Physiology and pathophysiology of splanchnic hypoperfusion and intestinal injury during exercise: strategies for evaluation and prevention

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2012 Jul 15;303(2):G155-68. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00066.2012. Epub 2012 Apr 19.


Physical exercise places high demands on the adaptive capacity of the human body. Strenuous physical performance increases the blood supply to active muscles, cardiopulmonary system, and skin to meet the altered demands for oxygen and nutrients. The redistribution of blood flow, necessary for such an increased blood supply to the periphery, significantly reduces blood flow to the gut, leading to hypoperfusion and gastrointestinal (GI) compromise. A compromised GI system can have a negative impact on exercise performance and subsequent postexercise recovery due to abdominal distress and impairments in the uptake of fluid, electrolytes, and nutrients. In addition, strenuous physical exercise leads to loss of epithelial integrity, which may give rise to increased intestinal permeability with bacterial translocation and inflammation. Ultimately, these effects can deteriorate postexercise recovery and disrupt exercise training routine. This review provides an overview on the recent advances in our understanding of GI physiology and pathophysiology in relation to strenuous exercise. Various approaches to determine the impact of exercise on the individual athlete's GI tract are discussed. In addition, we elaborate on several promising components that could be exploited for preventive interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / blood supply
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology
  • Intestines / injuries*
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Male
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Splanchnic Circulation / physiology*