How A Leaky Gut Can Worsen Your Asthma Symptoms

We know asthma is related to breathing, but how is it connected to your gut? Whether or not you know what leaky gut is, its impact on our overall health is concerning.

Your digestive system is made up of the gallbladder, liver, pancreas, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract (per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases). The GI tract is the pathway where food travels through the body, from its entrance to its exit, and includes the small and large intestines, mouth, esophagus, stomach, and anus. During digestion, your system breaks up nutrients into pieces small enough to absorb and fuel the body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a certain level of permeability in the lining of the intestines allows water and nutrients in but keeps out other things like bacteria.

Leaky gut, while still an unrecognized medical condition, occurs when the lining of the intestines doesn't keep out the bacteria and other things that shouldn't be absorbed. When this leaking occurs, toxins are allowed into the bloodstream, so in theory, the lining of the intestines is a part of the body's protective immune system, per Cleveland Clinic. A leaky gut is therefore connected to inflammation and multiple diseases. The condition is caused by damage to the lining from alcohol, drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, or inflammatory issues such as celiac disease. Its direct symptoms include stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and low energy levels. How is a leaky gut connected to asthma, though?

Leaky gut increases inflammation

According to the World Health Organization, asthma is a condition in which the airways become inflamed and narrow, causing difficulty breathing. Asthma causes wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing, and is often triggered by smoke, dust, soap, pollen, or fur. Managing symptoms involves avoiding triggers and reducing inflammation in the airways. Asthma seems to stem from exposure to allergens, early lung development issues, and obesity.

A recent study presented at the Society of Endocrinology's annual conference found connections between obesity's effects on both asthma and leaky gut. Researchers tested the blood of fasting participants who had severe asthma. They found that those who were obese had greater markers of inflammation, increased gut permeability, and more uncontrolled asthma and that excess weight gain affects gut bacteria, which can affect the intestinal lining, and increase inflammation (per the American Association for the Advancement of Science). 

The study proposes that when bacteria enter the body through a leaky gut barrier, it increases inflammation resulting in worsening asthma as it is related to inflamed airways. In a press release regarding the link between obesity, gut permeability, and asthma, lead investigator Cristina Parenti explained, "This suggests that dietary interventions to improve gut barrier function may be an effective, alternative treatment target for asthma patients who are overweight or have obesity."