Why do some people have asymptomatic Covid-19 infections and others get sick and die? Could the gut microbiome be playing a role? A new study, published in Gut, Jan 11, 2021, shows us that the gut microbiota composition reflects disease severity and dysfunctional immune responses in patients with Covid-19. What this means is what you eat and the natural bacteria in your stomach, small intestine and GI tract may play a roll in your response to the Covid virus.
In Covid-19 infections, the immune system produces inflammatory cytokines in response to virus infection and the inflammatory response can be overaggressive and result in widespread tissue damage, septic shock and multi organ failure. We know that several gut bacteria affect inflammatory cytokines and other enzymes that cause inflammation. We also know that the Covid-19 virus can be found in fecal samples, showing us that there is involvement of the GI tract. (Note: This does NOT mean you get Covid by eating) There is a known connection between the lungs and the gut via the bloodstream with immune function.
These researchers found that patients hospitalized with Covid were depleted in gut bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Eubacterium rectale and other bifidobacterial species known to prevent inflammation. There was a correlation with the disordered microbiome and the severity of infection and elevated blood markers of inflammation.
So what can we do with this information? Diet, environment and genetics all play a role in shaping our gut microbiome which can influence immunity. We should be doing all we can with diet to improve our own gut bacteria. Fiber is the key here and eating foods with whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. High fiber diets are anti-inflammatory and actually enhance the action of antiviral and immunosuppressive drug therapies. These complex carbohydrates are soluble and are fermented by certain species of intestinal bacteria, producing several metabolites that actively reduce inflammation. They can affect the bone marrow and TH2 effector cells in the lungs.
In summary; eat a diet of mainly fruits, vegetables, wholegrain, plant oils and fish. Have low alcohol consumption and avoid high-sat fatty foods, refined sugar, red meat and sugar containing beverages. These are called Prebiotics and this is how you create a healthy microbiome.
At this time no specific supplement probiotics have been shown to prevent or treat Covid-19. Studies are ongoing about the role of probiotics and Covid. Probiotics are a huge industry but the evidence is still out. We can immediately affect our microbiome by what we eat, stopping smoking and exercising. That has scientific evidence for making sure the right bacteria are inside us.