When thinking about controlling celiac disease, one generally thinks about food -specifically, adhering to a strict, gluten-free diet. But recent research is suggesting that this may be only a piece of the puzzle. In addition to diet, moderate exercise could also help with managing celiac disease.
It's well known that regular exercise can have multiple health benefits, including weight control, increased bone health, improved nutrition, better blood circulation, lower risk of depression, better sleep, and a reduced risk of multiple diseases and ailments.
One recent study suggests that moderate exercise may also help manage celiac disease by improving inflammation in the body. A similar study, currently underway, is investigating whether exercise can aid in treating the symptoms of celiac by helping to restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
How Can Exercise Reduce Inflammation?
A new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity recently found that as little as 20 minutes of exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects.
Researchers at The University of California San Diego hypothesized that exercise would improve the body's anti-inflammatory response by activating its sympathetic nervous system (which helps to increase heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure). Physical exercise activates this system to help the body cope under strenuous workout conditions. During this time, the body releases hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, which in turn activate immune cells.
The researchers tested their hypothesis that just 20 minutes of exercise would be enough to trigger sympathetic nervous system activation, and in turn activate an immune system response that would have anti-inflammatory results. To do this, they asked 40 participants to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes at an intensity rate adjusted to suit each participant's individual fitness level. Researchers took blood samples from each participant before and after their workout sessions.
Results: As little as 20 minutes of exercise was found to reduce inflammation.
The study confirmed the researchers' hypothesis. While prior research exists regarding the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise, there were two main points in this study that we weren't as informed about before:
1. Researchers gained a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to exercise creating an anti-inflammatory response. "The anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise have been known to researchers, but finding out how that process happens is the key to safely maximizing those benefits," explained senior author Dr. Suzi Hong. Knowing these mechanisms may contribute to new therapies for the overwhelming number of individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions, including nearly 25 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases like diabetes and celiac disease.
2. Researchers were most excited about discovering that long, intense workouts are not necessary in order to benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise. Exercise can often be intimidating to people suffering from chronic health conditions and autoimmune diseases, but this study illustrated that they can still benefit from lower intensity, shorter workouts, making exercise seem much more accessible.
Exercise and Healthy Gut Bacteria:
A University of Calgary study aimed at helping individuals living with celiac disease has recently received a major funding boost. The study, referred to as MOVE-C (Understanding the relationship between Microbiome, Vitality and Exercise in Celiac Disease), examines the ways in which celiac can be managed beyond strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.
"Our focus is on helping people improve their quality of life," explains chief researcher Justine Dowd, who was diagnosed with celiac six years ago. "Often, people are diagnosed and start to eat gluten-free, but still have a variety of negative symptoms."
Preliminary research has shown promising results. "We know that people with celiac disease often have a dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) in their gut microbiome and new research is showing that exercise could promote a healthy balance of the gut microbiome," details Dowd. This could mean a lot for those struggling to manage the symptoms of celiac disease.
The study is currently enrolling 60 adults who do not currently exercise and putting them on a 12-week exercise program that becomes progressively more intense. Participants will use elliptical trainers, treadmills, skipping ropes and bikes in 30-60 second high-intensity intervals.
The researchers are using interval training, rather than steady, lower-intensity exercise, because preliminary research is showing that this form of exercise may be more effective at improving gut bacteria.
The team also manages a phone app called MyHealthyGut, available for download through your phone's app store. For more information on the study or to inquire about participating, email researchers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you needed one more reason to start exercising, go ahead and add "may help manage celiac disease" to the list!
We'd love to hear from you about whether exercise has been an integral part of your gluten-free lifestyle! Have you felt that it has helped with celiac disease symptoms?