You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. Perhaps we should be changing it to you are what your gut tells you! #guttok is currently trending right now with nearly 400 million views, and TikTok users are proclaiming a new gut health hack every other day. User “oliveoilqueen,” shared in a video viewed more than 3.5 million times, that drinking extra virgin olive oil every day cleared her skin, made her periods less painful, and fixed her frequent bloating.
As miraculous as this hack and many others may seem, it is evident that our gut is inextricably linked to our overall body’s health. The gastrointestinal tract digests and absorbs nutrients from foods, removes toxins, and ensures a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut. Not only is our gastrointestinal tract one of the most complex systems in the body, it is often at the centre of many chronic diseases.
To cite an example, analysis of the bacteria in our gut can predict obesity with an accuracy of more than 90%. Gut health can also have long-term health implications as our gut is linked to our immune system and heart health, and emerging research is examining the link between gut flora and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, said Dr. Reezwana Chowdhury, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
With COVID-19 now a common situation, many have encountered or experienced something called Long Covid. Also known as post-Covid syndrome, it is the presence of persistent symptoms such as hair loss or fatigue, up to 6 months after recovering from Covid-19. Yet, there is a hope that Long Covid can be prevented. A clinical study conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has found that your gut health may be directly related to the severity of the disease and even the chances of infection. The study revealed that having a severely imbalanced gut might increase the risk of getting Long Covid.
But how can we tell if we have poor gut health? According to medical experts, chronic, unexplained abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhoea can all be signs of poor gut health. These signs are symptoms of gut dysbiosis, which refers to a microbial imbalance in the digestive tract.
With 70% of our immune system dependent on our gut health, the importance of caring for it cannot be stressed enough. Our gut is home to a vast amount of bacteria, with both good and bad bacteria. However, if this microbiome, or environment, goes out of balance, resulting in gut symbiosis, our body will become susceptible to novel viral infections and may even suffer from an impaired immune system. Having the right diet like taking on more fibre-rich food and avoiding processed foods, complemented with probiotics, will go a long way in maintaining a healthy gut.
Nutra Nourish Founder, Dr Menka Gupta
Nutrition expert Dr Menka Gupta has helped many patients with gut dysbiosis. She has a Masters in Personalised Nutritional Therapy from the Centre for Nutrition Education & Lifestyle Management (CNELM) at Middlesex University in the UK, and is a member of Royal society of Medicine (RSM) & British Society of ecological medicine (BSEM).
Dr Menka’s analysis begins by examining one’s micronutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, gut microbiome and genetic predispositions to actively test and assess a person’s overall gut health. Next is working out the most effective methods to bring bacterial balance back in our guts. From probiotics to incorporating a high-fibre diet, there are numerous ways we can improve the number of beneficial bacteria in our bodies. Probiotics can be especially helpful if you’ve been under a lot of stress.
However, studies have shown that gut health differs across ethnicity as well, depending on the type of diets across cultures. Thus, for Asians like us, strengthening gut health and immunity must go beyond grabbing any probiotic supplement on the shelf, which are limited in the first place. The selection process must be more tuned to aiding our Asian gut systems.
(From left: Professor Siew Chien Ng, Associate Director of the Centre of Gut Microbiota Research and Professor Francis Chan, Dean of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Gut Microbiota Research – both who led the CUHK study – with their colleague Professor Martin Wong at Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Clinical studies by a team of researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who worked with Asian patients, have found that patients who developed Long Covid had a lacking gut microbiome which affected their immunity. Thankfully, this same team has also found the different gut bacteria needed to supplement one’s health – including bifidobacterium longum.
At the same time, they have also done clinical trials on a specific formula, created to include lacking gut bacteria. 90% of Covid-19 patients who received this unique formula developed for Asian gut systems did not develop Long Covid up to a year after recovery! The formula, G-NiiB’s Immunity +, is already available in the market and had just officially launched in Singapore in March of this year.
Still, to enhance one’s immunity and gut health to prevent Long Covid, eating a balanced diet with the right vitamins and minerals work in tandem with consuming the targeted probiotics is the most important!
Images: Sora Shimazaki (header), GenieBiome and Dr Menka Gupta