The link between the gut microbiome & the musculoskeletal system

The link between microbiome diversity & the musculoskeletal system

The gut-muscle axis – protecting your musculoskeletal system through diet

It might seem odd that as a practicing musculoskeletal therapist I would talk to my clients about their intestines! But the Bowen Technique is a truly holistic practice where all information is important to build a picture of YOU, your body & how best to help you.

Our bodies are host to several thousand bacterial species that inhabit our gut, skin & inside of the mouth. The gut microbiome is fast becoming an area of intense scientific interest as, if you haven’t already heard, it is like a 2nd brain that plays a vital role in immunity, prevention of systemic inflammation, regulation of emotions & mental health & maintenance of overall physiological health.

The gut microbiome should have a diverse population of both “good” & “bad” bacteria for correct function of all systems. When the balance is tipped & “bad” bacteria proliferate to the point of becoming pathogenic (harmful) health deteriorates, inflammation wreaks havoc & all body systems become susceptible. The balance can also tip in the opposite direction when the population of “good” bacteria is too high – this can potentially push some of the bacteria out of the large intestine & into the small intestine leading to a condition known as SIBO.

But how does all this relate to my muscles???! Your gut & its microbiome talk to every part of your body – the gut-brain axis sends signals from gut to brain to gut: The gut-viscera axis sends signals from gut to organs to gut: the gut-skin axis from gut to skin to gut etc etc.

So by this logic the gut -muscle axis is the interaction between the microbiome & the musculoskeletal system. Recent studies now suggest that there could be a link between gut dysbiosis (gut flora imbalance) & a rise in ligament & tendon injuries – particularly lateral ankle sprains in humans(1) & anterior cruciate ligament ruptures in both humans & dogs. (2)

A microbiome that is overrun with pathogenic bacteria with fewer “good” bacteria to keep them under control is more likely to send pro-inflammatory signals to the musculoskeletal system. This can spell disaster for athletes & more sedentary folk alike! Ligaments, tendons & muscle fibres become more susceptible, without your knowledge, so that the slightest of knock, twist or fall can lead to the worst of sprains, strains or tears!

What’s the best way of protecting your musculoskeletal system via the microbiome?? The simplest thing you can do is improve your diet. A balanced homemade diet rich in fibre, phytonutrients & pre & pro-biotics is a good start.

Food intolerances are a huge factor in developing leaky gut & depletion of the microbiome, & you may have intolerances you’re not even aware of. A qualified nutritionist can test for sensitivities so you can begin cutting out foods which are increasing inflammation in your body.

Long term medications, antibiotics & vaccines can also strip the microbiome of “good” bacteria so a short course of probiotics coupled with eating prebiotic foods may be needed – always consult a professional nutritionist or naturopath to avoid over supplementation.

Environmental factors such as over use of hand sanitizer, over sanitization of the home, lack of contact with the natural environment & stress (to name but a few!) are also suggested to affect the microbiome.

So….is it time to rewild your body??

(1)Altered gut microbiota richness in individuals with a history of lateral ankle sprain

Terada M , Uchida M, Suga T, Isaka T