I’ll be the first to admit that the connection between diet and COVID risk is overblown. While it’s true that a healthy diet may help optimize your immune system, it’s no guarantee against infection.
One thing we do know about a healthy diet, however, is that it can promote a healthy population of gut bacteria, otherwise called a microbiome. A healthy and diverse microbiome is also closely linked to immune strength.
Which is exactly why some researchers decided to look at how gut health may play a role in COVID-19 risk and severity.
Researchers examined fecal samples of 100 hospitalized patients from two hospitals in Hong Kong and found that those hospitalized for COVID symptoms had very different microbiomes than those hospitalized for other reasons.
They found that COVID patients had fewer of the bacterial strains associated with the body’s immune response to infection and that the species seemed to correlate with symptom severity and longevity.
The results were published in the journal Gut.
These observational findings do not prove that a healthy microbiome can offer protection from COVID-19, nor do they mean you should be stocking up on probiotic and prebiotic-rich supplements and food to bolster your immune system.
But they do offer something to think about.
Doing your best to build a healthy gut may not protect you from COVID or other infections, but it can help promote better overall digestive health that might translate into a more robust immune system.
There is plenty of data that indicates high-fiber diets (read: fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains) can help boost gut health, aid immune strength, and improve overall health and well-being. Probiotics like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi may also add support.
The more you can do for your gut, the better off you might be. A growing pool of data suggests a diverse microbiome can offer a host of health benefits; a tamer response to COVID-19 could, potentially, be one of them.