By Sade Meeks MS,RD
Gut health is one of the hottest topics in research today, and for good reason. The gut contains trillions of our microbes and plays a major role in digestion and immunity. Research continually shows us that the gut’s role in our health is wide-ranging. For example, we’re already spoken about how the gut may play a role in our mental health through the gut-brain axis
This is basically the scientific term for how our gut communicates with our brain and how our brain communicates with our gut. As we are coming to know, the gut is a very popular organ system and communicates a lot with other body systems and organs… quite possibly even our lungs.
The gut breaks down food, while the lungs take in oxygen. The gut is home to trillions of good bugs, while the lungs don’t have nearly as many. The bugs in our lungs love oxygen, while most of our gut bugs can do without. The gut’s temperature is generally the same, while the temperature in our lungs is like traveling from state to state – it varies with location to the vocal cords.
As you can see the gut and lungs are different for many obvious and not-so obvious reasons… so how does this gut-lung axis possibly exist?
The mechanisms for how the gut and lungs communicate are not clear, but developing research suggests that there is a connection. For instance, an imbalance in certain gut microbes have been associated with increased risk of asthma in early life (1). Imbalances in gut microbes have also been identified in smokers (1). Additionally, the gut’s favorite foods – prebiotic fibers, may also benefit the lungs. In a recent animal study, mice consuming a high fiber diet with increased short chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels experienced protection against allergic inflammation in the lungs (2).
The gut is a popular organ system and the lungs may not be a stranger to it. While the details are still being researched, what we do know is popularity is great, but being friendly is just as important. To promote a “friendly”, healthy gut we should consume a diverse diet. Choosing foods from different food groups, different colored fruits and vegetables, and ‘feel good’ prebiotic fibers, are just a few ways to promote a healthy gut!
- Budden, Kurtis et al (2016). Emerging pathogenic links between microbiota and the gut-lung axis. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309251855_Emerging_pathogenic_links_between_microbiota_and_the_gut-lung_axis
- Trompette, A et. al (2014). Gut microbiota metabolism of dietary fiber influences allergic airway disease and hematopoiesis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24390308