It is not only our gut the is populated with good bacteria, but our lungs also have their own community of bacteria which interact with our immune functions and play a role in how infections progress. These bacteria are also communicating with the bacteria in our gut, this is known as the gut-lung axis (you might have heard of the gut-brain axis, your gut is pretty much connected to every organ in your body!).
Disruptions in gut and lung microbiota i.e., an increase in potentially pathogenic bacteria and a decrease in beneficial bacteria, have been linked to respiratory diseases including viral respiratory tract infections, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Recent research has shown that this may play an important role in Covid-19 outcomes.
How can you support your gut-lung axis?
When our friendly bacteria digest certain types of dietary fibre they produce a chemical called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), these chemicals travel to our lungs and support the immune response and are thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect. So how can we get our bacteria to produce more of these SCFAs? Eat more plant-based foods and increase our fibre intake!
Eating more fibre rich foods like beans and pulses, wholegrain rice and pasta, fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds can increase the production of SCFA and support your immune response.
Exercise has numerous benefits for our health and our gut health is no exception! Exercise has been linked to an increase in the number of beneficial microbial species in the gut, increasing the diversity of microbes and increased short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism.
Aim for 20 minutes of exercise each day, this doesn’t have to mean going to the gym, a power walk with friends, gardening or dancing in your living room all count! Why not try setting yourself a challenge like walking 10,000 steps each today?
Research has also shown that probiotics are able to influence both the gut and lung microbiome, with effects on respiratory health. Probiotics can be found in supplements or in fermented foods such as live yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and miso. Fermented foods can be enjoyed daily as part of healthy balanced diet.
If you'd like to find out more, book a free 1:1 consultation with our in-house nutrition team.
Donati Zeppa, S., Agostini, D., Piccoli, G., Stocchi, V. and Sestili, P., 2020. Gut Microbiota Status in COVID-19: An Unrecognized Player?. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 10.