Research shows that surfers are three times more likely to have antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria in their gut. Surfers swallow an average of 10 times more sea water than ocean swimmers. This seems to be colonising their gut with potentially harmful bacteria.

Surfing and bodyboarding are great forms of exercise and fun hobbies, but the oceans in most parts of the world are polluted, and this can have some pretty nasty consequences. An investigation conducted by the University of Exeter recruited 300 people. Half of the participants regularly surf the UK's coastline. All of the individuals in the study were asked to do a rectal swab.

Scientists compared feces samples from the surfers and non-surfers to check whether the surfers' guts contained E. coli bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. The study results were published in the journal Environment International. They found that nine percent of surfers’ guts contained antibiotic resistant E. coli, compared to three percent of non-surfers. The scientists also found that regular surfers were four times more likely to have bacteria that contain mobile genes. This means the genes can be passed between bacteria; increasing the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.

Despite extensive efforts and improvements in cleaning up coastal water and beaches, potentially harmful bacteria still enter the water through sewage and pollution from industry and water run-off from farms treated with manure. Bacterial diversity in your gut microbiome is normally a good thing and helps to support a balanced immune system; however, if you are exposed to unclean water from various sources of pollution, the net effect may be harmful. Public swimming pools are another potential source of pathogenic bacteria.

Fortunately, the study showed that not every surfer harbored harmful bacteria in their gut. If you have high numbers of good bacteria in your intestines and you don’t have an inflamed or leaky gut, you are far less susceptible to picking up a bacterial infection. You can look after your gut health by including lots of vegetables in your diet, as the prebiotic fiber encourages the growth of good bacteria. It is also important to eat some fermented foods or take a probiotic such as Floratone. There is a great deal of information about gut bugs and leaky gut in my book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.