As we all are aware, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Luckily, most people who develop COVID-19 either have mild symptoms or no symptoms.
However, people are asking questions.
Does COVID-19 lead to a change in the gut microbiota? Does an unhealthy gut contribute to the severity of the virus symptoms? Would having good gut health help you prevent or recover from COVID-19, considering it has a considerable influence on other organs in the body?
These are all excellent questions.
Let’s try and tackle them to the best of our ability and the available research, which is limited.
Gastrointestinal symptoms of Covid 19
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Other symptoms include chills, shortness of breath, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, and muscle pain.
A comprehensive review of all the available literature by Cha et al. (2020) showed some patients developed more focused gastrointestinal symptoms like
- abdominal discomfort
- loss of appetite
All these symptoms can be in the absence of other flu-like symptoms present in the more common presentations of COVID-19.
Interestingly, researchers at Stanford University found that a third of patients they studied with mild COVID-19 complained of gastrointestinal symptoms (Joshi, Ahmed, & Cholankeril, 2021). Another study found that as many as 79% of patients reported gastrointestinal symptoms (Tian, Rong, Nian, & He, 2020).
You might be wondering why this matters?
The Gut-Lung Axis
There are lots of scientists talking about the presence of the gut-lung axis. This was before COVID. It started in earnest when looking for treatments for other respiratory diseases (Enaud, et al., 2020).
Although the gut and lungs are anatomically distinct with their own microbiota, it is theorized a bidirectional system between the two systems exists. This communication between the two systems happens via chemical messengers that trigger responses and influence the immune status of both organs.
The messengers travel via the blood and lymph to regulate the immune system’s function. A healthy gut microbiota will generate chemical signals that stifle inflammation in the gut and the whole body. In contrast, a weakened microbiota will generate signals that increase inflammation in the body.
Anything that affects the gut will inadvertently involve or impact the gut microbiota. The gut inflammation that coincides with these symptoms can lead to the decrease of butyrate-producing gut bacteria that limits the ability of the gut lining to heal and lower inflammation. This will cause increased inflammation throughout the body and weaken the lungs’ immune system!
But it may also give hope to possible preventative actions or treatments with therapeutic potential.
If you can provide a nutrient-dense diet that stimulates and nourishes the gut microbes, it could potentially help the lung immunity to stay in top shape.
The relationship between Covid 19 infection and gut health
A small paper was published where 15 moderate to severe COVID-19 patients were compared alongside healthy subjects (Zuo, et al., 2020). They tracked changes in gut microbiota through their hospital stay.
It was found that the COVID-19 patients had
- An increased abundance of opportunistic and inflammatory gut pathogens in comparison to controls.
- They had less beneficial gut microbes than the control subjects.
- Some degree of gut dysbiosis at baseline predicted who were more likely to have a more severe COVID-19. This is backed up by other studies (Kim, 2021).
- Ten days after recovery and being tested negative for COVID, gut dysbiosis remained in the majority of the patients.
Another study found
- Reduced bacterial diversity in COVID-19 patients (Kim, 2021).
The best news from this study was that if patients had A. onderdonkii and F. prausnitzii – both beneficial species – correlated with an excellent COVID-19 prognosis. The one thing to remember, this information only stands for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19. It wasn’t tested on mild COVID-19.
It is also important to note that there is overwhelming evidence pointing to chronic diseases and their associated impact on the severity of COVID-19. These same chronic diseases are often associated with altered gut microbiota – the usual culprits of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.
What does this mean for my gut health?
The western countries have taken a beating from COVID-19. There are questions being raised that it may be because of our unhealthy lifestyle practices.
The standard western diet is low in fibre, particularly prebiotic fibre, and deficient in antioxidants. It is well accepted that a fibre deficient diet is one of the primary causes of altered gut microbiomes. This leads to dysbiosis and then onto chronic diseases… the epidemic of the west (Dhar & Mohanty, 2020).
The simple answer is…
By maintaining good gut health, you are one step closer to protecting yourself from COVID-19. This goes for any viral and bacterial infection or chronic disease. We know good gut health helps manage all inflammatory disorders.
Fortifying gut health shows promise for prevention and potential interventions to help patients. And with so many unknowns in the world at the moment, prevention is a brilliant treatment strategy.
How do we Improve Gut Health?
By avoiding high sugar diets, consuming a diverse range of food. This includes adding fermented food to your diet. Then you need to think about increasing your moderate exercise, reducing your stress, and ensuring you have good sleep hygiene.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to improve your gut health and boost your body’s immune system is to take a daily dose of Gut Performance™. This will bring you one step closer to giving your immune system the chance to be an incredible disease-fighting machine.
Let us know via our Gut Performance ™ Instagram page and #gutperformance how you prepare your daily Gut Performance™ dose. We love to hear from everyone how Gut Performance™ has taken your gut health to the next level.
Cha, M. H., Regueiro, M., & Sandhu, D. S. (2020). Gastrointestinal and hepatic manifestations of COVID-19: A comprehensive review. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 26(19), 2323-2332. Retrieved 2022, from https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v26.i19.2323
Dhar, D., & Mohanty, A. (2020). Gut microbiota and COVID-19 possible link and implications. Virus Research, 285. Retrieved 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.virusres.2020.198018
Enaud, R., Prevel, R., Ciarlo, E., Beaufils, F., Wieers, G., Guery, B., & Delhaes, L. (2020). The Gut-Lung Axis in Health and Respiratory Diseases: A Place for Inter-Organ and Inter-Kingdom Crosstalks. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00009
Han, C., Duan, C., Zhang, S., Spiegel, B., Shi, H., Wang, W., . . . Hou, X. (2020). Digestive Symptoms in COVID-19 patients with mild disease severity: Clinical Presentation, Stool Viral RNA Testing, and Outcomes. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 115(6), 916-923. Retrieved 2022, from https://doi.org/10.14309/ajg.0000000000000664
Joshi, T., Ahmed, A., & Cholankeril, G. (2021). Gastrointestinal manifestations of coronavirus disease 2019. Current opinion in infectious diseases, 34(5), 471-476. Retrieved 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1097/QCO.0000000000000760
Kim, H. S. (2021). Do an Altered Gut Microbiota and an Associated Leady Gut Affect COVID-19 Severity. mBio, 12(1). Retrieved 2022, from https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mBio.03022-20
Tian, Y., Rong, L., Nian, W., & He, Y. (2020). Review article: Gastrointestinal features in COVID-19 and the possibility of faecal transmission. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 51(9), 843-851. Retrieved 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.15731
Zuo, T., Zhang, F., Lui, G., Yeoh, Y. K., Li, A., Zhan, H., . . . Ng, S. C. (2020). Alterations n Gut Microbiota of Patients with COVID-19 During time of hospitalization. Gastroenterology, 159(3), 944-955. Retrieved 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2020.05.048