The lungs are one of the most fundamental organs in the body, without them we wouldn’t be able to breathe. Looking after our lungs is important for enabling us to stay healthy as we age and enable us to stay physically active which is important for supporting not only our cardio metabolic health but also our muscular health, bone health and mental wellbeing too.
Nutrition for lung health isn’t something which is commonly spoken about however, needless to say what you eat can play a crucial role on the health of your lungs. In addition to the micronutrients required to support lung health there’s key element which we’re only just starting to tap into. You may be familiar with the gut-brain axis and if you’ve read our other articles we’ve also introduced you to the gut-skin axis.
We’d now like to introduce the gut-lung axis, this is the idea that the gut bacteria may play more of a role on our lung health than we initially thought.
Here's what we know about the gut-lung axis
The gut-lung axis is a bi-directional axis which means that the gut can communicate with the lungs and vice versa.
Once again supporting a healthy gut has been shown to be key in maintaining lung health as high levels of pathogenic bacteria (otherwise known as the bad bacteria) have been associated with inflammation in the lungs. The pattern of the gut microbiome can also play a role in helping or hindering our ability to manage respiratory disorders. This is likely no surprise as we know that gut health can hugely impact immune function and most respiratory disorders are an immune response to a bacteria or unwanted pathogen.
Furthermore, evidence has shown that a high intake of medications over a prolonged period of time can cause dysbiosis in the gut which has been seen in asthma patients. Furthermore, this dysbiosis has also been identified in the lungs of these patients too. Additional evidence also highlights the role of the gut microbiome on chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and suggests that higher fibre diets have been associated with a reduction in immune mediated systemic and pulmonary inflammation and therefore an improvement in COPD symptoms. Consequently, this evidence really highlights the importance of supporting a healthy gut on so many areas and functions of the body.
So What Should We Eat To Support Our Lung Health?
Focus on the fibre!
As we’ve highlighted the importance of gut health on lung health we’re sure you’re not surprised to hear that increasing your fibre would be a great place to start! Higher fibre diets are associated with improved gut function, reduction in immune related inflammation in the lungs. Where possible try adding flaxseeds to your porridge, yoghurt and soups. Try to add beans and pulses to your mince based dishes and switch your white grains for wholegrains where possible.
Pack in the magnesium
Magnesium plays an important role in helping to support the contraction and relaxation of the smooth muscle in the lungs. It also plays an important role in helping to reduce inflammation in the lungs too. Relaxing in an Epsom salt bath or consuming leafy greens, almonds and beans are all great ways to up your magnesium intakes.
Up your nitrates
Nitrates can be found in foods such as beetroot, spinach, garlic and chard to name just a few and have been associated with increased oxygen uptake through increasing vasodilation. Furthermore, these chemical compounds which are found naturally in plants have been associated with a reduction in blood pressure too.
Get stuck in with turmeric
Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin which has been associated with reduced inflammation in the lungs. Where possible try switching your coffee for a turmeric latte or using it in your everyday cooking.
Up the Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are another chemical compound which are found naturally in plants. These compounds have been associated with a reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation. The best sources include: blueberries, blackberries, plums, raspberries and you can find them in red wine too (although drink in moderation!)
Remember your lung health is a vital component to your overall health but it’s often something we take for granted. Engaging in regular physical activity and consuming a healthy diet can help to support the longevity of your lungs.
Hufnagl, K., Pali-Schöll, I., Roth-Walter, F., & Jensen-Jarolim, E. (2020, February). Dysbiosis of the gut and lung microbiome has a role in asthma. In Seminars in immunopathology (Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 75-93). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Sridhar, M. K. (1999). Nutrition and lung health. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(2), 303-308.
Young, R. P., Hopkins, R. J., & Marsland, B. (2016). The gut–liver–lung axis. Modulation of the innate immune response and its possible role in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology, 54(2), 161-169.