Prebiotics for Exercise-Induced Asthma

Upper respiratory problems such as asthma affect 6.3 million children and 17.7 million adults in the United States. Asthma, categorized as chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing, is followed by inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, making it difficult for individuals to breathe.

There are two types of asthma, allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma, that showcase different symptoms. Allergic asthma is often triggered by the elements in the environment such as mold, dust, or pollen. Non-allergic asthma usually flares up as a result of other triggers, such as medication, illness, stress and physical activity. Up to 90 percent of patients with asthma of either type experience symptoms during or after exercise.

Although medication can help control asthma, it has its limitations. Exercise-induced asthma is especially problematic, because the user has to use a short-acting rescue inhaler prior to activity. This medication increases the heart rate; an undesirable side effect people have to endure before working out. The use of this medication before physical activity may not completely eliminate inflammation in the airways, resulting in labored respiration.

Flare-Up Prevention
A new study shows that promoting good bacteria through prebiotic use could provide relief for exercise-induced asthma. Research headed by the Scientists at Nottingham Trent University suggests that prebiotics could be a new possible revenue of treatment for asthma caused by physical activity.

Prebiotics, often found in foods like oatmeal, Jerusalem artichokes, and bananas, are non-digestible carbohydrates. Prebiotics promote good gut bacteria growth and a healthy digestive system. Dr. Neil Williams, lead study author from the Department of Sport Science and the Sport, Health, and Performance Enhancement Research Centre in Nottingham, and his colleagues, have noted numerous studies that suggest a link between allergies, gut microbes, and immune system activity.

Vital Role of Gut Microbiome
Researchers are now beginning to understand the correlation that exists between gut microbiome, health, and disease. Microbes living in the intestine affect the immune functions, allergies, and possible airway diseases. This discovery could be beneficial to better understanding the influence of gut microbiome, as it involves upper respiratory diseases like asthma.

The clinical trial led by Dr. Williams and a group of colleagues, started with the introduction of a prebiotic supplement, Bimuno galactooligosaccharide, and how it affect patients with severe asthma. The controlled group (eight participants without asthma) was compared to 10 non-allergic, exercise-induced participants.

Prebiotics Provide Possible Treatment for Exercise Induced Asthma
The prebiotic “B-GOS” (Bimuno-galactooligosaccharide) in supplement form was tested on 10 adults with asthma and on eight who did not have the disease. At random, the test subjects were given either the B-GOS supplement or a placebo for a three week period, followed by a two-week waiting period. They were given a hyperventilation test called an EVH before starting the supplements and after the waiting period. At the end of the study, blood tests were given to measure the markers of inflammation in the airway.

No improvement in lung function was found in the control group following the ingestion of B- BOS supplements. However, prebiotic use showed major improvement in exercise-induced asthma participants’ lung function. There was a measurable decline in the blood markers that indicate inflammation of the airway. These findings suggest that B- GOS, and its benefit to gut microbiota, could possibly modulate how the immune system affects asthma sufferers.

While the study did not answer the question of exactly how prebiotics and microbes reduce asthma symptoms, it is clear that scientists will continue to explore this new field of research. The ability to use prebiotics to trigger the growth of good microbes presents a new strategy in the treatment of exercise-induced asthma episodes in patients.

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