Respiratory conditions are some of the most common issues seen in clinical practice. In 2016, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accounted for around 3 million deaths, and was the third leading cause of death worldwide. Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases globally affecting nearly eight percent of people (over 24 million) in the US alone. Lower respiratory infections were the 5th leading cause of death and the leading cause of infectious death globally in 2015.
So, what does all this have to do with your gut?
As you know, the human intestinal microbiota is made up of trillions of microorganisms most of which are of bacterial, fungal and viral in origin. In fact, there are more cells and many more unique gene products in the intestinal microbiome than in all of the native cells of your body put together.
For years, it was assumed that the lungs were a sterile environment, but, in fact, the lungs harbor their own diverse communities of microbiota, and the composition of the microbiota differs slightly between the upper and lower respiratory tract in healthy individuals.
The gut and lungs are anatomically distinct, but, similar to the Gut-Brain Axis, there is a Gut-Lung Axis (GLA). The discovery that bacteria that normally live in the gut can be detected in the lungs of critically ill people highlights the influence of the gut microbiota on lung immunity. In fact, the more severe a patient’s illness, it was discovered, the more it was likely to be found that their usual lung bacteria were outnumbered by gut bacteria.
Current research focusing on the microbiome, the Gut- Lung Axis, and their roles in pulmonary health reveals:
- The microbiome influences the host immune system — Beneficial microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract assist in the development of healthy immune function including defense through regulation of T cells, systemic inflammation and tolerance. Pathogenic organisms contribute to immune imbalances and a shift toward allergy and autoimmunity.
- Immune cells in the lungs recruit from primed immune cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) lymphatics — When exposure to a pathogen in the sinuses, mouth and throat occurs, the bugs are swallowed and read by the lymphatics in the gut (Gut-associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT), which then produce an artillery of defenses just in case an infection occurs. When it does, the immune system in the lung actively recruits those defenses to fend off illness.
- The gut and lung microbiota contribute to exacerbations of lung disease — Gastrointestinal dysbiosis can contribute to oral and pulmonary dysbiosis, all of which can result in exacerbations of lung disease. One study reported that more than 70 percent of people with severe lung disease also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a common association with GI dysbiosis.
- The microbiome of the lung is closely associated with the oral microbiome — During sleep, microaspiration of saliva occurs, resulting in the transfer of bugs from the mouth to the lungs. Since plaque and periodontal pockets are sources of microorganisms, oral hygiene and the oral microbiome need to be tended as well.
- The gut microbiota contributes to acute lung injury — Bacterial metabolites, such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS), mediate systemic inflammation and tissue injury via stimulation of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) receptors. Keeping endotoxin producing bugs in check can assist in maintaining a balanced immune/inflammatory response, with just the right amount of gas and brakes to keep us healthy.
- The vagus nerve is involved — When the vagus nerve is sending healthy signals, it prevents shock induced organ injury - including in the lungs — and prevents gut barrier injury. However, gastrointestinal dysbiosis can result in damage to the vagus nerve as endotoxins migrate to the brain and cause inflammation.
- Beneficial microorganisms reduce systemic inflammation — Production of short chain fatty acids such as butyrate and acetate by beneficial bugs helps to reduce inflammation throughout the whole body, establishing balanced and effective immune activity.
What causes GI dysbiosis?
Poor diet, antibiotic treatment, and stress can decrease beneficial bacterial species and allow for the growth of harmful ones. This in turn disrupts tissue and immune balance and is associated with inflammation within and outside the gastrointestinal tract. There is also growing evidence that the diversity in the gut decreases during aging, and this could be a contributing reason why older adults are at higher risk for severe illness, inflammaging, and age-related health conditions. Inflammaging is a chronic low-grade inflammation that develops with advanced age. It is believed to accelerate the process of biological aging and to worsen many age-related health issues. Successfully soothing inflammaging helps improve healthspan. Early signs of GI dysbiosis include:
- Frequent gas or bloating (feeling bloated
- on most days of the week)
- Abdominal cramping
- Constipation, with mucus in the stool
- A combination of diarrhea and constipation
- Food sensitivities
- Food intolerances
- Chronic bad breath
- Difficulty in urinating
- Vaginal or rectal itching
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling blue or down
- Brain fog
Proven strategies for resilient and healthy GI microbiota
- As clinicians and as individuals, we are always on the lookout for clinically effective products and practices. One such product that targets not only the entire GI tract but the entire body and supports microbiome balance is Biocidin®. Biocidin® is a synergistic combination of botanicals, with a track record of more than 30 years. It got its start on the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) panel for a prominent laboratory (with inclusion on more than 250,000 tests), and is renowned for its ability to help manage and balance the gastrointestinal microbiome.
Biocidin® is a synergistic combination of botanicals, with a track record of more than 30 years. It got its start on the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) panel for a prominent laboratory (with inclusion on more than 250,000 tests), and is renowned for its ability to help manage and balance the gastrointestinal microbiome.
Biocidin® has three distinct mechanisms; maintaining healthy microbial balance, supporting immune function and cleansing biofilms. The liquid formula is easy to administer and provides activity in the oral cavity as well as the gut.
- An often neglected but important system is the oral microbiome. As you read above, sleeping, and the microaspiration of saliva, can be dangerous! Dentalcidin™ is a natural toothpaste with the added boost of broad- spectrum botanicals that assist in dismantling biofilms (plaque) and support immune defense and a healthy microbial balance. It is an easy way to bolster the mechanical function of toothbrushing and it tastes great.
- Bio-Botanical Research has also created an oral rinse to compliment DentalcidinTM, for deeper activity: Dentalcidin LS™.
- Mayo Clinic, “The gut-lung axis: Intestinal microbiota and inflammatory lung disease,” Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, April 3, 2020
- MucosalImmunology, Anh Thu Dang and Benjamin J. Marsland, “Microbes, metabolites, and the gut-lung axis” https://doi.org/10.1038/s41385-019-0160-6
- Michigan Medicine, https://www.uofmhealth.org/news/archive/201607/what-are-gut-bacteria-doing-critically-ill-lungs-new
- Aktas B, Aslim B. Gut-lung axis and dysbiosis in COVID-19. Turk J Biol. 2020;44(3):265-272. Published 2020 Jun 21. doi:10.3906/biy-2005-102