It seems like the only thing people are talking about these days is the coronavirus pandemic…and with good reason.
If you feel anxious about it, you’re certainly not alone. Today I wanted to review a few practical tips to help boost your gut health, and in turn your immune system, to help your body ward off a potential coronavirus infection.
Given that it’s estimated up to 30-50% of the population will be affected by coronavirus, I think it’s super important to optimize your gut health as much as possible during these times.
Obviously you’ll want to start with the basics by following CDC guidelines about washing your hands, avoiding touching your face while out in public, and minimizing interactions with large crowds.
Going beyond just the basics though, I’ve outlined the top 3 ways you can boost your gut health and therefore boost your body’s ability to ward off any potential coronavirus infection.
Did you know that about 80% of your immune system resides in your gut? Your Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (or GALT for short) protects your body from invasions from potential pathogens, like the coronavirus. Viral infections can take hold in the gut if your GALT isn’t optimally functioning.
You can optimize your GALT’s functioning simply by removing food sensitivities and food allergies from your diet. Your diet has an important role in your immune system for this reason.
If you’re regularly consuming foods that are triggering inflammatory responses in your gut, your body goes into overdrive trying to fight off that food thinking it’s an invader. This, in turn, weakens your body’s ability to respond and ward off a pathogenic infection (like a coronavirus) when it enters the gut.
Further playing on the theme of the importance of reducing inflammation in the gut, you’ll want to focus on consuming whole & simple foods, like:
Meanwhile, you’ll want to limit, as much as possible, processed convenience foods like:
By removing food sensitivities and processed foods from your diet, your gut’s immune system (aka GALT) is optimized and has a greater chance to ward off any potential viral infection from the coronavirus.
It’s important we acknowledge the extent of the work our good gut bacteria do for our bodies.
The good gut bacteria collectively act as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in your gut, keeping vital day-to-day functions occurring effortlessly by:
On the other hand, there are bad gut bacteria that can act like disruptors to the normal flow of things. When you have too many of the bad gut bacteria, you’re experiencing what we call gut dysbiosis.
Gut dysbiosis occurs when harmful bacteria, yeast, viruses, and/or parasites take hold in your gut and change the overall bacterial balance of your microbiome so that it favors their survival while diminishing the survival of the good gut bacteria.
The balance of good and bad microbes in our gut can be influenced by:
Symptoms of gut dysbiosis can manifest as:
So why is maintaining gut microbe balance important in the context of boosting our immune health during a coronavirus pandemic?
Protection against an influenza infection has been found to be associated with the health and diversity of our gut micro-biome. Recent findings suggest having adequate amounts of healthy gut bacteria optimizes our immune response to fend off influenza infections.
What can you do?
The best way to identify if you have gut dysbiosis is to get a comprehensive DNA stool analysis that shows, in detail, the balance of your good and bad gut bacteria so we know for sure what needs re-balancing. With these results in hand, we can develop a concrete plan to optimize your gut balance and therefore significantly improve your body’s ability to ward off invaders, like coronavirus.
Most often, you can correct gut dysbiosis by boosting the number of good bacteria in your gut by consuming fermented foods, taking a daily probiotic, and adding in prebiotics. Other ways to address these imbalances is with use of herbal anti-microbials or pharmaceutical agents, of course, under the supervision of your health practitioner.
Having adequate stomach acid can be a first line of defense against fighting off pathogens that get into our body.
The stomach produces hydrochloric acid, which is important in helping us break down foods, but it also serves as a barrier to killing off any pathogens that might enter through our oral cavity.
Although there are no direct studies measuring how stomach acid could potentially fight off a coronavirus from taking hold, research has shown an important link between having adequate stomach acid levels and the ability to ward off pathogenic infections.
Some other common symptoms of low stomach acid are:
What are common underlying causes to low stomach acid?
The baking soda test is a simple method you can do at home to determine if you might have low stomach acid levels (I don’t recommend doing this if you’re on a PPI though).
In the morning before you eat breakfast, mix 1/4 tsp of baking soda in 4oz of water and drink it (I know, it doesn’t taste great). Time how long it takes you to burp, if 5 minutes go by without any burping it could be due to low stomach acid. There are false negatives and false positives with this method, so you might want to try a few times and see.
What can you do if you think you have low stomach acid?
In addition to addressing gut health you’ll want to consider other ways of boosting your immune system.
It’s important for everyone to minimize stress as much as possible. When we minimize stress, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) which helps us to ward off the negative effects of chronic stress.
You can reduce stress by implementing daily activities such as breath work, meditation, yoga, a nature walk, or just unplugging from social media and the news and listening to relaxing music instead. I suggest doing this for a minimum of 15 minutes twice per day.
Why is addressing stress so important?
There’s an intimate connection between your brain and your immune system, the study of it is called Psychoneruoimmunology or PNI. PNI is the study of how your actual thoughts modulate how your immune system works. Basically by reducing stress and focusing on thinking more positive thoughts, you can improve your immune functioning. Crazy, right?
This is why it’s so important to take an integrative approach to your health.
In an earlier blog post, I discussed the principal of PNI and outlined the importance of cultivating a Positive Mind-Body Connection to improve your health along with a short guided meditation for you to get started.
In an earlier blog post I outlined my favorite cold and flu remedies where I recommend supplement brand names and dosages to boost immune health.
Here’s a brief list of my favorite immune boosting supplements that I personally have on hand in my household:
As always, consult with your health care practitioner before adding any supplements as these could potentially negatively interact with prescription medications or particular health diagnoses.
Below is a graphic I made to outline use of a few of the above listed supplements.
In addition to following CDC guidelines, optimizing your gut health could be the first great defense against coronavirus.
Hospitals are likely to become overburdened with coronoavirus patients in the near future. As a result, those of you who suffer from gut issues will likely no longer be priority patients, and diagnostic procedures, etc. will have to be put on hold for the time being. Which means you’ll continue to silently suffer with your gut issues.
For these reasons, NOW is the best time to get started on your integrative gut healing journey. While minimizing uncomfortable digestive symptoms with my program, you’ll also be boosting your body’s innate ability to ward off a potential coronavirus infection.