COVID-19 And Your Gut Health

By: Kelli Kieselbach

Many people with COVID experience digestive issues as part of their symptom picture.

The most common being nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. For some these digestive symptoms linger beyond the initial infection phase leading to problematic digestive issues long term.

Results from a recent UK study demonstrated that there was an increased risk of digestive disorders and hepatobillary (liver and gallbladder) conditions post COVID 19 infection. GORD (reflux), IBS and constipation were the most common and long-lasting. And catching the virus multiple times seems to increase risk.

So how does COVID-19 impact the gastrointestinal system?

There is an abundance of ACE2 receptors in the digestive tract which the COVID virus can bind to and research tells us that the virus can persist in the gastrointestinal tract for weeks to months after the acute infection has passed. Like many viruses, we also know there is evidence that the virus alters the balance of our intestinal microbiome (our friendly gut microbes) in a negative way which leads to all sorts of problems in the short and long term.

Thirdly, the research points to unresolved or poorly regulated ongoing inflammation locally within the digestive tract. When inflammation is not managed this can lead to tissue damage of the intestinal wall. These mechanisms alone are enough to lead to stomach pain, bloating, reflux, changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation), trouble digesting food and increased sensitivity to foods. This could also interfere with the gut-liver axis possibly contributing to poor liver function or reduced detoxification capacity.

Because our guts are the epicentre of whole-body health, a disrupted microbiome and ongoing inflammation can give rise to many non-digestive symptoms and is considered one contributing factor to long COVID.

What can we do to improve gut health post-COVID?

Thankfully, there’s many tools in our toolkit to help restore balance and reduce inflammation to improve overall gut health. I’ve had great success using anti-inflammatory herbal medicines and nutrients, Prebiotics and strain specific probiotics, diet adjustments and lifestyle strategies to improve outcomes.

Your microbiome is unique to you and how you respond to something like COVID can vary from person to person so its important to seek personalised advise to get the best results. In some cases microbiome testing can be another useful tool to get objective data on what’s actually going on in there and be able to target treatment more effectively.

If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms after COVID and would like to explore how to get your gut health back on track, a naturopathic practitioner can point you in the right direction.

Article supplied with thanks to Kelli Kieselbach.

About the Author: Kelli Kieselbach is a Naturopath and Nutritionist with a passion for a holistic and natural approach to health and wellbeing. Kelli has a special interest in chronic fatigue and chronic pain disorders, and also works to educate Christian ministry leaders in self care and avoiding burnout.

Feature image: Canva Pro

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