With COVID cases surging, many patients are asking how they can protect themselves and boost their immune systems. What many patients don’t know is that the intestinal system plays a huge role in the immune system and this is largely through the gut microbiome. The microbiota are bacteria existing in the gut which help with digestion and protecting against other germs. The microbiome refers to the genetic material of the microbiota which play a role in immune system function and inflammation. Nutrition, infections, toxic exposures, drugs, smoking, exercise, and stress affect the health of the gut microbiome. And in turn, the gut microbiome plays a role in our diet, sleep, and lifestyle choices. This area of study is called epigenetics, in which organisms can manipulate the environment and impact gene expression.
The gut microbiome is important in reducing inflammation, improving immune system function, maintaining hydration, and protecting against infectious disease. These “good bacteria” modulate immune actions and signals against exposed toxins and microbes.
When bad bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites enter the digestive system, they can release endotoxins. With a gut microbiome imbalance or “dysbiosis”, the environment is less protective. A “leaky gut” allows toxins to enter blood stream causing inflammation. Microbes also develop biofilms, toxic coatings of the intestine which cause inflammation. Gut dysbiosis and inflammation contribute to the exacerbation of infections entering the body, such as COVID. Interestingly the gut microbiome is very much linked to the microbiome of other areas in the body including the brain, oral, and pulmonary microbiomes.
The gut microbiome is linked to the lung microbiome, and endotoxins and inflammation in one area affects the other. This is called the gut-lung axis. Furthermore, current studies show that the lung microbiome could be affecting how we respond to COVID if exposed. Therefore, having a healthy gut microbiome is essential to having a healthy lung microbiome, which could be key to decreasing COVID symptoms when exposed.
The oral microbiome is directly linked to the whole digestive tract and microorganisms existing in the mouth are swallowed and passed to the digestive tract. The average human swallows 1 liter of saliva a day which contains approximately 100 billion microorganisms! Plaque and dental films are biofilms produced by microbes in the mouth and are indicative of low grade inflammation and dysbiosis in the oral cavity. Most importantly, there is also a connection between the oral microbiome and the lung microbiome, and dysbiosis in mouth is linked to lung disease and exacerbation of respiratory infections like COVID.
What are some clues that you need help with your microbiome? Look for the following issues:
Oral Symptoms: Bad breath, plaque, gingival or periodontal disease
Upper Digestive Symptoms: Heartburn, burping, abdominal pain, reflux
Lower Digestive Symptoms: Loose stools, infrequent stools, diarrhea, gas, constipation, or discoloration
Lungs: Asthma, allergies, shortness of breath
Improving your microbiome is a key way to boosting your immune system and could possibly help if exposed to COVID. Fermented foods are a great natural way to get good bacteria in your system. These foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha, yogurt, olives, and kefir. Prebiotics like fiber, oats, barley, bananas, and leeks help feed good bacteria. Probiotics can be purchased with various strains of good bacteria that line our digestive tract. Herbal antimicrobials can also repair the microbiome and come in liquid, pills, and even toothpaste and have been linked to disease improvement in many chronic conditions.
Simply improving your microbiome can be a powerful immune booster in fighting COVID. For more information on a 5 R program (remove, replace, reinoculate, repair, rebalance) for a healthy microbiome, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dhar D, Mohanty A. Gut microbiota and Covid-19- possible link and implications. Virus Res. 2020;285:198018. doi:10.1016/j.virusres.2020.198018
Strand, Jocelyn ND (November 5, 2020). Botanical Solutions for Microbial Imbalances.