The world is in the grip of a pandemic the likes of which this generation hasn’t seen before. COVID-19 has touched almost every country on the planet. However, some countries are faring way better than the others. And while experts are still trying to figure out the myriad reasons, the correlation between a healthy gut and the infection is emerging as a strong reason why the virus has overwhelmed some parts of our population while spared others. (Read a detailed guide on gut flora here -

The younger population with strong immune systems, though infected, have milder symptoms. The pandemic is notorious for hitting hard older patients often landing them with respiratory distress, hooked up to ventilators. Only one in seven intubated patients is surviving, research says. It reveals more that the survivors have healthy gastrointestinal systems. The healthier your gut is, the more you can fight off the contagion.

"A strong gut is key to Coronavirus prevention” emphasizes Dr. Sabine Hazan, CEO of Progenabiome, an expert in the relationship of gut flora and immunity disease, "the gut directly relates to immunity, especially with at-risk groups." Gut bacteria along with beneficial chemicals, activates vitamin A in food which regulates the immune system. If your gut flora is balanced and fit, your immune response is bound to be strong and resilient.

The coronavirus pandemic, though primarily a respiratory disease, is also a gut invader. The unique infection scheme of the virus allows it to attack the molecule named Angiotensin Converting Enzyme or ACE2 in human bodies. This enzyme helps regulate your blood pressure. It is present both in lungs and gastrointestinal tracts. ACE2 acts as a viral receptor and directly impacts the activity of gut microbes and therefore affects diseases of the heart and lungs. This is the reason why more than 60% of patients with COVID-19 suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The virus is detected in their stool samples collected. It is detectable in stool samples for several days even after it has cleared from respiratory samples. This suggests that the gut is possibly another route of infection and transmission. To sum up, gut microbiota plays a potential role in the susceptibility of COVID-19 progression and severity.

The gut flora or microbiota is home for trillions of bacteria and other organisms and this composition determines the PRS risk score. The PRS risk score (Proteomic Risk Score) was based on 20 proteins that are elevated during systemic inflammations. Using machine learning algorithms, researchers correlated PRS risk score to gut flora as analyzed by stool samples, thus linking gut flora to COVID-19 severity.

A diverse gut flora is a healthy microbiome, which contains different species contributing to our immunity and health. Microbiome diversity declines as we age. So, it is necessary to maintain a healthy gut microbiome all throughout our lives. Immune enhancement might even decrease mortality in the vulnerable elderly populations. Human immune system has two types of responses. Innate immunity fights against infectious agents, whereas the adaptive immunity prevents reinfection. Studies revealed gut microorganisms prevent dangerous immune system responses that damage our lungs and vital organs.

So what do you do now ? Switch to a high-fiber diet. That is what your beneficial gut microbes desire. Most pertinent to the continuing pandemic era, several studies suggest probiotics can reduce respiratory illnesses. Whether they might end up saving some lives is not proven. But, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria (intestinal microbiota) have benefits for immunity and against respiratory pathogens. However, the best way to improve your gut microbiome diversity and strengthen your immune system is to add plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, yoghurt, healthy fats and fish in your diet. Avoid alcohol, salt, sweets, fatty and fried foods. Avoid processed foods and all inflammatory foods that disturb your gut balance. And don't forget to wash your hands.

Author's Bio: 

Jitendra Rathod is a Microbiologist and freelance medical writer. Before turning professional as a content strategist and writer for Life Sciences companies, he worked as an Assistant Professor in Microbiology in a college where he taught to students of graduate and post-graduate courses in Microbiology and Biotechnology. He consults companies on content marketing strategies and helps them reach out to their audiences through targeted content creation and distribution approaches.