You may not immediately connect bowel issues with lung disease, but the two often go hand-in-hand. Your lungs and intestines consist of the same types of tissue and glands which react to the same types of triggers. The World Journal of Gastroenterology states that intestinal disease often results in airway disease and vice versa.
Those with lung and intestinal diseases often experience low-grade systematic inflammation. This is simply swelling of the tissues and different organs in your body like in your digestive tract. This swelling may cause abdominal pain and fatigue. Overall this inflammation makes you feel tired and run-down.
Lung and intestinal diseases are classified as remitting-relapsing diseases. This means that your disease goes through periods where you seem to feel better, but that can change the next day beginning a period of worsening symptoms. This is a reason that both types of these diseases need continual monitoring. In the case of respiratory illnesses, a portable spirometer can monitor lung function and often indicate when a decline is imminent.
How Lung Disease Relates to Intestinal Disease
There are two lung diseases that are closely linked to intestinal diseases. Let’s take a look at how they relate to one another.
COPD and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease that causes lung inflammation and shortness of breath. The cause of COPD is usually exposure to outside factors like smoking and exposure to gases over time.
When you have COPD flareups, this causes your lung tissue to become inflamed. This inflammation could reach all the way into your digestive tract. Studies show that lung inflammation directly affects your digestive inflammation. Over time this chronic inflammation can lead to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases.
The term inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) is used for two intestinal diseases, Chron’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. They both cause chronic inflammation of the large and small intestine.
For those with COPD, a healthy diet can prevent flareups and help improve lung function.
Cystic Fibrosis and Digestive Disorders
Cystic fibrosis affects both the respiratory and digestive systems. The underlying cause is mucus. The epithelial cells in your organs produce mucus which traps germs. People with cystic fibrosis have trouble with their epithelial cells. Due to a mutation in their cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), their cells produce especially thick and sticky mucus. This mucus clogs their lungs and makes it difficult for them to breathe and interferes with other bodily functions.
Symptoms of CF in the respiratory system can include the following:
- Coughing accompanied by mucus discharge
- Repeated lung infections like pneumonia and bronchitis
- Chronic sinus infections
- Trouble breathing during physical activity
CF affects the digestive system as well because of the excess mucus blockages in these organs. These symptoms include:
- Trouble gaining weight
- Difficult bowel movement
- Abnormal stool texture (greasy, bulky)
- Intestinal blockage in infants (also known as meconium ileus)
- Excessively salty skin
Establishing a daily exercise routine for this helps loosen the thick mucus in the lungs caused by CF. This aids in keeping a healthy heart which leads to a healthier you. Taking walks, hikes, and biking all count as a great way to stay active.
Ask your doctor about getting a portable spirometer, like Aluna, to help monitor your lung health at home. Not only can the Aluna device signal poor lung performance, but it can help you minimize your trips to the doctor’s office. With the current COVID situation, it’s important to limit possible exposure to the virus, especially for those with Cystic Fibrosis.