A cause of inflamed lungs is to be found ... in the gut. While this statement may seem strange enough, it corresponds to what happens in our body. A gut with an unbalanced microbiota can cause chronic inflammation in the lungs, which in turn increases the risk of a severe course in case of lung infection, which can be caused by bacteria or viruses. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal Frontiers in Aging by an American team from the University of Colorado Denver (McMahan et al, Front Aging, 2022).
Pneumonia, causes and course
Pneumonia is a lung infection caused, generally, by pathogens such as viruses, fungi and bacteria. In the elderly, pneumonia can easily escalate and require hospitalization. But why does this happen? The research scientists we talk about today have managed to find an answer. Based on the results, the explanation has more to do with the health of the intestine than with that of the lungs, but let's try to understand better.
Lung health depends on gut health
Scientists have studied cases of bacterial pneumonia, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, in a population of mice. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacterium that can normally be found in the nasal passages of humans. If the body is healthy, then Streptococcus pneumoniae is harmless and does not cause problems. In the case of a compromised immune system, however, as in the case of elderly people or diseases, then this bacterium can leave the nasal cavities and migrate to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, causing an infection. But what causes the most severe consequences and a greater risk of hospitalization in case of pneumonia? The scientists observed that, in those with the most serious consequences following a lung infection, it was possible to find in the lungs pro-inflammatory bacteria, normally present in the gut. The explanation is this. Advancing age, stress, an unregulated diet or alcohol abuse increase the levels of chronic inflammation. The intestinal microbiota becomes unbalanced and pro-inflammatory bacteria prevail. If leaky gut syndrome is also associated with this condition, then these pro-inflammatory bacteria can leave the intestine and go to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, due to the privileged connection between the intestine and the lungs, the so-called intestine-lung axis. This causes inflammation in the lungs, making the lungs more susceptible to possible infection. In case of leaky gut syndrome, the gut increases its permeability by no longer being able to keep the bacteria in place, The risk of leaky gut increases with age but can also be caused by food intolerances and allergies and autoimmune diseases.
It is important to take care of the microbiota
Therefore, it is always of great importance to take care of your microbiota, protecting it and trying to favor the good bacteria. As mentioned by the same authors of the study, a good strategy to preserve the health of the microbiota, and so also that of the lungs, can be to include probiotics and prebiotics in one's diet, and to follow a varied and balanced diet. Then, also including fermented foods such as yogurt, some cheeses, kefir, sauerkraut, cucumbers and kombucha, helps to make the microbiota more varied and reduces inflammation.