What is Long COVID? Can long COVID affect the gut?

What is Long COVID? Can long COVID affect the gut?

According to recent studies, certain COVID-19 warriors might continue to have GI problems. Low energy, mental haze, and lung problems are a few long-lasting side effects that some COVID-19 patients have reported. Could the range of enduring symptoms experienced by persons with long-haul COVID include digestive problems? If yes, how, in the opinion of professionals, may this be made simpler?

What is Long COVID?

What is Long COVID?

In Medical studies, Very few individuals are aware that a small percentage of COVID-19 patients endure long-lasting health issues, despite the fact that the majority of patients survive. It is well documented that long-term COVID adverse effects include exhaustion, breathing issues, heartbeats that are erratic, and muscle soreness.

Abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea are two long-term COVID symptoms, although few individuals, even in the medical community, are aware of this.

Long COVID syndrome, commonly referred to as post-COVID, is more than just exhaustion and breathlessness. There are reports of signs like headaches, mental fog, and buzzing in the ears, and lately, medical professionals are seeing more patients with digestive problems. Greg Vanichkachorn, MD, the head of the COVID Exercise Rehabilitation Programme, lists the most common symptoms.

Patients in the rehabilitation program are describing a variety of digestive issues, from slight vomiting and a lack of appetite to severe constipation and food intolerance, or physical reactions to certain foods, according to Dr. Vanichkachorn, a physician in the Division of Public Health, Infectious Diseases.

What happens to the gut during a long COVID infection?

The virus that causes COVID-19 has spread to countless millions of individuals worldwide as we reach the fourth year after it was deemed a global health emergency. By the year 2020, viruses that cause lung disease also infect the GI system, which includes the esophagus, intestines, gut, and colon. This may result in diarrhea and pain in the abdomen, which frequently but not always go away as patients get well.

Can long COVID affect the gut?

Can long COVID affect the gut

We are aware that illnesses brought on by bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can occasionally recur. Could COVID-19 cause this to occur?

The link between the Gut and Long COVID-19

It is unclear why a COVID-19 infection could result in chronic gastrointestinal problems. A well-known disease called post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can happen after gastroenteritis, may offer some explanation.

A modification in gut-brain signaling may take place long after the illness’s infectious agent has disappeared. The exchange of information between various regions of the gut is governed by a sophisticated neural network that runs between the brain and the stomach. These nerves instruct your body’s organs to secrete digestive fluids, warn you when you need to use the loo, or stop you from eating more stuffing at the Thanksgiving table.

Since the gut’s nerve system is so intricate, it is occasionally referred to as the second brain. When the nerves are functioning properly, you won’t notice a thing: you eat without discomfort, you urinate without difficulty, and you have no GI concerns. But what if your nerves aren’t functioning properly? Then, even if your digestion continues to function normally, you can experience frequent symptoms like pain or an uncomfortable alteration in your bowel motions, such as diarrhea or constipation.

These health issues, once known as functional GI disorders, are now referred to as disordered gut-brain interactions (DGBIs). According to specialists, when viruses and bacteria invade the gut, they may create a change in gut-brain signaling that might lead to the development of a DGBI-like IBS.

What to do if you experience persistent gastrointestinal issues after contracting COVID-19

We are yet unsure whether COVID-19 can result in a long-term alteration in gut-brain communication that causes IBS or other abnormal gut-brain interactions. However, mounting data points to GI distress lasting six months or longer as a possible sign of chronic COVID. Some GI experts, like myself, advise attempting methods to treat irritable bowel syndrome and other DGBIs while we wait for more proof.

Consult the doctor who treats you if you experience persistent abdominal pain or an alteration in your bowel habits after receiving COVID-19. Numerous medical disorders, such as viral or bacterial infections, inflammatory processes, and even cancer, share similar signs and symptoms. A comprehensive examination can assist in ruling out some illnesses.

If the issue continues, don’t let yourself suffer in silence or hesitate to take action! If you are experiencing significant discomfort or bowel changes that are negatively affecting your everyday activities or quality of life, get medical attention. Discuss with your doctor the potential that your persistent gastrointestinal issues are a long-term COVID. Ask if they have any recommendations for beneficial therapies or can direct you to a GI specialist. As the study goes on, more data might become available.

What to do if you are noticing gut problems after Covid infection?

What to do if you are noticing gut problems after Covid infection?

Dr. Vanichkachorn urges anyone having these symptoms as a result of following COVID syndrome to drink plenty of water and maintain a balanced diet. Aggressive and popular diets are not believed to be beneficial in long-term COVID, he continues.

Rather, we advise a Mediterranean-style diet that limits the consumption of food that is processed. Second, refrain from treating your symptoms with plenty of medications available over-the-counter, advises Dr. Vanichkachorn. This could sometimes make the issue worse. Instead, have a conversation with your doctor to create a treatment strategy.


According to the study’s results, there is an increased risk and burden of post-acute gastrointestinal sequelae, such as pancreatic disorders, hepatic and biliary diseases, functional intestinal disorders, and abnormalities of the stomach’s acid. Even in patients whose acute COVID-19 symptoms did not require hospitalization, the hazards were obvious. These results indicate that strategies for post-acute COVID-19 care should take gastrointestinal health and disease into account.


  • Christopher D. Vélez, MD (reported on harvard.edu)
  • Sharon Theimer (reported on the Mayo Clinic)
  • Xu, E., Xie, Y. and Al-Aly, Z. (2023) (Long-term gastrointestinal outcomes of COVID-19)