I just read the results of a really interesting study about the role of gut bacteria in Covid 19. It’s only one study, and more research needs to be done, but here’s what I found interesting.
Researchers found that people with Covid 19 had significantly altered bacterial populations in their intestines, and were especially depleted in bacteria strains that contribute to immune health. It’s estimated that about 70% of the immune system is comprised of gut bacteria.
One note: stool samples weren’t tested before people got the virus, so the researchers aren’t sure if the bacteria were already imbalanced. In other words, they can’t tell us if the virus caused the bacterial changes or if already having altered bacteria is a factor that makes people more likely to have severe disease symptoms.
On top of that – we already know that people with things like diabetes, heart conditions and obesity are at greater risk of winding up in the hospital with a more severe form of the virus.
And if 70% of the immune system is made up of gut bacteria, it only makes sense that keeping those guys healthy will give us a better chance of staying healthy ourselves.
So, how do we do that?
What we eat affects gut bacteria and therefore the immune system, as well as preventing or reversing conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Real foods. Unprocessed meat, seafood and dairy, whole grains, lots of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, healthy oils*.
Friendly gut bacteria particularly like unpasteurized fermented foods and fiber, so eat a lot of things like sauerkraut (from the refrigerated section of the store, Bubbies is a good brand) and kimchi. A wide variety of vegetables feeds a wide variety of bacteria and we want to encourage a lot of different species. Things like whole grains, beans and legumes and starchy vegetables also contain fiber to feed those guys.
* Look for unrefined, cold-pressed oils. Avoid highly processed oils, like sunflower, safflower, soy, corn and canola, as well as hydrogenated/trans fats. These are full of inflammatory chemicals and cause cellular damage, leading to lots of different diseases.
Processed, packaged and fast foods and refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.
I know, I know this is a tough one these days. But it’s so important. Stress releases chemicals in the body that damage organs including the intestines and it kills off friendly gut bacteria. And on a side note, it has a negative effect on the brain. And who wants THAT.
Get adequate sleep:
The body repairs itself while we sleep. It kills off damaged cells and nourishes healthy ones. If we’re not sleeping, this doesn’t happen. Additionally, research has shown a direct link between the amount of sleep we get and whether our immune system is functioning optimally.
If there’s one thing the virus can teach us, it’s this:
We can all take an active role in our own health. We’ll not only strengthen our immune systems in the short run, but create better health all the way around, for fewer medical interventions and an overall better life.