Gut Microbes May Help Fight Long COVID
COVID-19 has stretched our health system to its limit—but it is not over yet. Long COVID promises to stress the system for years to come. That’s why it’s good news that something simple and natural may help diminish this pandemic nightmare.
Several research groups have discovered that gut microbes can help inhibit the growth of coronavirus as well as lessen the impact of long COVID. A group at Rockefeller University including Sean Brady and Frank Piscotta found that chemicals secreted by gut microbes can slow the spread of the virus. These chemicals are, essentially, antivirals. Remarkably, they are similar to some of the synthetic drugs developed to fight the virus, such as remdesivir, fluvoxamine, and favipiravir.
The researchers found three antiviral chemicals produced by microbes that can inhibit the growth of the coronavirus: IPA, tryptamine, and BIP. Why would gut microbes produce these metabolites? Likely because there is a continuing battle among microbes, and killing off viruses is an important part of that fight.
According to the researchers, this revelation suggests that “the microbiome may be a fruitful source for the discovery of small molecules with antiviral activities.”
To add insult to injury, after many people recover from COVID-19, they may have the lingering symptoms of long COVID. It is characterized by a litany of symptoms that may continue for months, including
- Brain fog
- Loss of smell or taste
- Low mood
- Blurred vision
- Poor memory
- GI distress
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
The Gut–Brain Connection
This list reveals that many of the symptoms are brain-related. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis found that COVID-19 patients in general were 60 percent more likely to be afflicted with serious mental health problems. That connection goes both ways: People with mental disorders are at greater risk of developing more severe COVID-19.
These mental difficulties also correlate with gut issues like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), implying that the gut–brain axis plays a role in these complications of COVID-19. That view is supported by research from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which found that patients with long COVID had a less diverse gut microbiota than those who didn’t.
One way to increase the diversity of your gut microbiota is to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich foods like beans, lentils, artichokes, onions, and leeks. Fruits and vegetables should be at the top of your list since meat contains no fiber. Fish, however, contains omega-3 oils that are anti-inflammatory.
If you can’t manage to consume enough fruits and vegetables, you might try prebiotics. The advantage of prebiotics is that they can support a wide variety of beneficial bacteria that already live in your gut. Also useful are polyphenols and flavonoids. These are plant nutrients that have prebiotic effects, as well as being antioxidants that can directly protect and heal gut tissue. In order to get a wide diversity of prebiotics and polyphenols, try a mix like Clarity Prebiotic Blend.
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