Are you one of the 1.3 million people in the UK affected by long COVID? Do your symptoms seem never-ending, interfering with your quality of life and leaving you depressed and anxious?
One of the perplexing aspects of long COVID is its unpredictability. But science is learning more about this condition all the time, and it seems one of the keys to understanding the effects of post-covid syndrome may lie in your gut.
In this blog, you’ll discover about the link between your gut and long COVID. Knowing what makes someone susceptible to the condition is the first step to putting things right.
The medical definition of long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome, is having persistent symptoms for more than twelve weeks after the initial infection – although they may last for many months. 40% of people affected by post-covid syndrome have experienced symptoms for one year or more.
Sufferers of long COVID report feeling fatigued and short of breath, with brain fog, joint aches, chest pains, skin rashes, headaches, gut issues, loss of smell and taste, and palpitations. Frustratingly, symptoms may come and go in a seemingly random pattern.
The severity of symptoms doesn’t always correspond with how badly you were affected by the initial disease, meaning it’s likely many more people are living with post-covid syndrome than reflected in the official figures. Even people who were asymptomatic with the infection, including children, can be affected by ongoing symptoms. If you didn’t know you had the disease in the first place, you might not connect your symptoms with long COVID.
New research has discovered imbalances in the types and amounts of bacteria in the microbiome of the gut are associated with your risk of developing long COVID.
Researchers already know gut bacterial imbalances are linked with the severity of the initial COVID-19 infection. This makes sense because your microbiome works closely with your immune system.
The bacteria in your microbiome play a major role in managing inflammation. The symptoms of long COVID, in common with many other chronic diseases, are connected with inflammation.
Inflammation is a very necessary response to deal with injury, trauma or infections. White blood cells of the immune system are mobilised as a fighting force, directing blood to the affected area, generating heat and inflammation.
COVID-19 can be particularly dangerous because it can prompt the immune system to go into overdrive and release enormous amounts of inflammatory immune chemicals called cytokines. The boost in inflammation is designed to kill the virus but it can damage the body’s own tissues in the crossfire.
In the short term, some level of inflammation is a natural part of fighting off an infection, but once the initial threat has been resolved the inflammation should subside, otherwise body cells will be harmed. In post-covid syndrome the inflammation doesn’t recede, and the immune system remains in a hyperactive state long after the initial infection has resolved.
Studies have found people infected with COVID-19 had very different gut bacterial populations to people had not caught the virus. COVID-19 patients had fewer of the types of bacteria known to specifically interact with the immune system. Species of gut bacteria releasing inflammatory substances were raised in people who had suffered more severely from the virus.
It seems people affected by long COVID had different microbiomes, too. One study examined the oral microbiome of patients with and without long COVID. The bacteria residing in your mouth make up your body’s second-largest microbiome and can influence your gut microbiome. Patients affected by post-covid syndrome had significantly more bacteria associated with boosting inflammation, especially those species releasing inflammatory substances called lipopolysaccharides. These put the immune system on red alert and can cause inflammation in the brain. This may help to explain the brain fog experienced by long COVID sufferers.
What’s more, the bacterial ratios in people with post-covid syndrome were similar to those found in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Nurturing your gut bacteria is a great start to overcoming your symptoms. Your gut bacteria can’t flourish without food. They thrive on plant fibre, so including a wide variety of plant foods in your diet will feed a healthy microbiome. Sugar is the enemy of beneficial bacteria and wreaks havoc on your immune system.
Post Covid Syndrome can be debilitating and depressing, and it can be hard to make lasting changes alone. Many people find the support of a practitioner very useful. They will assess your personal circumstances and recommend functional tests to evaluate your microbiome, examining what lives there to see if any bacteria are depleted or missing. A programme of dietary suggestions, supplements and lifestyle modifications will reduce inflammation and put you on the path to feeling yourself once more.
Why not request a free 15 Discovery Call.
We have practitioners who specialise in Post-Covid symptoms who could help.
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