How leaky gut leaves you vulnerable to a virus, like COVID-19

Throughout the pandemic, scientists and frontline healthcare workers shed light on what we’ve learned the most about COVID-19 and the virus behind it.

From being overweight or obese to suffering from chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and hypertension — chronic disease came to the forefront as a predictor of who was likely to fall victim to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

As we move forward, with vaccinations and increased knowledge about the dangers of the respiratory virus, there’s one more area where your defenses could be lacking that you may be completely unaware of…

A leaky gut.

Encouraging the spread of SARS-CoV-2

As you may already know, the symptoms of COVID-19 COVID-19’s symptoms weren’t just upper respiratory. It’s been widely reported that people with the virus can experience anywhere from mild to truly awful GI problems, like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

So what’s the complex connection between internal organs like your lungs and your gut?

In research published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, microbiologist Heenam Stanley Kim, Ph.D., from Korea University’s Laboratory for Human-Microbial Interactions, in Seoul, believes emerging evidence suggests that dysbiosis and its associated leaky gut exacerbate the severity of infection by enabling the virus to access the surface of a weakened digestive tract and get to internal organs.

The ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to utilize ACE-2 receptors to grab hold of organs in the body was well-publicized throughout the pandemic. And when the virus latches onto the ACE-2 receptors in a gut with increased permeability — as is the case with leaky gut — spread can not only happen but worsen.

Since a leaky gut is a gut that’s protective barrier is no longer able to do its job — which is to keep what’s inside from “leaking” into the body — it can act as an open door for the virus to reach other organs.

The biggest contributor to a leaky gut? An unhealthy gut microbiome. Specifically, this is a gut without a healthy balance of bacteria. The condition is known as dysbiosis.

That’s how dysbiosis and leaky gut may go hand in hand to increase the risk from SARS-CoV-2, its mutant variations or a similar virus.

Healing the gut for virus protection and more

Still, the relationship between the gut and the virus is complex…

For example, half of symptomatic patients in Singapore had detectable levels of the coronavirus in fecal tests, but only about half experienced GI symptoms. Kim suggests that could all have to do with the health of the gut at the time of infection.

This isn’t all that different from findings about the flu virus and the gut

A particular gut microbe was found to prevent severe flu infections by breaking down naturally occurring compounds called flavonoids — powerful nutrients that are commonly found in foods like black tea, red wine and blueberries.

Of course, the biggest contributor to a healthy gut full of health-promoting microbes and a strong intestinal barrier is diet.

As Kim noted, some of the countries hardest hit by coronavirus were ones where the “western diet” is common. The western diet is “a fiber-deficient diet is one of the main causes of altered gut microbiomes,” he said, “and such gut microbiome dysbiosis leads to chronic diseases.” 

Fiber is a nutrient with huge disease prevention that we don’t get enough of. According to a study recently presented at Nutrition 2021 Live Online, only 5 percent of men and 9 percent of women are consuming the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber. We need about 25 to 30 grams daily.

In addition to increasing dietary fiber, taking probiotics daily can increase the population of good bacteria in your gut. Providing prebiotics, such as garlic, onion, dandelion greens and Jerusalem artichokes to feed those good bacteria might provide even higher levels of protection.

Another important thing to remember about COVID-19, fiber and your gut health, is that research published in Nature Reviews Immunology found, after numerous clinical trials and other studies, that the secret to our immune response to vaccinations lies in the gut as well. In other words, the health of your gut can impact how well a vaccine may protect you.

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Poor Gut Health Connected to Severe COVID-19, New Review Shows — American Society for Microbiology

A leaky gut may be the link between poor gut health and COVID-19 severity — StudyFinds

Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as Editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.