It’s one of the great mysteries of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a missing link that scientists around the world are working desperately to find.
And one piece of that puzzle may have been hiding in plain sight all along.
It’s the key to who will suffer the worst of this infection. And that includes a higher risk of hospitalization, ICU care, and death.
It’s also why some folks who recover are back to 100 percent soon after… while others battle “long-haul COVID-19,” or symptoms that linger far beyond the infection itself.
Doctors thought it might be about age, health, or immune function. They even thought it could just be plain old poor luck.
And it’s true, each of those factors may play an important role. But a new study finds another “X” factor that could help determine who suffers the worst from coronavirus infections and who gets off relatively easy.
And there’s some good news. This element may be, at least partially, within your control.
The COVID-19 weapon hiding in your gut
New research suggests that COVID-19 bum rushes our gut bacteria. People who have the infection end up with fewer types of bacteria.
The technical term is “having less diversity.” And it turns out many coronavirus victims specifically fall short in the gut bacteria linked to immune function.
The biggest gut bug disruptions were found in COVID-19 patients who had higher inflammation levels from the infection. Plus, gut bacteria levels don’t appear to snap back to normal once the infection clears.
That balance remains out of whack for up to a month afterward.
Taken together, scientists say this suggests imbalances in gut bacteria could lead to a more severe infection. Plus, a tougher time recovering. And that means your belly bugs could potentially play a role in those “long haul” symptoms that have stumped doctors too.
Now, keep in mind this is preliminary research and NOT a human clinical trial. That’s quite common with COVID-19 since it’s such a new disease.
But in this case, it means we don’t know for sure how much of a role our gut bugs play in this infection. Or how much control building up our own could give us.
But the researchers behind this study believe restoring balance to the gut microbiome could turn out to be crucial to recovery and post-recovery from the COVID-19 infection.
It won’t surprise me if their theory is spot on either. Older studies have found that better diversity in gut bacteria tends to mean better health. And that includes stronger immune function and a lower risk of chronic disease.
3 steps to better gut bacteria balance
The bottom line is better gut bug diversity is good for our health. And that is regardless of whether or not you face a battle with the coronavirus.
Lucky for us, there are some steps you can take right now to help ensure that diversity:
- Avoid processed foods: The toxins and other chemicals in processed foods can upset the delicate balance in your gut. Ditto for the fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals found in water, so be sure to filter yours to support your gut bacteria.
- Limit antibiotic use: These drugs kill the “bad” germs that make you sick, but they also wipe out the good belly bugs that are essential to your health. While there are times you absolutely need an antibiotic, the CDC estimates that 30-50 percent of all outpatient prescriptions are inappropriate or unnecessary. So have a serious talk with your doc to ensure you TRULY need the med before taking it. There are often other non-drug options you can try first.
- Have a probiotic-rich diet: You can help keep your gut bacteria populations happy and diverse by eating plenty of probiotic-rich foods. Yogurt is the most famous. And it’s a great source of healthy bacteria. But so are other fermented foods. Check out these other 5 probiotic foods that AREN’T yogurt.
And of course, you can also add a probiotic supplement to your daily routine.