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COVID and Gut Health

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From long-haulers to nearly symptomless and everything in between, COVID-19 is proving to be a complex and nasty virus.

New research is showing there are some symptoms you shouldn’t ignore when it comes to your gut. And gut health plays a vital role in your overall body health and even your brain health.

Early on during the pandemic, Chinese medical researchers found that stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal) and some fecal-oral transmission was one clear source for the spread of the virus. While it was known that oral and nasal transmission were a factor, this added to the complexity of how the virus moved amongst humans. “[The] digestive tract is a primary organ system for the virus to multiply, replicate, and potentially spread,” cited Brennan Spiegel, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

A study shows that 5 percent to 15 percent of patients who have contracted COVID-19, often have gut issues that have persisted after the first phase of the infection and sometimes signalled worse patient outcomes, as it might indicate the virus has involved more into the body.

Recently New York clinicians published figures that noted 22 percent COVID-19 hospital patients had diarrhea, 7 percent had abdominal pain, 16 percent had nausea, and 9 percent had vomiting. Overall, 33 percent of patients had gastrointestinal issues and 62 percent of patients evidence of liver injury. 

Dr.Sapna Makhija, MD, FRCPC, ABOM Diplomat Gastroenterologist with an interest in Clinical Nutrition and co-owner of  GI Health Centre in Burlington outlines gut health tips and Gastrointestinal symptoms that should not be overlooked that points to COVID-19  and steps you can take to help guard against risk.

Future complications after having Gastrointestinal issues after having COVID-19

  • Gastrointestinal issues for up to two months after recovering
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal discomfort 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mood fluctuations

Gastrointestinal (Gut) health tips

  • Having adequate fiber & water (helps with stool movement. Fibre also helps with Cholesterol control, satiety (reducing hunger) and improves the microbiome. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol by binding to it in the small intestine. Once inside the small intestine, the fiber attaches to the cholesterol particles, preventing them from entering your bloodstream and traveling to other parts of the body.)

  • Avoiding processed foods (the environment created in the gut by processed foods (once broken down) is a great environment for microbes that promote diverse forms of inflammatory disease. Also, studies show that the availability of processed foods is positively associated with the prevalence of obesity)

  • A variety of vegetables (if cellular plant foods (vegetables) are ingested—a substantial amount of feels from whole plant food will enter the colon in an intact state, and favours the growth of bacteria that degrade the fibre and produce beneficial metabolites such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that are beneficial for the host)

  • Exercise & Stress level management (there are a small amount of studies that suggest exercise affects the gut in a positive way, and stress). 

We know that COVID is far more than just respiratory virus like the flu. It’s impacting our brains with many reporting moderate to severe brain fog, then there’s heart issues and nervous system impacts. The better we keep our overall body health, the better we can fight it until we’re all able to get vaccinated.

You might also enjoy this article with tips on keeping your immune system strong.

Author: Alex Hurst is a staff writer for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Silver Magazine based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 

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