A recent paper by a team at Chinese University Hong Kong has outlined the importance of gut microbiota (also known as gut flora) for an effective and safe immune response to COVID-19 and, possibly, prevention of Long Covid. Vaccination remains the mainstay of managing the COVID-19 pandemic but maintaining good health is the key to avoiding Covid complications if we catch it, whether vaccinated or not.
There is a spectrum of illnesses caused by the virus, some people get asymptomatic infection while others require intensive care treatment. Some of the risk factors for severe Covid illness are known, such as Diabetes and obesity. Gut microbiota composition influences immune function and therefore the researchers explored the possibility that abnormal gut flora can contribute to the inappropriate immune response and inflammation of severe Covid illness.
The team examined the stool of 100 Covid patients, using PCR technology, both during the illness and up to 30 days after recovery. They found a link between depletion of certain gut microbiota and increased Covid disease severity and inflammation. The abnormal gut microbiota persisted after the acute illness and may contribute to Long Covid.
Human gut microbiota are known to influence many areas of health in addition to immunity, for instance, body weight, brain ageing and mood. In another article, we have described a recent paper from the Chinese University that implicates gut microbiota in the development of Autism.
So how do we get a healthy gut microbiota? The key thing is to avoid unhealthy food such as food that includes refined sugar. Taking good quality probiotic supplements regularly is known to be beneficial. Probiotic foods such as yoghurt and kefir improve gut health. Prebiotics such as dietary fibre increases good gut microbiota which in turn suppress bad gut microbiota. In addition, eating a diverse selection of plant-based foods improves gut microbiota, people that eat 30 or more different plant-based foods weekly have the best gut microbiota.
Gut health is a key factor in nurturing a healthy immune system to prevent inflammation. This in turn can decrease severe Covid disease and Long Covid.
1. CU medicine finds new evidence for link between gut microbiome and COVID-19 SEVERITY Microbiome imbalance might Influence "Long covid" risk. CU Medicine Finds New Evidence for Link between Gut Microbiome and COVID-19 Severity Microbiome Imbalance Might Influence "Long COVID" Risk. (n.d.). https://www.med.cuhk.edu.hk/press-releases/cu-medicine-finds-new-evidence-for-link-between-gut-microbiome-and-covid-19-severity-microbiome-imbalance-might-influence-long-covid-risk.
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