Exhibition: “Microbiota, the invisible coach"

To celebrate a year 2024 rich in sporting events, Institut Biocodex is highlighting the role of the microbiota in health and sport through a photography exhibition. Breakdance, basketball, rugby, surfing and judo... Dive into the heart of these sporting practices and their microbiota!

Created 15 April 2024
Updated 16 May 2024
Photo: Exhibition

About this article

Created 15 April 2024
Updated 16 May 2024

Table of contents

Table of contents

Discover the photo exhibition

The Biocodex Microbiota Institute entrusted photographer Laurent Hini with the delicate task of unveiling the mechanisms at work.

The project was conceived as a confrontation between a wide-angle photograph of the athlete and an image representing his “microbiota coach”. For the microbiota, a mixed photo and generative visual AI technique was used to materialize the microbiota's function. The action portrait is created using “classic” photographic techniques. Artificial intelligence does not replace photography, but is hybridized with it. It gives substance to the “microbiota coach”. The entire exhibition is based on this balance between the representative and the non-figurative, between the perceptible (the athlete) and the concealed (his microbiota).

Each diptych was then assigned a chromatic dominant: red for energy, orange for balance, white for defense... Color plays an important role in the exhibition: it links the two sections of each diptych and acts as a signpost, guiding the visitor through the exhibition. And it accentuates the plunge into the heart of each microbiota.

In all, we have 5 large-format diptychs for 5 sports associated with 5 microbiota functions. Dive into the heart of each microbiota!

Breakdance, balance 

With Paola Soares da Silva
Did you know? Our microbiota is made up of hundreds of billions of living micro-organisms, invisible to the naked eye. These micro-organisms, such as bacteria, yeasts, viruses, fungi and parasites, cohabit in symbiosis with our bodies, working together to maintain our balanced gut microbiota (or gut flora). A balanced microbiota is characterized by a diversity and abundance of micro-organisms. Microbiota diversity is a key indicator of our health. But this balance remains fragile, and we need to take care of it. Numerous scientific studies show that regular physical activity increases intestinal bacterial diversity in favor of beneficial species. Sport therefore contributes to the balance of the microbiota, preserving this symbiosis essential to our health and well-being.

Find out more about Paola Soares da Silva

Committed to the artistic and sporting community of Breakdance, Paola Soares da Silva is an emblematic and inspiring athlete. She became Breaking Île de France and Centre Val de Loire 2021 vice-champion, then Centre Val de Loire 2024 champion. Alongside her sporting career, she is also founder and manager of Breaking Journey, an association that works to disseminate and promote urban culture and breakdance in France.

Basketball, resilience 

With Sidney Attiogbé

Small, invisible... but very resistant! A high-fat diet, stress, infections... A variety of factors can upset the balance of the intestinal microbiota (known as dysbiosis). The good news is that the intestinal microbiota is resilient, i.e. capable of recovering from disruption. Another piece of good news is that physical exercise has been shown to contribute to this resilience. Intense physical exercise is correlated with oxidative stress (a natural phenomenon linked to the production of free radicals in the body). The resilience of the microbiota is essential in more ways than one: it contributes to good digestion and nutrient absorption, combats oxidative stress and inflammation, and strengthens the immune system and helps prevent certain diseases. Convinced? Then get your sneakers!

Find out more about Sidney Attiogbé

Sidney Attiogbé, a former U23 player for the French national team, has made it his mission to help as many people as possible discover his sport, wheelchair basketball. This professional athlete contributes to widening the visibility and accessibility of disabled sport, notably through projects and events he runs in close collaboration with companies.

Rugby, energy 

With Jonathan Laugel and Maxime François

Need a tonic? Tap into your intestinal microbiota! Bacteria in the intestinal microbiota play an important role in energy production for athletes. How do they do it? The intestinal microbiota ferments complex carbohydrates from the diet, which in turn produce (sidenote: Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) are a source of energy (fuel) for an individual’s cells. They interact with the immune system and are involved in communication between the intestine and the brain. Silva YP, Bernardi A, Frozza RL. The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids From Gut Microbiota in Gut-Brain Communication. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020;11:25. ) (SCFAs), recognized as a vital source of energy for intestinal cells and other body tissues. These in turn contribute to endurance and recovery during exercise. A virtuous circle!

Find out more about Jonathan Laugel

A member of the national 7-a-side rugby team, Jonathan Laugel has been a professional rugby player for 12 years, French record-holder for the number of appearances with his team, with 93 tournaments and over 450 matches played. He took part in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, and won various medals at the world championship stages, including a silver medal in Hong Kong in 2024. He is also a double gold medallist at the European Rugby 7s Championship.

Find out more about Maxime François

Maxime François, his coach, is a former top-level wrestling athlete. In this discipline, he won the title of French champion six times as an individual, and three times as part of a team. He also placed 5th at the 2018 Mediterranean Games in wrestling and 3rd at the 2014 World Grappling Championships. Now converted to an MMA wrestling coach, he puts his experience and expertise at Jonathan's disposal. Thanks to Maxime's work, Jonathan has improved his sporting performance tenfold. A relationship forged by years of friendship and shared sporting values.

Surfing and hydration 

With Ainhoa Leiceaga
Water, source of life. Hydration is essential for everyone, but even more so for athletes, whose performance and recovery depend on optimal water intake. The intestinal microbiota transports water and electrolytes - minerals that help stabilize the body's hydration level - through the intestinal wall. Scientific studies have shown that the composition of the intestinal microbiota influences the absorption of sodium and other solutes essential for hydration in the blood, thus contributing to hydration. Athletes are at greater risk of dehydration due to the heavy perspiration associated with exercise. A balanced microbiota therefore contributes to the integrity of the intestinal barrier and good hydration of the body, both of which are essential for sports performance.

Find out more about Ainhoa Leiceaga

A member of the national surf team, Ainhoa Leiceaga is a top-level French surfer. Her career has been marked by many successes, including third place in the European junior rankings and 4th place in the 2022-2023 European circuit. Alongside her sporting achievements and her commitment to protecting and preserving the oceans, Ainhoa is a physics and chemistry student.

Judo, defense 

With Raymond Demoniere

Attack and counter-attack! The intestinal microbiota acts as a shield against attacks by (sidenote: Pathogens A pathogen is a microorganism that causes, or may cause, disease. Pirofski LA, Casadevall A. Q and A: What is a pathogen? A question that begs the point. BMC Biol. 2012 Jan 31;10:6. ) bacteria. How does it do this? Bacteria are in constant dialogue with the intestinal immune system, enabling it to be on constant alert and, if necessary, to protect the intestinal barrier. Activation of the immune response plays a key role in endurance. Surpass yourself, yes, but first protect yourself! There is a relationship between the intensity of sport and the alteration of the host's immune response. Recent research suggests that the intestinal microbiota may help counter the inflammatory responses triggered by intense exercise. Athletes with a specific gut microbiota composition showed a lower inflammatory state. These anti-inflammatory effects of intestinal microbiota would delay symptoms of fatigue during endurance exercise. Let's hear it! 

Find out more about Raymond Demoniere

Raymond Demoniere is a French judoka with a 6th dan black belt. A respected figure in the world of judo, he is now a state-certified coach. His influence extends beyond his own career, for it is alongside his son, Romain, winner of the European Cup 2024 in the cadet category, that he trains and pursues a career as a top-level judoka. Their duo embodies strength and resilience, but also respect and discipline, fundamental values in judo. 

Microbiota & sport: competitive micro-organisms

Back to contents: microbiota and sport

A word from the Institute's Scientific Director

This project was born of this questioning... and of an opportunity: the arrival of a year 2024 rich in sporting events in Paris! We immersed ourselves in scientific studies demonstrating the bidirectional relationship between microbiota and physical activity. Hydration, defense, balance, energy and resilience: in these five key functions of our body, the microbiota plays the role of an invisible coach. With the scientific foundations in place, we now needed to reach as many people as possible with a major challenge: making the invisible visible. Photography, combined with artificial intelligence, seemed the best way to illustrate the formidable powers of the microbiota. Invisible but solid! 

Thanks to all the athletes who took part in the project. 

“Just like sport, microbiota is essential to the proper functioning and protection of our body.”

Murielle Escalmel, Corporate Scientific Communication Director

Photo credits : Laurent Hini.
Images manipulated by Artificial Intelligence, and developed by Laurent Hini.


Mach N, Fuster-Botella D. Endurance exercise and gut microbiota: A review. J Sport Health Sci. 2017 Jun;6(2):179-197.


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