Your Breathing Issues Might Be Caused By Your Gut
So today's topic may not be one that you have considered a gut problem, but for many who struggle with chronic or even episodic shortness of breath, you're gonna wanna listen in and maybe even take a few notes as today I'm gonna be discussing the lung and gut connection.
So did I catch your attention? You might be thinking, how is our gut and breathing issues related? And you're right, this isn't something that is a common connection, but hif you're someone with breathing issues, you may have gone to your doctor concerned thinking, Wow! I really can't get a full breath.
And you're gonna try to find what's going on. And so you go in, they do all the diagnostic scans, they'll listen to your lungs, they'll check your oxygen saturation, and then tell you everything appears normal and healthy. Yet you go home and you still deal with that occasional or maybe even constant shortness of breath.
And so eventually you might even get diagnosed with anxiety and sent home with a prescription, but no comfort in finding a diagnosis and no relief. And most doctors will consider this condition something called perceived breathlessness because there really doesn't appear to be anything to be a direct cause for your trouble breathing. So today we're gonna talk about what may be the cause and how it is related to your gut.
Hi, my name is Marcie Vaske and I'm a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in gut health. So I work with clients who struggle with bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and that's just to name a few.
But as we learn more and more about the digestive system and how important and impactful it is to the other systems in our body, I do see a lot of clients who struggle with hormone issues or things like hypothyroidism or even insulin dysregulation and trouble breathing.
So if this sounds like you or maybe someone you know and it resonates, make an initial appointment with our clinic. Or if you're someone who likes to get things started on their own and just gain more knowledge, download our five ways to improve your gut health, which is a great way to kind of an introduction to learning more about your gut health and what you can do about it.
Your Breathing Issues Might Be Caused By Your Gut
So what if I told you that your microbiota or all the little bacteria in your gut told a different story about that shortness of breath? So first I'm gonna do just a little biology just to explain that microbiota refers to all of the microorganisms that are actually found in our microbiome, which is just a collection of bacteria in your intestinal tract.
But we know that diet, medications or pathogens can actually disrupt the microbiota or those bacteria and which in turn they tend to promote inflammatory conditions in the gut. But many people don't realize that it can also cause inflammation in distant organs and places like I mentioned earlier, with some hormonal dysregulation or even insulin.
But if we look at different organs that can be caused by inflammation, it's gonna be in our brain or our lungs. And so they do this through a series of interactions with our immune cells.
So not only does our gut have its own microbiota or bacteria, but our lungs also have their own distinct bacteria. Though of course not as much in as many in number or diversity in the gut, but they still have their own unique bacteria.
And so this is how they communicate. There's two-way communication between the gut and your lungs. And this is called gut-lung access. So just as like you may have heard of gut-brain access, it works in a similar way and the gut and the lung will influence the immune status of both these organs.
So what happens is this little chit-chat actually occurs through chemical messengers that are produced directly by the microorganisms and by the immune system response to that trigger. So what happens is that these little messengers travel via our blood and our lymph system to help regulate our immune system's function throughout our body.
Now a healthy gut bacteria or microbiota will produce a chemical that signals to suppress inflammation in the gut and the body, while an impaired or damaged microbiota, will produce little signals that increase inflammation.
So here's an example. When our gut bacteria break down food, they produce small molecules called metabolites. Some are actually called short-chain fatty acids, CFAs for short. And Katie, our wonderful Katie, just did a video on resistant starches and short-chain fatty acids. So you might wanna check that out for more information.
But what we are talking about today is how these short-chain fatty acids are abundantly produced by certain bacteria and when they metabolize our dietary fiber. So the short-chain fatty acids actually reduce inflammation in traveling through the bloodstream to influence immune cell recruitment and activity throughout the body, which also means including the lungs. But the trouble comes in when some microorganisms produce other messengers that we don't want.
And those messengers are called endotoxins. Endotoxins actually promote inflammation by triggering the immune cells to release cytokines. And cytokines are little proteins that influence our immune system. So you know, to sum it up, endotoxins will trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines and that inflames our lungs while short-chain fatty acids will inhibit that release.
So this is how our gut disorders can affect lung and lung diseases and both actually share similar immune messenger inflammatory responses. And what is interesting is that there are some studies that have been completed that have shown that individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and asthma are actually more common in patients with gut diseases like irritable bowel syndrome or even inflammatory bowel disease and it goes vice versa.
Now we understand how gut lung access works, but let's not forget about our upper gut because that's part of it as well. And it works in a bit of a different way. So when we're talking about the upper gut, I'm talking more about like your stomach, your esophagus, and your duodenum, and your upper gut also has bacteria in it that can become dysregulated, which can cause breathing issues.
But as I said, it happens in a bit of a different way. So if you struggle with GERD, peptic ulcers, or even low hydrochloric acid in your stomach, you may have been infected by a bacteria called H pylori. And H pylori is a type of bacteria that infects your stomach.
It's pretty common and many people have it, but the thing is, is that most people who have it will never even show a symptom. But how is this leading to breathing issues? So what happens is that H Pylori has the ability to damage the tissue in your stomach causing inflammation, redness, and soreness, right?
And in some cases, it can also cause painful sores called peptic ulcers in your stomach. And H pylori can also cause upper gut dysbiosis, which can feel a lot like gas or that stomach pressure. And that gas and stomach pressure are what trigger breathing issues.
If you have a hiatal hernia, it can also trigger some labored breathing due to the pressure from your stomach. And what happens is that when your diaphragm is in a position where there's increased pressure, it's elevated and so it puts more pressure on the heart, the diaphragm, the lungs, and the vagus nerve, which are all obviously important for breathing.
So displacing and restricting the diaphragm also interrupts the autonomic nervous system, causing you to become more aware of that labored breathing and then triggering abdominal breathing. So it's kind of a cascading effect. The pressure pushes up on the diaphragm and when the diaphragm is elevated or whack, then that puts pressure on our vagus nerve and more pressure on our lungs and therefore our autonomic nervous system, which makes us feel more sensitive to that feeling and makes us breathe differently.
So lastly, in our discussion, we're gonna talk about how reflux can cause difficulty breathing. And again, this manifests in a bit of a different way as well as it causes symptoms to appear more like asthma. So what happens is that stomach contents are actually refluxed into the esophagus causing these breathing issues.
Minute little particles are refluxed and can be aspirated into the lungs. And when we have this, we have different symptoms that look like lung inflammation, constriction, maybe some wheezing, coughing, or even lower oxygen saturation. And so these symptoms will appear to physicians as asthma.
But if you have some upper gut dysbiosis going on, or even structural issues, including things like gastritis or you struggle with reflux in general, or maybe you have an abdominal hernia or that hiatal hernia, you are gonna wanna look at is the reflux causing some of these asthmatic symptoms that you're experiencing.
So you might be thinking, Okay, this sounds a lot like me, what can I do about it? And I'm gonna run through just a few ways or a few things you can help yourself with. So one thing would be to help reduce GERD or even silent reflux.
Another way is going to help is by chewing your food slowly. And this is something that we forget to do. In our busy life, we end up eating on the fly, eating on the run, and not taking time to really sit down and chew our food well.
But the more you chew your food, the more it breaks down in your mouth and when it gets to your stomach, it's easier for your stomach to process and metabolize.
Another thing that might be causing some of, not causing but can be helpful than thoughts of thinking about how to reduce the shortness of breath that you might be experiencing is thinking about gastric emptying.
If you have an elevated pH, this can actually really increase the gas production in your stomach or upper gut. So if you're suffering from a bit of that, that gas that you feel like your food is just sitting in your stomach for a long time, you might wanna consider taking a digestive enzyme with your meals.
You might also wanna think about drinking less liquid with a meal. I recommend no more than eight ounces with your meals because you don't wanna fill up on water, you wanna fill up on whole foods. And when we have too much water, it actually slows down digestion. So just sipping while you're having your meal is a great way to go.
And lastly, we wanna think about, you know, constipation. If you're struggling with constipation, you wanna make sure that you improve that motility to reduce the pressure on your gut and to help you have better breathing.
So I hope this informed you of other ways to look at why your shortness of breath is happening and some ways that you can make it better for yourself. If you want, you can always make an initial appointment with us to get further help. We're always happy to work with you and work with you on your journey.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH