There is no doubt that dietary choices and lifestyle play an important role in the health of the immune system. Now, according to a recent scientific article published in the journal Virus research by a team of Indian scientists (Dhar et al, May 2020), it is underlined how a connection exists between gut and lung health and how it is possible, through diet, to add extra protection against the novel coronavirus. Clearly, diet alone is not enough in the fight against this disease and other measures must also be put into practice, such as social distancing, washing hands often with soap and water, using disinfectant solutions with at least 60% alcohol and wearing a mask, at least indoors. But, beyond this necessary clarification, let’s go deep into today's article.
Coronavirus, the link between microbiota and lungs
There is a connection between what happens at the level of the intestinal bacterial flora and the health of the lungs. In particular, studies have observed that several bacteria that make up the microbiota are able to modulate the immune response of the lungs (Trompette et al, Nature Medicine, 2014). Not only that, it has also been observed that the lack of certain types of intestinal bacteria following the intake of antibiotics has increased the risk of lung infections caused by the influenza virus in animals (Looft et al, Landes Bioscience, 2012). Finally, a healthy microbiota and the presence of good bacteria seem to have a protective role in the course of COVID-19 disease also because, as has been observed, the elderly, people with type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, all considered the most at risk against coronavirus, show what is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is an imbalance of the intestinal bacterial flora.
Coronavirus, how to act to improve the health of the microbiota
Diet can help strengthen and improve the intestinal microbiota with beneficial effects, as we have seen, also on the immune response and lung health. In fact, including prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet can definitely be a good choice. Prebiotics, namely the foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, such as wheat bran, onion, artichokes or asparagus, are able to reduce inflammation and soothe some conditions such as asthma. Probiotics, namely the live bacteria that bring balance in the microbiota, such as yogurt when indicated on the label, kefir, miso or sauerkraut, have shown their ability to improve or alleviate conditions related to lung disease as well as to modulate the immune system response. The latter is a very important action since, as observed, the most severe consequences in the clinical course caused by the novel coronavirus are precisely linked to a delayed and exaggerated response of the immune system of the lungs.