Watch Out! COVID-19 Can Cause These Tummy Troubles

Here's how to spot these common digestive problems that may last even after your recovery from Coronavirus!

With each passing day, we learn more about the global enemy no. 1, Coronavirus. Knowing more about the deadly COVID-19 can help us better equip ourselves against the deadly virus. .
According to experts, recurrent digestive issues are now being reported among patients who have already recovered from COVID-19.      

"Digestive issues after COVID19 recovery are now a common problem among patients. Problems such as bloating, gaseousness, acidity, acid reflux, constipation, and exacerbation of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are being commonly seen in the second wave of the pandemic. The number of patients with these complaints is increasing at an alarming rate," report Dr Rakesh Patel, consultant gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital Kalyan and Rasika Parab, clinical nutritionist, Fortis Hospital Mulund.

The disease is still unravelling its many aspects. One must be vigilant of the symptoms, not ignore the vital signs, switch to a healthy lifestyle and consult the doctor when in doubt.

We all know that the digestive system involves the gastrointestinal tract (GI) along with the Liver, Pancreas, and Gall Bladder. Dr Patel adds, "During COVID19, it is significant to take care as the virus disrupts the functioning of the GI and renders it unable to perform its duties of absorbing electrolytes and fluids from the body. Patients can even end up with bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract or have blood clots in the blood vessels leading to Ischemia (restricted/ reduced blood flow) and Gangrene. The disease may also destroy bowel tissues and reduce intestinal movement. These issues can become more serious if left untreated." 

Here are their suggestions to make sure you defeat the virus:

SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU WITNESS ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS

If you experience any of these following symptoms, it important that a complete evaluation, monitoring is done to ensure timely treatment for healing and recovery.

    Acid reflux
    Loss of appetite or increased appetite
    Abdominal bloating
    Upper abdominal pain
    Constipation
    Diarrhoea 
    Vomiting 
    GI bleeding
    Intestinal inflammation

HOW DOES COVID-19 AFFECT THE GI?

While researchers and healthcare providers are still gathering data to understand the actual cause of the problem. There is evidence that indicates how the virus impacts the digestive system.

Most studies show the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters intestinal cells, or enterocytes, and respiratory cells using the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE-2) protein as a receptor. The ACE-2 receptor is embedded in cellular membranes. It helps regulate blood pressure by controlling levels of the protein angiotensin, which encourages blood vessels to constrict and raise blood pressure. The virus enters intestinal cells after its characteristic spike proteins bind to ACE-2. Once inside the cell, the virus uses the cells’ own machinery to produce copies of viral proteins and ribonucleic acid (RNA). When SARS-CoV-2 particles leave an infected cell, it triggers the release of cytokines, small proteins that play a role in inflammation. This process may cause GI symptoms. 

GI symptoms can also occur as viruses destroy or damage GI tissues, especially pain, nausea, and diarrhoea. Some research shows that COVID-19 may also change the gut microbiota, the community of microbes that normally inhabit the intestines or stomach. Once in the GI tract, the virus can also travel through the portal vein, the vein that drains blood from the digestive tract. This can allow viruses to impact the vagus nerve, causing a nauseous sensation.

MUST DO:

    Avoid taking nutraceuticals and immune booster medicines
    Be careful about your diet, keep it simple
    Avoid fast food and overeating
    Be active and exercise regularly

DIETARY FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED: 

    Include prebiotics and probiotics in your daily meals. Probiotics are good bacteria that improve gut health by promoting immunity and enhancing nutrient absorption. Curd or yoghurt is the best known probiotic. Prebiotics are the complex carbohydrates which are not digested by our body and it promotes the growth of good bacteria inside the gut. This again promotes the digestion of the food that we eat. Prebiotics are present in fruits, vegetables and whole grains like oats, jowar etc. Eating an adequate amount of pre and probiotics keeps acidity at bay and improves digestion. 

    Drinking at least 2-3 litres of water a day helps in the absorption of nutrients and is important to improve gut health. A diet rich in Omega 3 Fatty acids can also boost your immunity but also has an anti-inflammatory property that aids in post COVID recovery. Flax seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Chia seeds, seafood are good sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Nuts and seafood are also packed sources of Zinc and Selenium that are very effective for post COVID recovery. Protein is the major component in a COVID recovery diet, aiding speedy recovery. Milk, milk products, dal, pulses, legumes, soy, chicken, fish and eggs are some food to include in your post covid recovery diet. 

    Irrespective of the presence of comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension, we must be extra cautious about the use of salt and sugar in our daily meals. Many types of research suggest that excessive use of salt and sugar impairs our immune response, increasing the risk of infections.