Researchers in Switzerland have found that feeding mice high fibre diets can help reduce lung inflammation associated with asthma.

The extra fibre from foods such as fruit and vegetables helped the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.  This bacteria then releases fatty acids that are absorbed into the blood and act as signals to the immune system which resulted in lungs being more resistant to irritation.

The report published by a team at the University of Lausanne stated: “In recent decades, there has been a well-documented increase in the incidence of allergic asthma in developed countries and coincident with this increase have been changes in diet, including reduced consumption of fibre.”

His team found mice fed a low fibre diet developed increased lung inflammation in response to dust mites whereas those whose food was enriched with pectin found in the cell walls of plants had reduced allergic airway disease.

His team reported that when mice fed on a low fibre diet were exposed to dust mites they developed increased lung inflammation.  However, those whose diet was enriched with ‘pectin’, a soluble fibre found in the walls of plant cells, had a reduced allergic response.

The researchers suggest that more work needs to be done to assess the effect in humans, but there are many other ways the body can benefit from increasing fibre: it helps to keep you feeling full for longer so can help with weight management, it reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and helps your digestive system function normally.

How to get more fibre in the diet

  • Make 2014 your year to get at least 5 portions of vegetables and fruit every day!
  • Pears, apples, guavas, plums, gooseberries, oranges and other citrus fruits are all good sources of pectin.
  • You can eat these raw or stewed and add to porridge, cereals or yoghurt or for snacking. Remember that drinking these juices will not provide you with that all important fibre.
  • Other good sources of fibre are flax seeds, avocados, beans, lentils and peas, berries and porridge oats.  Swop white bread, pastas and rice for their wholewheat or brown versions to increase the fibre content of your meals.
  • You can also add lentils or beans to soups and stews.

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