What does the gut lining have to do with respiratory health? We know the gut is an epicenter of communication, driving health in the body. The gut-lung connection is one more fascinating way our gut microbiota helps us thrive.
Every year in the United States approximately 200,000 people die from pulmonary infections, such as influenza and pneumonia, or from lung disease exacerbated by pulmonary infection. Most of the current therapies used in the treatment and management of these diseases are suboptimal as antibiotic resistance, efficacy, and toxicity have been difficult to overcome1. Scientists are looking at other approaches to improving respiratory health and the answer may be in their discovery that respiratory health is impacted by gut health.
What is the gut-lung connection?
The gut’s microbiota has long been recognized for its impact on overall wellbeing by priming the immune system’s white blood cells that produce antibodies which clear foreign toxins. This effect by the microbiota is not only retained in the intestinal system but spreads via the lymphatic and blood circulatory systems, influencing immune response in other parts of the body. So, what this means is that even though the pathogen is found in the gut, an immune response can also be triggered in the lungs.
Let's look at how this can happen.
The gut-lung connection and its impact on respiratory health all comes down to cellular communication. The gut mucus that layers the gut lining takes a discovered toxin and/or other foreign substances (antigens) and transfers them through the gut lining using dendritic cells which have long thin features that can squeeze through the gut lining. These dendritic cells carry antigens into the immune system’s lymph nodes where they initiate white blood cell response2. White blood cells secrete antibodies designed to attack specific toxins such as invasive bacteria or viruses and aid in their destruction. This process is known to reach the bronchial epithelium (lung lining) through the blood stream thus improving the immunological response against respiratory pathogens3.
For example, when someone is diagnosed with pneumonia, the alveolar macrophages which eat pathogens in the lungs form the first line of defense against pathogen invasion in the lungs. Research shows that the gut microbiota enhances alveolar macrophage function in terms of cellular responsiveness to bacteria cell walls and their capacity for engulfing and absorbing pneumoniae thereby clearing the air spaces in the lungs of infectious or allergic particles4.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that disruptions in the gut microbiota (dysbiosis), thereby disrupting the gut-lung connection, lead to reduced production of pathogen-fighting white blood cells, with an immediate impact on respiratory health.
In fact, reduction in gut microbiota diversity greatly increases mortality to respiratory viral infection due to fewer immune-regulating white blood cells in the lung and intestine5.
Next time you take a deep breath, remember where your respiratory health starts. A healthy gut-lung connection provides your lungs with scientifically proven immune support. Return the favor with ION*Gut Health , which is scientifically proven to promote a strong gut foundation.
Matthew Bednar, PhD
Bringing science out of the lab and into your life
- Regulation of lung immunity and host defense by the intestinal microbiota, Samuelson DR, Welsh DA and Shellito JE (2015), Front. Microbiol. 6:1085. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.0108.
- Diet, Microbiota and Gut-Lung Connection, Anand S and Mande SS (2018), Front. Microbiol. 9:2147. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02147.
- Desired Turbulence? Gut-Lung Axis, Immunity and Lung Cancer, Rea Bingula, Marc Filaire, Nina Radosevic-Robin, Mathieu Bey, Jean-Yves Berthon, Annick Bernalier-Donadille, Marie-Paule Vasson and Edith Filaire, Journal of Oncology, Volume 2017, Article ID 5035371, https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5035371.
- The gut microbiota plays a protective role in the host defence against pneumococcal pneumonia, Schuijt TJ, Lankelma JM, Scicluna BP, et al. Gut 2016;65:575–583
- Gut Microbiota and Lungs one of the Lung, Zhang et al., Frontiers in Microbiology, February 2020, Volume 11, Article 301.