Poor gut health could put you at risk of more severe outcomes if you have COVID-19, according to a new scientific review. The review, published this week in mBio, found that those who had more serious cases of COVID-19 tended to also have gastrointestinal symptoms. It theorizes that an altered gut microbiome could allow COVID-19 to spread to more organs faster, and could be an underlying factor in known risk factors, such as chronic disease.
The main findings of the review are:
• Severe cases of COVID-19 often include GI symptoms.
• Chronic diseases associated with severe COVID-19 are also associated with altered gut microbiota.
• A growing body of evidence suggests poor gut health adversely affects prognosis.
• If studies do empirically demonstrate a connection between the gut microbiota and COVID-19 severity, then interventions like probiotics or fecal transplants may help patients.
Right now, the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are high fever and respiratory issues, but the virus can attack other parts of the body, including the gastrointestinal system. When COVID-19 patients become sick enough to require hospitalization, the review observed that a large percentage of these patients also experienced diarrhea, nausea and vomiting as part of their symptoms.
The review suggests that if the virus is able to enter the gastrointestinal system, it worsens the patient’s outcome, and having an altered gut microbiome makes it easier for the virus to find its way into that system.
Poor gut health is associated with “leaky gut,” a term referring to an unhealthy gut lining that has cracks that allow bacteria, toxins or partially digested food to leak through into the bloodstream. This could mean that COVID-19 patients with leaky gut might have worse outcomes from the virus. If the coronavirus can penetrate through the gut barrier into the bloodstream, it could potentially spread quickly to other organs.
It has been well-established that COVID-19 largely attacks the respiratory system. But post-mortems done on those who have died of COVID-19 have found viral loads in multiple organs, including the heart, liver, brain and kidneys, suggesting that severe outcomes may be more likely when the virus spreads to other organs, something that needs more research, the review noted.
Role of Fiber in Gut Health
The review also noted that the virus was spreading particularly quickly in many Western countries, where many have a diet low in fiber. Fiber is a main component in maintaining a healthy microbiome in the gut.
This is potentially good news, since improving your gut health may be as easy as increasing your daily intake of dietary fiber. This could also be a simple and effective way to help prevent severe COVID-19, as well as being great to do for improvement in overall health.
Currently, on average, American adults eat 10 to 15 grams of total fiber per day, while the USDA’s recommended daily amount for adults up to age 50 is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Women and men older than 50 should have 21 and 30 daily grams, respectively.
What does that look like? Here are some examples of foods and their fiber contents:
• 1 large pear with skin (7 grams)
• 1 cup fresh raspberries (8 grams)
• ½ medium avocado (5 grams)
• 1 ounce almonds (3.5 grams)
• ½ cup cooked black beans (7.5 grams)
• 3 cups air-popped popcorn (3.6 grams)
• 1 cup broccolli (2.5 grams)
If you find that your daily intake of fiber isn’t adding up to the recommended intake, and you would like to give your gut health a boost, consider taking a supplement like ClearFiber. This fiber supplement dissolves clearly with no grit or thickening. It mixes easily into most foods and beverages without adding any taste.
If you are trying to get more fiber in your diet, start slowly and build your way up to the recommended intake over a few weeks to avoid gassiness and bloating.
Photo from here, with thanks.