Gut bacteria is a fascinating topic, especially as researchers find that what goes on in your gut really does affect your health. While perhaps not an everyday consideration for many of us, the 100 trillion bacteria in our gut can have the power to bring us better – or worse – health. That’s a good reason to consider how to treat them well.

It turns out that eating fiber-rich produce is something that our gut bacteria appreciates and that feeding them this delicious food (because, I promise, vegetables really are delicious when prepared right, and who doesn’t like fruit?) can actually help the body have a better (that is, less harsh) reaction to allergens. This could help with allergen-induced asthma.

Here is the basics of the animal study that demonstrated this: There are two groups of mice, one given a diet with a higher dose of fermentable fibers and another with very low amounts of fermentable fibers (one that is comparable to the average Western diet). Then both groups of mice were exposed to house dust mites (which are an allergy trigger for many). The lower-fiber group of mice had a larger allergic reaction, including more mucus in the lungs. By varying the amount of fermentable fiber (like what we get from produce) the researchers were able to demonstrate that produce could have a positive effect on conditions such as asthma.

And how, you may be wondering, does what goes on in the gut get back to the lungs? According to the research team, it’s a chain reaction that starts with the fiber entering the intestine, changing into short-chain fatty acids as the bacteria feeds on it, which then enter the blood stream and have a positive influence on immune cells in the bone marrow. These immune cells can then travel to the lungs as needed to help weaken an allergic reaction. 

If you needed it, here is yet one more reason to include more produce in your diet! Even if you don’t have asthma, building up immune cells is always a good thing. 

Want to know more? Read the study.

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Can eating produce help with asthma?
This study has exciting implications for all of us. (Who wouldn't benefit from boosting their immune system?)