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Signs You May Have COVID in Your Gut After Infection

Experts share what to know about Long COVID and how it can affect your gut. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Getting sick from COVID is bad enough, but for many it doesn't just end there.  Millions will experience a long list of lingering symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, neurological symptoms and GI issues for weeks, months and possibly years after the initial infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "New data from the Household Pulse Survey show that more than 40% of adults in the United States reported having COVID-19 in the past, and nearly one in five of those (19%) are currently still having symptoms of "long COVID." Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain how COVID affects the gut and signs you have Long COVID. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How COVID Affects the Gut and the Brain-Gut Connection

gut bacteria microbiome

Raphael Kellman, MD, a Physician of Integrative and Functional Medicine tells us, "Research is showing that the COVID virus can actually impact and adversely affect the microbiome, which then results in inflammation in intestinal permeability, and a host of consequences that occur when the gastrointestinal wall becomes more permeable than it should be to toxins, environmental chemicals, and byproducts of bacterial metabolites. That can then cause a number of problems in the body, including inflammation and even oral immunity. A component of the effects of coronavirus is its impact on the microbiome and that's even if you don't have gastrointestinal symptoms. So that's why improving the microbiome is a very important component in the healing of COVID. Also, dealing with vaccines in vaccine injury assists with prevention and the treatment of long haul COVID." 

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., Integrative Medicine Physician, Researcher and Bestselling Author From Fatigued to Fantastic! adds, "In some people, COVID likes to make a persistent home for itself in the gut lining. As the gut makes more brain and mood controlling neurotransmitters than the brain itself, This can trigger the persistent brain fog and anxiety frequently seen in long haulers."


You Can Have GI Issues with Long COVID Even if You Didn't Have GI Problems Before

mature woman dealing with bad gut health, stomach pain on bed

Dr. Teitelbaum says, "It is not uncommon to see people come down with persistent diarrhea and sometimes nausea as part of their Long Covid."

Dr. Kellman adds, "Many people who've had no gastrointestinal symptoms before they got COVID have developed gastrointestinal symptoms. There's no doubt about it. Certainly, if one has an autoimmune gastrointestinal disease like Colitis or Crohn's disease, they're more susceptible to exacerbation. People who have had no gastrointestinal disease, symptom or problem at all developed GI and COVID related problems. They could persist for quite a while." 


How to Tell the Difference Between Long COVID GI Symptoms and Other GI Issues That Have Nothing to Do With COVID?

gut problems

Dr. Teitelbaum explains, "Although the research has been done actually showing persistent parts of the Covid virus in the gut lining, these tests are not available outside of research settings. But they look very different on colonoscopy and biopsy. The main tipoff? That the gut symptoms started with a viral infection didn't go away."

Dr. Kellman states, "Well, first of all if someone had Crohn's before they would know. But if it's a new onset with Crohn's, you could get mucus and/or blood in the stool, same thing with Colitis. This is not as common with COVID, but there's a lot of crossovers because COVID can induce autoimmunity as well. So, it can be a trigger for Colitis and Crohn's disease. COVID could really cause many problems. It's a really difficult disease, as it has many weapons to it." 


How to Help Relieve Long COVID GI Symptoms?

Woman recovering from an illness in bed at home.

Dr. Teitelbaum shares, "In those that I treat, I begin with ivermectin 20 – 27 mg a day (depending on the person's weight) for five days along with Pepcid 20 to 40 mg twice a day. Interestingly, Pepcid has been shown to have marked immune and anti-COVID activities in a good number of studies. A recent Yale study also showed reactivation of the Epstein-Barr (Mono) Virus in people with Long Covid, and we have known for decades that Pepcid stimulates your immune system in ways that are helpful for this as well. In addition, Our recently published studies showed that a unique form of ginseng very high in rare ginsenosides resulted in 67% average increase in energy in post viral chronic fatigue syndrome." 

According to Dr. Kellman, "There are absolutely things that can be done and it relates to restoring the microbiome. COVID can adversely affect the health of the microbiome. It reduces its diversity and it can absolutely reduce percentages of certain healthy bacteria in the gut and overgrowth of some other bacteria. So, number one, reestablishing some balance of the microbiome and helping it to endogenously become healthier so that it could flourish. A very important component of treatments is the use of both probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are the nutrients that are used to help a healthy gut microbiome to proliferate and become more diversified. Probiotics that have immune modulating and anti-inflammatory effects,.are important to incorporate to assist with relief. When the microbiome is adversely affected by COVID, it can lead to an immunological flare up, even autoimmunity. So, you want to use the types of probiotics that tend to modulate and reduce the overactive immune expression."


GI Long COVID Signs

Woman suffering from stomach cramps on the sofa at home.

Dr. Kellman lists the following GI symptoms that can happen with Long COVID: 

–"Persistent abdominal discomfort and cramps is certainly one possible sign that COVID has affected your gut.

–Constipation and/or diarrhea is another sign, some people actually have alternating constipation and diarrhea post COVID.

–Bloating is another symptom that I've seen. 

–When there's gastrointestinal symptoms, invariably, there are other systemic symptoms as well, such as brain fog and difficulty concentrating anxiety. It's rare that you'll see someone with long haul COVID and that they only have gastrointestinal symptoms. It's quite common that it's associated with problems in the brain as well, including anxiety, depression, brain fog, poor memory and difficulty concentrating, which is very common." 

Dr. Teitelbaum shares, "The main symptoms of long Covid are fatigue, brain fog, achiness, and insomnia. Although you may have symptoms localized just to the gut, the onset after Covid and the association of these other symptoms suggests that possible long Covid needs to be addressed."


The Dangers of Getting Reinfected with COVID

Man self tests for COVID-19 home test kit.

Dr. Teitelbaum tells us, "The more often one gets COVID, the more likely they are to have more severe illness. But in an otherwise young healthy and low risk population, the risk is still low. What is most important is to maintain optimal health and immune function. This can be as simple as taking a good daily multivitamin with zinc 15 mg, vitamin D 1000 units and other key nutrients. I recommend either the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder or a combination of Clinical Essentials plus Virapro. Remember, 40% of people who get the virus have no symptoms whatsoever. And only about 20% of people in a household where somebody has the virus catches it. So simple measures such as a good multivitamin, getting your eight hours of sleep a day, and staying hydrated can make all the difference in the world."


Long COVID is a Threat and Major Concern

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Dr. Kellman explains, "It's most important for people to realize that long haul COVID is a big problem. Some studies show as high as 30% of people who've had COVID develop some form of long haul COVID and sometimes symptoms can start months later. So, it's very tricky to diagnose and sometimes people don't see the connection.

It's very elusive but it could have significant adverse consequences, not only in the fact that many people feel so terrible, but it could have detrimental effects on the brain and other organs. Causing persistent inflammation, which can then lead to a number of different problems, including coronary artery disease, neurological problems and neurological inflammation, which can then lead to neurodegenerative disorders and poor cognitive function. It's important to understand that number one, it needs to be diagnosed and identified and people need to be more aware of this possibility that their symptoms may be due to long haul COVID and not just say aging or "I'm just not feeling so good these days." Make the connection that if you've had COVID and you're having these symptoms, this definitely could be long haul COVID. In fact, some people have long haul COVID who had very mild symptoms with COVID. And then a few weeks or a month later they have long haul COVID symptoms such as brain fog, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, poor memory, and common fatigue among others."  And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather