You may already be taking vitamins C and D as well as minerals like zinc and magnesium to better support your immune system, but have you also considered ways to improve your gut health? New research shows that one particular bacteria residing in your intestines may be to blame for heightened COVID-19 symptoms.
In the new study featured in the British Medical Journal’s publication Gut, a team of scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong suggest that the gastrointestinal tract may play a bigger role in our recovery from COVID-19 more so than we initially thought. (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now.)
After observing blood and stool samples from 100 patients treated in two hospitals, the researchers found that the “gut microbiome composition was significantly altered in patients with COVID-19 compared with non-COVID-19 individuals irrespective of whether patients had received medication.”
Patients whose blood samples indicated high blood plasma levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (and other inflammatory markers) experienced adverse COVID-19 symptoms. As these patients were fighting the virus, the researchers noticed “substantial involvement” of the GI tract given that the composition of their gut microbiota had been altered.
“Associations between gut microbiota composition, levels of cytokines, and inflammatory markers in patients with COVID-19 suggest that the gut microbiome is involved in the magnitude of COVID-19 severity possibly via modulating host immune responses,” the study’s authors wrote.
Even more telling, the gut microbiota in some patients remained significantly altered for up to 30 days. A small subset of patients showed what’s called gut microbiota dysbiosis (imbalance) 30 days post-recovery, which could explain why some people have prolonged symptoms.
The main takeaway here? The study pinpoints a potential connection between gut bacteria negatively affecting inflammation in the body, which could make covid symptoms worse. In the interim, with this knowledge, you can work on incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy green vegetables like spinach; heart-healthy nuts like pistachios; and fatty fish like salmon into your everyday diet to support your gut.
And for advice on which foods to avoid when trying to promote a healthy microbiome, be sure to read The Worst Foods for Gut Health.