DR MEGAN ROSSI: How to heal intestinal problems caused by covid

Most infections, such as the flu, can leave us feeling unwell for a few days, but we gradually get better and get back to normal within a week.

Sometimes an infection can have a nasty sting in its tail, and the long-term effects may seem unrelated to the initial symptoms. I am specifically talking about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) caused by Covid infection.

I often see this in my clinic, clients who have never had bowel symptoms complain of bloating, abdominal pain and bowel changes within weeks of recovering from Covid.

You might wonder how a respiratory infection like Covid can leave you with long-term gut problems like IBS.

In fact, intestinal symptoms are a common symptom of Covid infection itself. Although I managed to avoid them, most of my clients were not so lucky and about 20 percent of the general population experienced problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite.

Most infections, such as the flu, can leave us feeling unwell for a few days, but we gradually get better and get back to normal within a week.

Studies have also shown that the virus is found in the feces of about 50 percent of people with Covid. At the height of the pandemic, it was actually considered a source of transmission.

It’s no surprise that the virus that causes Covid (SARS-CoV-2) attaches to ACE2 receptors in the body and, just like in your lungs, these receptors are found in the gut, allowing the virus to infect the virus. direct intestinal coverage.

Interestingly, several studies have also shown that people with poor gut are more likely to get sick with Covid.

IBS caused by Covid is a little different – basically, something has messed up the bowels: it looks good, but it doesn’t work as it should, which is what we call a functional disorder. Studies show that gut infections and stress in general (like when you’re sick) increase the risk of IBS several times over.

Thus, the balance of gut microbes can also be altered—inflammation caused by any infection in the gut can upset this balance, tripling the risk of IBS. So if you’re experiencing gut symptoms after Covid, you may have IBS. But before self-diagnosing, visit your doctor for an examination; The Long Covid NHS service is also available, visit yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk.

If you’re still prone to IBS, remember that there are official diagnostic criteria.

Many people do not understand that IBS is not diarrhea or constipation: the main symptom is recurrent abdominal pain – according to the criteria, to be officially diagnosed with IBS, this pain must occur once on average. one day per week (with symptoms starting six months ago) and must be associated with two or more of the following:

  • Pain improves or worsens when you do zak.
  • Pain is more common when your stool is more or less than usual.
  • The pain corresponds to whether your stools are softer or harder than usual.

If this describes your symptoms, the first line of treatment is to consider diet. This means cutting back on alcohol and avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, fried foods and fatty meats, as these all stimulate bowel movements, which can worsen symptoms.

Another thing to watch out for are artificial sweeteners (especially those ending in -ol like sorbitol and xylitol, which are poorly absorbed and can cause gas and pain).

Drink plenty of water, but limit fruit juice and smoothies — you should eat two pieces of fruit; five servings of vegetables; three servings of whole grains and two servings of nuts/seeds/vegetables each day.

IBS caused by Covid is a little different - basically something has messed up the bowels: it looks good, but it doesn't work as it should, which is what we call a functional disorder.

IBS caused by Covid is a little different – basically something has messed up the bowels: it looks good, but it doesn’t work as it should, which is what we call a functional disorder.

Prolonged bowel symptoms are not just related to Covid infection. Gut bugs can also have long-term effects that seem unrelated to the bug itself; for example, causing temporary lactose intolerance.

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products and is something that is regularly seen in the clinic with temporary lactose intolerance. After a gut infection, people often find their stomachs unable to eat many of the dairy products they once enjoyed, as this causes symptoms such as cramping, bloating and loose stools.

Intestinal infection and inflammation damage the cells in the intestine that produce lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose. As a result, lactose is not broken down properly and ends up in the colon, where it is fermented by the lactose-naive bacteria that live there, producing gas and digestive symptoms, such as loose stools.

Fortunately, most other digestive enzymes are produced outside of the small intestine, specifically in the pancreas, so intestinal infections do not affect our ability to digest other components of food. Most people who suffer from this can handle small amounts of lactose – 50ml of milk (about what’s in a cup of tea) and up to 150ml throughout the day – without any problems.

Lactose is often “hidden” in our food – it’s used as a sweetener in processed foods such as cereal and cookies – so you may not realize that your gut symptoms are actually caused by the following. The lactose in that cookie and slice of cake, for example, is not IBS.

But ironically, milk can cause problems, but hard cheese is fine: it’s very low in lactose because most of the lactose is lost during the production process.

As with live yogurt, during the fermentation stage of yogurt production, the bacteria eat up a significant amount of the lactose.

Many people with lactose intolerance believe that they should eliminate dairy products forever, but this is not the case. It’s best to include small amounts in your diet, as fermented milk products are a great source of calcium, with health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a healthy body weight. Important for bone strength and nerve function.

Within two to three months, your lactase production should return to normal as your gut heals from the infection – and you can enjoy lactose-containing dairy products.

For those who are genetically lactose intolerant, which can affect up to 95 percent of people of African-American and Asian ethnicity, adding some lactose to your diet is a must. This in turn supports the growth of lactose-digesting bacteria in your gut, which over time increases your gut’s ability to process lactose, leading to tolerance and fewer symptoms.

Did you know?

Each of us has billions of microbes living on our skin, producing our unique fingerprint-like cloud. This is an exciting new area of ​​forensic research for criminologists.

Ask Megan

My daughter (eight years old) often burps, is constipated and has a lot of gas after eating. How can we reduce this? Tests performed by a doctor revealed mild lactose intolerance. We have reduced his lactose significantly and are eating well in general.

Name and address provided.

It’s important to learn about colic symptoms when children are young, but it’s also important not to stress and overemphasize them, which can lead to colic problems later in life.

An open conversation with your daughter about her bowel habits can provide valuable information that can help you and your doctor determine whether diarrhea or constipation may be causing colic — common causes of excess gas and bloating. I consider the frequency and consistency of bowel movements.

This information also helps to adapt different diet recommendations. Overall, it sounds like your daughter has a good amount of fiber in her diet. Fluid is also important as it allows fiber to work its laxative magic, so I’d make sure he’s getting enough fluid (1300ml a day for eight year olds).

If she doesn’t like water, add fresh mint and frozen berries to make it more palatable. Whole fruit is great for kids, but as with adults, drinking too much in one sitting can make them a little bloated, so try to keep fruit spaced at no more than 80g per sitting, up to three servings throughout the day.

Try this: Kale and Hazelnut Salad

If you and your germs want something light that’s not lacking in flavor, look no further. It hits the spot with a light bite and gets you 7g of fiber and eight plant points closer to your weekly goal.

to serve 2

2 zucchini 40g mixed salad leaves (eg spinach, rocket, watercress) l 60g feta, crumbled (if lactose intolerant, switch to 30g parmesan) l 30g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped 20g mixed seeds

to get dressed

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil; l half orange juice (about 40 ml); l 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar; l 1 tablespoon of honey


  • 2 teaspoons of mint leaves, finely chopped;
  • 40 g of pomegranate seeds

Combine the filling ingredients. Season and adjust seasonings to taste. In a small bowl, peel the zucchini into ribbons, then pour the dressing over it.

Allow lettuce to marinate for a few minutes before tossing.

Divide the zucchini mixture between two serving bowls and top each with the feta, hazelnuts and seeds.

Pour over the remaining dressing before sprinkling the mint leaves and pomegranate seeds on top.


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