RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Could digestive symptoms be a presenting feature of coronavirus?
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, gastroenterologist and gut health expert in Mt. Pleasant South Carolina, says it’s possible and that nothing is off the table at this point.
“The challenge with this virus is there is this full spectrum in the way that it can manifest,” says Dr. Bulsiewicz. “So we need to be conscious with all of the possibilities with this.”
A new study recently published in the The American Journal of Gastroenterology by Chinese researchers, found out of 204 COVID-19 patients, nearly half of them had reported digestive symptoms.
The findings are in it’s early stages, but raise a valid question, should we be taking a look at other possible symptoms and if so, should we stay home?
Dr. Bulsiewicz said practicing social distancing is how we get ahead of this virus and begin flattening the curve.
“The threshold needs to be zero. And, you may think you have seasonal allergies or the routine winter cold, that actually could be the coronavirus. You and I talking about a stomach bug, that could be coronavirus too,” said Dr. Bulsiewicz.
According to researchers, the average age studied was about 55 years old and the patients were admitted to three hospital in the Hubei province between Jan. 18 and Feb 28, 2020.
Patients with digestive symptoms had a “significantly” longer time from onset to admission than patients without digestive symptoms.
The study also found seven people reported digestive symptoms but no respiratory symptoms.
In the conclusion, researchers say clinicians should recognize that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, may be presenting feature of COVID-19, and that the index of suspicion may need to be raised earlier in at-risk patients presenting with digestive symptoms rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge.
“However, further large sample studies are needed to confirm these findings,” the study says.
So what can you do to boost your immune system?
Gut health expert Dr. Bulsiewicz said we need to first examine where the immune system lives.
“It lives in the gut. 70% to 80% of the immune system lives in the gut so if you take care of your gut, then you are taking care of your immune system. It goes hand-and-hand,” said Dr. B
You may be tempted to load up on vitamins, but don’t expect supplements to keep you from getting the coronavirus.
How do we take care of our gut? Dr. Bulsiewicz said, “It’s with our diet. Our diet is the number one driving factor.”
This means load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
“The fiber is what nurtures the gut and when we nurture the gut, we are nurturing our immune system,” said Dr. B.
He also urges people to stop smoking, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.
Will this COVID-19 be around in two weeks? Dr. B thinks so and possibly longer, adding it could come in waves.
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