While the lungs and the digestive tract seem like distant cousins in the human body, it turns out that they influence each other far more than we ever suspected.
The American Society for Microbiology released a paper highlighting the close relationship that the lungs and the gut share.
Bacteria in the lungs take cues from bacteria in the gut.
According to researchers, the microbial colonization that takes place in the lungs happens first in the digestive tract.
Researchers also concluded that one of the best ways to sway the microbial residents of the lung is through nutrition.
Changes in the Diet Are Linked to Changes in the Lungs
One effective way to fight lung disease is by managing gut bacteria. Strengthening your inner ecology will change the bacteria in the gut and the lungs!
Researchers from Dartmouth Medical Center began with a group of newborns who had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a serious and deadly genetic lung disease. For 21 months, the team of researchers took samples of the microbes living in the lungs and the intestines of the infants. (1)
Using genetic sequencing, they were able to figure out which bugs were where. It turns out that while the bacteria living in the large intestine are distinctly different from those living in the lungs, there was some overlap between the two systems.
Researchers also studied how communities of bacteria changed in both the lungs and the gut with the introduction of:
What is not surprising: With the introduction of each new food, the inner ecology of the baby’s digestive tract changed.
What is surprising: These changes in diet were linked to changes in the lungs.
So what we eat not only shapes the community of bacteria living in our digestive tract but also the one living in the lungs.
Managing Gut Bacteria Can Help Fight Lung Disease
According to Dr. J.C. Madan, who led the study, “targeted dietary or probiotic strategies may be an effective means to…improve patient outcomes.”
In the initial phase of cystic fibrosis, cough and infection are frequent due to a mucus buildup in the small airways of the lungs. Because cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, this mucus buildup begins early in infancy.
In fact, one of the first signs of cystic fibrosis in a newborn is when a baby does not pass mecomium, which is a baby’s tar-like first stool. Instead, a baby’s first stool becomes so thick and gluey that it obstructs the bowels completely.
This is because, besides the lungs, other organs are also affected by lung disease – such as the large intestine, the pancreas, and the liver. Much of the damage that occurs in cystic fibrosis is a result of thick mucus buildup that creates a blockage, leading to infection. Lung issues can manifest as:
Obstructed airways and structural changes in the lungs.
Accumulated digestive enzymes in the pancreas.
In severe cases of lung disease where the lungs are more susceptible to infection, antibiotics are even used prophylactically – or, just in case. In other words, prophylactic antibiotic use is meant to protect the patient.
However, as this study suggests, it may be doing more harm than good.
Strengthen Your Lungs
Whether you are a smoker with a chronic cough or have a deadly disease like cystic fibrosis, one of the main avenues of disease is through lung infection.
If the bacteria in the lungs take cues from the bacteria in the gut, it makes sense to promote inner ecology.
Eating fermented vegetables, making your own kefir, and drinking probiotic beverages are all great ways to build your inner ecosystem. During the fermentation process, specific strains of beneficial bacteria multiply and grow. These living bacteria, packed full of enzymes, are the ultimate way of ingesting probiotics.
Avoid mucous forming foods – like sugar, dairy, and unfermented soy.
From a Chinese medical perspective, asthma is often related to too much phlegm, which is connected to how foods are being digested. Eating foods that are warm in temperature and using spices like ginger or turmeric can assist in breaking up the dampness.
Essential fats like cod liver oil, antioxidant rich fruits like blueberries, and minerals like Ancient Earth Minerals all increase lung power.