- Asthmatics rely on ventolin to relieve wheezing and daily inhalers to control the inflammation.
- By including soluble fiber in the diet you can potentially reduce the reliance on these medications.
- The fiber works by suppressing the overactive immune system that exists in people with asthma.
Soluble fiber can benefit people with asthma by maintaining a healthy gut.
Fiber supplements positively altered the gut microbiota - a community of good and bad bacteria living in the bowel - and in turn reduced airway inflammation in asthmatics.
As part of the study, 17 patients with poorly controlled asthma, despite the use of inhaled steroid medication,were given 12 grams of daily inulin - a soluble fiber supplement.The fiber works by suppressing the overactive immune system that exists in people with asthma.
"This is the first time anyone has looked at the impact of altering the gut microbiome on asthma control in humans. We're at the tip of a new paradigm for how diet can be used to treat asthma," said Prof Gibson.
What's Special About Soluble Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that does not contain calories and does not get digested. Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel-like consistency in the stomach till it reaches the large intestine it is not digested. The bacteria that are present in the large intestine breakdown the fibre to produce metabolites called short-chain fatty acids. This helps block the absorption of cholesterol, which, in turn, reduces heart disease risk.
The latest study on the effect of asthma is also due to the short chain fatty acids which affect the immune cells and reduce inflammation.
The research adds to a growing body of evidence that shows what you put in your mouth not only affects your waistline and heart but your lungs too.
Food Sources of Soluble Fiber
Inulin was supplemented in the study. Inulin is a natural storage carbohydrate present in more than 36,000 species of plants, including wheat, onion, bananas, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke and chicory. Though the study used inulin in the form of capsules, there are other food sources of soluble fiber are oats, barley, psyllium, oranges, dried beans and lentils.
Focus on the Food Also
"The treatment of asthma is focused on things that we breathe in, avoiding irritants that we breathe in and giving drugs that we breathe in and so here we take a completely different approach and focus on the persons' diet and how we can modify their diet to improve their asthma," said Prof Gibson.
Lead researcher Professor Lisa Wood from the University of Newcastle's Priority Research Centre for Healthy Lungs says all patients had a reduction in airway inflammation and an improvement in their asthma control, so improved lung function and fewer symptoms such as wheezing.
Prof Wood and her team are now hoping to secure funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) so they can conduct a large clinical trial to prove the efficacy of soluble fibre as an asthma treatment.
"There is a lot of interest from people with asthma in alternative ways to treat their disease other than just traditional asthma medications so we really do want to push this work forward," said Prof Wood.
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