Did you know that 80% of your immune system is found in your gut?!
Long-Covid + gut health = some answers?
We don’t know for sure why some people are so badly affected by Long-Covid – the condition that arises after acute infection which often includes shortness of breath, fatigue, and “brain fog” but can also involve a wide range of debilitating problems in the heart, brain, lungs, gut, and other organs.
There are many hypotheses, but one in particular is gaining traction: beyond simple viral persistence, the immune system has a significant role to play.
So within this context, there’s a question we’re being asked more and more by those attending our Long-Covid clinic: can the make-up of a person’s gut microbiome be linked to their risk of developing Long-Covid?
Researchers are still searching for answers as to why some people are so badly affected by Long-Covid but an individual’s immune response is key. And with gut health and the immune system being so closely linked, it’s not surprising there is more and more focus on this area.
How does gut health work?
The complex system of trillions of different bacteria within your gut plays a major part in how your immune system is regulated. A thin wall of cells act as a barrier between what passes into your bloodstream and what remains in your intestine. Behind that barrier there are cells that link to your immune system and these cells are constantly sensing what is in your gut. They are responsible for kick-starting your body’s immune response when you’re sick.
What does this mean for Long-Covid?
The distribution and type of microbes in the body (the “microbiome”), particularly in the gut, has been suggested as a potential explanation for the onset of various chronic diseases from colon cancer and heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis. Now, a growing body of evidence has implicated the gut microbiome in Covid’s severity too.
How can I improve my gut health?
If you’re looking to boost the health of your gut, try the following:
- Overhaul your diet. This is the most important action you can take. The “five a day” mantra has been around for some time but more recently, the guidance is leading towards 30 different plants over the course of a week. By doing so, you will be providing your gut with the greatest variety of fruit, vegetables and seeds to feed all the different types of bacteria in your gut and promote better gut health.
- Eat fermented food. Research suggests doing so can prevent gut inflammation and other intestinal problems. Fermented foods include kimchee, sauerkraut and kombucha.
- Try and lower your stress levels. Psychological stressors have been seen to disrupt the microorganisms in the intestines in animal studies. You could try activities like meditation or mindfulness which may help.
- Get enough sleep. Good-quality sleep doesn’t just improve your mood and cognitive ability, it improves your gut health too.
- Make sure you exercise regularly. It’s not only good for your heart and your overall health. Exercise can potentially increase gut flora species diversity.
- Take lactobacillus probiotics. A recently published research paper reveals that treating the gut to a blend of five different friendly bacteria called lactobacillus probiotics, combined with a chicory-rich ingredient known as inulin, could help with acute and long-term Covid symptoms.