Monday, March 20

Can long-term COVID have an impact on the gut?

Recent research indicates that certain COVID-19 patients may still experience gastrointestinal issues.


Several COVID-19 patients say they still feel tired, have brain fog, and have lung problems. Could digestive problems be one of the long-term symptoms that people with COVID have to deal with? And if so, what do specialists recommend as a remedy?

What occurs in the digestive tract during a COVID infection?

As we approach the fourth year since COVID-19 became a worldwide health disaster, hundreds of millions of people have been infected with the virus that caused it. Since the year 2020, it has been recognized that the virus particles that cause lung disease also infect the gastrointestinal (GI) system, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestines, and colon. This might cause abdominal pain and diarrhea, which typically, but not always, clear up as the patient recovers.

We know that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other long-term digestive problems can happen even after Campylobacter and Salmonella illnesses have been treated. Might this occur due to COVID-19?

What is long-term COVID?
Most people who get COVID-19 will live, but doctors are starting to learn about a small number of people whose health will never get better. Long-term side effects of COVID include tiredness, trouble breathing, changes in heartbeat, and sore muscles. Yet, few people, even medical professionals, are aware that persistent COVID symptoms may include diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Why might the digestive tract be involved with COVID?
It is unclear why a COVID-19 infection could cause chronic gastrointestinal problems. Post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a well-known illness that can develop after stomach flu, provides one probable explanation (gastroenteritis).

A change in gut-brain signaling may take place long after the illness's infectious agent has gone. A complex network of nerves connects the digestive tract to the brain and regulates communication between the various parts of the digestive tract. These nerves instruct the body's organs to generate digestive juices, signal the need to use the restroom, and discourage you from eating more Thanksgiving stuffing.

The nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract is so complex that it is often referred to as the second brain. When the nerves are healthy, you won't feel a thing: you'll eat comfortably, move your bowels without difficulty, and have no gastrointestinal concerns. But what if the nerves are not functioning properly? Even if the digestive process stays regular, you may experience frequent pain or a disturbing alteration in your bowel movements, such as diarrhea or constipation.

These conditions used to be called functional GI diseases, but now they are called abnormal gut-brain connections (DGBIs). Experts believe that when viruses and bacteria infect the gut, they may trigger a change in gut-brain transmission that might lead to the development of DGBIs like IBS.

What to do if you have persistent digestive issues following a COVID-19 infection
We do not yet have solid evidence that COVID-19 can create a long-term alteration in gut-brain communication that leads to IBS or other gut-brain disorders. However, mounting data suggest that gastrointestinal discomfort lasting six months or more may be an indication of COVID. Some GI experts, like myself, support attempting irritable bowel syndrome and other DGBI-relieving treatments until the accumulation of additional evidence.

See your healthcare physician if you are experiencing chronic abdominal pain and a change in bowel movements after receiving COVID-19. Several diseases, including viral or bacterial infections, inflammation, and even malignancies, share similar symptoms. A comprehensive examination can help rule out some conditions.

If the problem keeps happening, don't suffer in silence or be afraid to do something! Get medical help if you are in a lot of pain or your bowel habits are changing in a way that is making your daily life or quality of life worse. Discuss with your doctor the possibility that your persistent gastrointestinal issues are a long-term COVID. Ask if they have any recommendations for beneficial therapies or can direct you to a GI specialist. As the study goes on, more data might become available.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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