamill again!

  2. louisraskin says:

    Dr. Ruscio came to a wrong correlation with that first study. Yeah, the players had a lot more protein, but it's not like they were only eating protein. So he can't say that protein feeds bacteria like carbs do because they were also eating carbs and prebiotics.

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