Has a post-COVID belly got you down?
If you’re experiencing lingering digestive issues after having Covid-19 you’re not alone. Post-covid gut issues are something I’ve seen a fortune of in my clinic recently – from bloating, reflux and flatulence to constipation, diarrhoea and leaky gut. So, I’m here to help.
The gut is the body’s epicentre to health. It’s central to many of the body’s systems, including the immune system, so it isn’t surprising that the aftermath of COVID can come in the form of a range of digestive issues.
Some of the most common gut symptoms associated with the virus include vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, a lack of appetite, abdominal pain, flatulence, distorted taste and nausea. If you’re experiencing any of these during or after catching COVID, no, it’s not a coincidence or your body playing tricks on you. In fact, up to a whopping one-third of people with COVID have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms.
Why does COVID impact the Gut?
While the jury is still out on this one, it’s clear that although COVID is primarily a respiratory illness, more evidence suggests that the GI tract is involved in this disease.
The Gut Lung Axis
It turns out that the gut and the respiratory tract share an immune system, known as the gut-lung axis.1 This axis is bi-directional, which means if the gut is affected by bacteria, the lungs will be impacted too, and vice versa.2
There are also around 100 times more receptors in the GI tract than respiratory organs, so the gut may be able to house more viruses when it acquires an infection.
In COVID, when pro-inflammatory cytokines enter the body through the lungs, it causes all-over body inflammation. Once these cytokines reach the gut, the virus can travel through veins that drain blood from the digestive tract, impacting the all-important vagus nerve.
Once this occurs, the disease impacts the gut barrier, altering bacteria within the gut, increasing its permeability and causing more inflammation.3
Increased intestinal permeability, which is also known as leaky gut, allows the bacteria to circulate, exacerbating the illness. When this happens, we can experience a range of digestive discomfort symptoms, like bloating or flatulence.
To make matters worse, the medications taken for other symptoms of COVID can cause side effects like nausea and diarrhoea.
What Happens to the Microbiome?
The gut is the largest immune organ in the body, and its bacteria influence immune responses. The variety of the gut’s bacteria may influence the severity of COVID and the body’s response to it. Imbalances and inflammation in the microbiome may be implicated in persisting symptoms, known as ‘long COVID’.4
Increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut hinders the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients, making it harder to fight off an infection.
Who is Most Likely to Experience Gut Symptoms with COVID?
Unfortunately, people with pre-existing GI conditions, such as ulcerative colitis or IBS, may experience the disease more seriously and have adverse complications that's why it's so important to look after your gut health both prophylactically and on an ongoing basis.
What’s the Bottom Line?
More research is needed to understand the full extent COVID has on the body, but it is clear that the gut is involved.
My Top Tips for The COVID and Post-COVID Gut
A Gut-Friendly Diet
Focus on a gut-friendly diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, soups and smoothies. A gut-friendly shopping list should include anti-inflammatory turmeric, gut-healing gelatine, omega-3-rich fish, protein, gut-loving slippery elm and supercharged Love Your Gut Synbiotic Powder.
The Synbiotic Powder helps repair, restore, and rebalance and reignite your gut health from within.
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It contains 20 billion bits of love for your bacteria in the shape of a unique and completely natural synbiotic formulation, with plenty of digestive enzymes, dietary fibre and a supercharged blast of antioxidants. You can find out more here.
Incorporate foods that not only make it easier for your gut to digest but will make you feel lighter and possibly less fatigued.
Some of my favourite gut-loving meals are steamed, sautéed, stewed or roasted vegetables, bone broths, fibre-rich foods and gluten-free grains. There are load of recipes here.
Avoid triggering foods
If you are experiencing lingering health issues, help restore your gut by avoiding or reducing caffeine, alcoholic beverages and refined sugar. Giving your gut a break can allow the gut lining to heal and help reduce inflammation, too.
Staying hydrated is required to help move things through the body. Water can help hydrate the kidneys, improve digestion and reduce fatigue.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Shift the balance of unhealthy microflora to a microbiome that can generate energy for the body by eating more pre and probiotics.
Probiotics are live microorganisms found in yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut that add healthy microbes to the gut. Prebiotics, found in artichokes, asparagus, and chicory root, act as food for the gut’s good bacteria. Prebiotics can improve immune function, reduce inflammation and even help weight loss. Prebiotics and probiotics work harmoniously to help the gut microflora survive and thrive.
- Chickpea flour
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichoke
Fulvic Humic Concentrate (FHC) is a great ingredient to include in your gut toolkit. It supports the integrity of the gut lining and strengthens its tight junctions, which replenishes microbiota, nutrients, and enzymes after viruses. It also helps to stimulate energy production, and improves oxygen levels. 5
Fulvic acid has a number of studies for its effects on immune health and inflammation. Test-tube studies have shown that it may limit the release of inflammatory substances like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). 6, 7
The other ingredient to add to your toolkit is Love Your Gut powder. This powder helps to gently sweep the gut and carefully wipe it clean of bad bacteria. Love Your Gut Powder enables you to absorb nutrients by removing built-up plaque, allowing you to absorb more from your food and improve digestion.
If you're feeling tired and depleted, having a soothing and filling breakfast can help. My Coconut Oatmeal on a cold morning is like a warm hug for your insides. Oats are one of the most magical gut-healthy foods around, boosting beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, and relieving issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
Oats are a good source of resistant starch which is not digested in the stomach or small intestine and reaches the colon intact. This oatmeal is such an easy way to squeeze in some gut-healing benefits first thing in the morning.
- 50 g (1 3/4 oz/1/2 cup) gluten-free organic rolled (porridge) oats
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) filtered water
- pinch of Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
- pinch of ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) Coconut Milk
- 1 handful of mixed fresh berries
- mint leaves, to garnish
Combine the oats and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer
and cook for 12–15 minutes, or until the oats are tender, stirring regularly.
Stir in the salt, cinnamon. Mix the coconut milk through until creamy and smooth.
Serve topped with the berries and mint, and an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.
I'd love to know: have you experienced any digestive discomfort with COVID?
Let me know in the comments below.