Asthma

Can Prebiotics Help Asthma?

Stewart Brand, best known for his work as editor of the Whole Earth catalog once said, “If you don’t like bacteria, you’re on the wrong planet.”  It is true that, to most of us, bacteria has a negative connotation, but  lately, we are learning that the certain bacteria may be extremely beneficial.

You may have heard the terms prebiotic and probiotic being tossed around lately.  You may also know that they’re typically found in dairy products like milk and yoghurt.  But what are they?

About 100 years ago,the pioneering Dr. Matternick found that bacteria in yogurt could improve digestion.  He postulated that this ‘good bacteria’ could take the place of ‘bad bacteria’ in the human stomach.  Probiotics are now defined by the FAO/WHO as ” live microorganisms which ….confer a health benefit on the host,” and are most noted as a digestive health aid. Prebiotics are nondigestable carbohydrates.  They are the fuel of probiotics and are usually found in milk and plants and are needed to ensure optimum function of probiotics.   Recent evidence shows that consuming foods that contain prebiotics can also help relieve asthma.  Let’s look at the evidence.

Asthma
There is little doubt that asthma is a big problem in the United States.  It affects about 17.7 million adults and 6.3 million children.  Its symptoms include tightening of the chest muscles, coughing, loss of breath and wheezing caused by inflammation of the airways.

There are two kinds of asthma. Allergic asthma is caused by allergens, like dust, mold, and pollen.  Non allergic asthma is caused by illness, exercise, medications, and stress.  It is this second type of asthma that has become the focus of the new findings.

How Does this Work?
You may have noticed a relationship between the words antibiotic and probiotic.  While antibiotics cure by preventing life, probiotics cure by promote life.  The theory is that  by promoting probiotic activity in the human  body, we strengthen our immune system and enhance our health.

The Study
Investigative research was conducted by the SHAPE Department Research center at Nottingham.  It involved 18 people, 10 with EIU ( exercise induced asthma) and 8 subjects who were asthma free.  They were all given a prebiotic supplement (B-GOS) for 3 weeks, followed by no  treatment for two weeks ,and then were given a placebo for three additional weeks.  These individuals with EIU showed an improvement in lung function after taking the B-GOS as compared with the results of the placebo.

Says Dr. Williams, study leader, says, “Importantly, the level of improvement in lung function that appears after the prebiotic is perceivable by the patient and therefore clinically relevant.”

Prebiotic Foods
In light of the fact that prebiotic foods are known primarily as a digestive aid, it may not be surprising to learn of their high fiber content.  Prebiotic foods include:

  • Raw chicory root:  While available as a supplement in health food stores and pharmacies, raw chicory root can also be found in certain breakfast bars, cereal and breads.
  • Raw Jerusalem Artichoke:  Sometimes know as the artichoke, due to its high fiber content, the only resemblance the Jerusalem artichoke has to the artichokes we are familiar with is the flavor.  It actually most closely resembles ginger  Besides being a great prebiotic, it is also a source of potassium and iron.
  • Cooked Onions:  A slightly less exotic options, cooked onions are a delicious addition to soups and sandwiches and can be sautéed, fried or even caramelized!
  • Raw Garlic:   Not recommended for a first date, raw garlic has almost half the required amount of daily fiber.  Put it is hummus, pasta, or with veggies.


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