16 Jun Gut Health – The Key to Ward off Post Covid (Long Covid)
by Ashleigh Feltham, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist
There is no denying that the world we live in has changed. The chance of contracting COVID-19 at some point is almost inevitable. You do still have control over many aspects of your health and your gut may be a key factor in your risk of developing Long Covid, now officially defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Post COVID-19.
The WHO defines Post COVID-19 as a ‘condition [that] occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms and that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.’ The risk of developing Long Covid is not only seen in those who are symptomatic but also in those who are asymptomatic and have only mild symptoms of the virus.
There are reportedly more than 50 different Long Covid symptoms with the most common being shortness of breath, fatigue, hair loss, difficulty maintaining attention and difficulty sleeping. It is predicted that one in every three people will develop Post COVID-19. The exact cause of Post COVID-19 is not known, and it is yet to be determined who are most at risk.
A new study provided insight into the power of your gut in potentially reducing your risk of developing Post COVID-19. Around 70% of the immune system is in the gut, so it makes sense that your gut microbiome must be in optimal balance. A healthy gut may support your body’s ability to clear the Covid-19 virus and reduce your risk of developing Post COVID-19.
The study investigated the stools of 106 people who had been diagnosed with Covid-19. After three months, 81.1% presented with Post COVID-19, and 76.5% after six months. Researchers found that people who had Covid-19 but not Post COVID-19 had a decline of 25 microbe species. However, these microbes recovered after six months.
People who developed Post COVID-19 had a decline in 28 microbial species. All levels of species did not recover after six months post Covid-19 infection. The microbial strains Collinsella aerofaciens, F. prausnitzii and Blautia obeum were still significantly reduced.
The people who developed Post COVID-19 also had higher levels of Bacteroides vulgatus and Ruminococcus gnavus microbial species. Interestingly, the ratios of different microbial species were associated with different Post COVID-19 symptoms, such as fatigue.
This research reinforces the need to keep your gut microbiome healthy. Include two servings of fermented or probiotic rich foods each day, such as miso, kimchi, yoghurt, kombucha, tempeh, kefir, natto and sauerkraut. These will help add health promoting bacteria to your gut. A diet that promotes gut health is the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in plant foods, seafood and olive oil.
It is also important to include a variety of plant-based foods in your diet each day, such as wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit and vegetables. Each of these different plant foods provide different prebiotic fibre and polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidant micronutrients that help fight disease, while prebiotic fibre helps the body suppress bad bacteria. Both prebiotic fibre and polyphenols feed different types of microbes.
The Inclusion of 30 different plant-based foods each week is a healthy lifestyle habit to promote an optimal gut microbiome. Ensure that foods with added fibre contain quality prebiotic fibre. Each South Australian Gourmet Food Company Fruit Custard with Added Fibre contains 11g of prebiotic fibre in the form of inulin.
Take home message:
Your gut plays a major role in your immune system response. Make sure you are giving your gut the food it needs to keep your immune system working at optimal levels by consuming fermented, probiotic rich foods, prebiotic fibre and polyphenols. This may help to reduce your risk of developing Post COVID-19.
More Covid-19 formation can be found at health.gov.au
- Liu Q, Mak JWY, Su Q, et al Gut microbiota dynamics in a prospective cohort of patients with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome 2022;71:544-552.
- A clinical case definition of post COVID-19 condition by a Delphi consensus, 6 October 2021.