A healthy gut can keep your lungs happy

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


Human bodies are inhabited by billions of bacteria that are essential for our wellbeing, and the majority of these bacteria live in our guts. What we eat is really important in maintaining a healthy balance in our gut bacteria.

Fibre from the food that we eat feeds the healthy bacteria that live in our guts. When gut bacteria process fibre it produces beneficial chemicals that have a range of positive effects as they can improve immunity and act directly on other organs including the lungs.

A diet rich in fibre can also boost the numbers of healthy bacteria in the gut, which has a significant effect on health. We now know that imbalances in gut bacteria have been seen in many diseases such as diabetes, obesity, bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimers, depression and lung conditions including asthma and emphysema.

A team of researchers from the HMRI Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases is focused on the benefits of eating fibre in people who have asthma. Led by Professor Lisa Wood from the University of Newcastle School of Biomedical Science and Pharmacy, the team is exploring the benefits of a soluble fibre supplement on asthma control and airway inflammation.

“Our latest research showed that a fibre supplement was able to improve asthma control, which means a decrease in asthma symptoms,” Professor Wood explains. “We think that the gut bacteria were an important part of this result as they are responsible for processing the fibre supplement after it is eaten."

“Now that we know fibre can be beneficial in asthma, we are doing another research study to find out the most effective dose to see improvements in asthma,” Professor Wood says.

It is thought that people with poorly controlled asthma symptoms would gain the most benefit, which is why they’re the participants the team is targeting this time. “The more we know about the effects of dosage levels and timing, the more we can help these people get their asthma under control,” Professor Wood adds.

“We know that many people with asthma are looking for alternative ways of managing their symptoms, other than only using asthma medications. This study will give us the information that we need to develop this natural therapy into a recommended asthma treatment.”

The study is open to all non-smoking adults with asthma, unless pregnant or breastfeeding. It takes 16 weeks to complete and involves periodic visits to the HMRI Building for medical assessment. To find out more, contact Dr Bronwyn Berthon on 02 4042 0116 or email Bronwyn.berthon@newcastle.edu.au