The New York Times recently published an article about the connection between long Covid and gut health. It’s good to see the New York Times catching up to earlier research that proved those with dysbiosis and gut issues had more severe outcomes with covid, that those who didn’t. Let’s discuss the long covid digestive symptoms connection.
The study the New York Times mentions found that patients infected with Covid-19 early in the pandemic were more likely to experience lingering digestive problems than those who didn’t get Covid-19. The study comes as no surprise to those of us in functional medicine who fully understand the gut-immune system connection.
Research has proven that Covid-19 triggers stronger inflammatory responses than the common cold, which weakens your immune system long after recovery.1 Earlier research showed that those with dysbiosis and gut issues had more severe outcomes with Covid. I’ve been talking about dysbiosis and its impact on the immune system for decades, and now new studies are highlighting those outcomes.
More research is done daily on the effects of long Covid, yet this new study is promising because you can get to the root of the problem by repairing your gut. I will tell you how to repair your gut to support your immune system and dive deeper into the long Covid and gut health connection. First, let’s discuss long Covid.
What is Long Covid?
Long Covid, also known as Covid long haul syndrome, is exactly what its name says– the long-term continuation of Covid symptoms after the initial infection. For some people, post-Covid symptoms can last months or even years.
Data released in January 2023 showed that 15% of all adults in the U.S. reported having had long Covid symptoms at some point, and 6% reported current symptoms.2
Long Covid can affect multiple organ systems, including your respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointestinal systems.
Here is a list of long Covid symptoms, which can range from mild to severe:
- Respiratory symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Neurological symptoms
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Joint or muscle pain
- Chest pain
- Digestive symptoms, including diarrhea and stomach pain
- Blood clots
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
There is no definitive reason why you and many others may be experiencing the long Covid symptoms. One theory suggests that Covid causes your immune system to remain overactive, leading to prolonged inflammation or autoimmune disease.3
Another theory suggests that those with a severe case of Covid may experience organ damage affecting the skin, kidneys, heart, and brain.4
Research is being done every day to understand the effects of long Covid better. A recent study published in the Journal Nature Communications uncovered a possible link between long Covid and digestive symptoms.
The Link Between Long Covid and Digestive Symptoms
The Journal Nature Communications study compared records of more than 150,000 Covid patients in the Veterans Health Administration system with millions of patients of similar age who were not infected with Covid.
The study found that 36% of people are more likely to have long-term digestive problems they didn’t have before their infection. The most common symptoms were gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. The study said that some research points to an imbalance of acid production in the gut as the cause. This isn’t the first study that has linked long Covid and digestive symptoms.
Research since 2020 shows that the virus infects other organs besides the lungs, most commonly the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.5 Even after the Covid virus has run its course, studies have found there may be a change in the gut-brain signaling that can cause long Covid digestive symptoms to develop.
Further studies on the connection between long Covid and gut health show that the virus can disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to an imbalance in the microbial ecosystem.6 Some patients with long Covid experienced significant alterations to their gut microbiomes characterized by a higher number of pathogens and lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium.
Other research has shown that gut dysbiosis is linked to a range of long Covid symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, and gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain).
How the Gut Health Impacts Overall Health
I’ve said it over a thousand times; your gut is the gateway to optimal health. It’s the home of 80% of your immune system. In addition, 95% of your neurotransmitters — the molecules responsible for keeping your mood stable — are also made there. I cannot stress the importance of gut health on your overall health strongly enough.
Imagine your gut as a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to let tiny boats (micronutrients) pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. External factors, including food (gluten & dairy), SIBO or Candida overgrowth, toxins, and stress, can break apart the tight junctions in your intestinal wall, leaving the drawbridge open.
Once this happens, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, much larger boats that were never meant to get through (toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles) can escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and signals an inflammatory response to attack them.
When your gut remains leaky, more and more particles can escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system reacts by sending out wave after wave of inflammation to attack foreign invaders. This state of high alert causes your immune system to become overstressed and fire less accurately.
This can lead your own tissues to get caught in the crosshairs and cause a flood of symptoms. Eventually, this will develop into full-blown autoimmunity if your leaky gut is not addressed. You must first repair your gut to achieve optimal health and reverse your autoimmune condition. That’s why healing your gut is the first pillar of The Myers Way®.
What You Can Do about Long Covid
There are several ways to ease the burden of long Covid symptoms, such as repairing your gut, trying hyperbaric oxygen therapy, doing cryotherapy, and reducing your toxic burden by using toxin-free cleaning and beauty products. In just a second, I will tell you more about how to repair your gut using my newest tool for optimal gut function. Before I do that, I want to tell you about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
I had great success with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) after having Covid in December 2022. I had crushing fatigue and was afraid of getting long haul covid. With the concerns of my own battle with autoimmune disease, I got a hyperbaric chamber when I got Covid and felt improvement with just two sessions.
I recommended hyperbaric therapy to a couple of friends who were also dealing with Covid and they said they also saw improvement with their symptoms.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. In the chamber, you get exposed to increased air pressure two to three times higher than normal. At this level, your lungs can intake pure oxygen that would otherwise not be possible to breathe in at normal air pressure.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. Increased oxygen helps build and repair blood vessels and promotes collagen production, which facilitates healing.
If you’re curious about trying hyperbaric oxygen therapy there could be a clinic that offers hyperbaric sessions. If you’d like to get one for your home, I bought a hyperbaric chamber from Oxy Health that I have in my Santa Fe, New Mexico home. Oxy Health has convenient rent-to-own plans and six different chambers.
Repair Your Gut with the 4Rs
In my world-renowned clinic, I successfully worked with thousands of patients from around the globe to heal using the 4R approach. My newest tool to restore optimal gut function and detox your digestive tract to promote a healthy inflammatory response is Gut Detox Pro™, which features the incredible power of ImmunoLin®, a cutting-edge immune protein composed of concentrated immunoglobulins to promote your body’s natural immune response through detoxification. Here’s how Gut Detox Pro™ works with my 4R approach to repair your gut:
Get rid of everything that impacts your gut’s microbiome— inflammatory foods (gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs), toxic foods (sugar, caffeine, and alcohol), and gut infections (Candida overgrowth, SIBO, or parasites). Gut Detox Pro™ mops up the negative factors wreaking havoc upon the delicate balance of your gut’s microbiome.
Restore essential nutrients for proper digestion. Once Gut Detox Pro™ has helped to expel toxins and irritants, your body will retain more essential nutrients that aid in proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Complete Enzymes and hydrochloric acid (HCL) work together to support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.
At this point, Gut Detox Pro™ has laid the foundation for an environment where newly introduced beneficial bacteria will thrive. Reintroducing beneficial bacteria to establish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This gets accomplished by taking a high-quality probiotic containing beneficial bacteria such as the Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus species. Remember, the study found that those with long Covid digestive symptoms had lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium.
I recommend a daily probiotic with at least 30 billion units for daily maintenance or one with at least 100 billion CFUs to support maximum digestive health and immune function. If you have SIBO, I recommend taking a soil-based probiotic.
My most comprehensive weapon to repair a leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive®, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root. With these ingredients, Leaky Gut Revive® nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production.
You don’t have to live with long Covid digestive symptoms. Repairing your gut supports your immune system and puts you on a path to optimal health. I’ve personally witnessed success using the 4R approach with patients.
The Final Word on Long Covid Digestive Symptoms
New research continues to shed light on the potential long-term effects of Covid. The latest study shows a link between long Covid and gut health. By following The Myers Way® and taking steps to repair your gut and alternative therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you can limit the impact long Covid has on your health.
- Does COVID change the body’s response to other threats? Depends on your sex. Bill Hathaway. Yale News. 2023.
- Long COVID: What Do the Latest Data Show?. Alice Burns. KFF. 2023.
- Autoimmune response found in many with COVID-19. Sharon Reynolds. National Institutes of Health. 2021.
- COVID-19: Long-term effects. Mayo Clinic. 2023.
- Can long COVID affect the gut?. Christopher D. Velez, MD. Harvard Health Publishing. 2023.
- Gut Microbiota Dynamics in Relation to Long-COVID-19 Syndrome: Role of Probiotics to Combat Psychiatric Complications. Maha F. Alenazy, et al. Metabolites. 2022.