Probiotics and COVID-19
COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a virus called SARS- CoV-2 that can affect the respiratory system. The line of treatment is still not finalized, as it is an emerging virus. The effect of the virus on the digestive and the respiratory system reinforces the belief that it has a connection with the immunological processes. Since Probiotics have shown to improve immunity it is possible that there is a therapeutic and protective effect of probiotic bacteria on the immunological mechanisms of action in the digestive system. This is important for the development of future treatment and preventive measures against the virus. (1)
As of June, 2020, COVID-19 has affected more than 6.7 million people globally. In February 2020, Probiotics were suggested in China to treat severe cases of COVID-19 by China’s National Health Commission and National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (2)
What are Probiotics?
The scientific definition of probiotics is provided by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) and by the World Health Organization. Probiotic is defined as –“live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.
The bacteria in your body are in a ratio of 10:1 to your body’s cells. Most of these bacteria reside in your gut. The right type of bacteria in the gut is important for numerous health benefits like improved digestion, enhanced immune function, and a reduced risk of many diseases. Probiotics, which are a certain type of friendly bacteria, provide health benefits when ingested. They can be imbibed in the form of food and supplements, that are supposed to colonize the gut with health-boosting microorganisms. The colony is called the microbiome.
In China, research trials showed that probiotics helped modestly in reducing the incidence and duration of respiratory tract infections which were of viral origin. During the COVID-19 pandemic, infected patients who required invasive mechanical ventilation were given probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, live Bacillus subtilis, and Enterococcus faecalis) developed substantially less ventilator-associated pneumonia compared with placebo. (3, 4) However, the maximum response of probiotics in reduction of intensive care unit and inpatient death rate is still not clear. As of now, there is no scientific rationale of using probiotics to protect, prevent or treat COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 infection specifically. Nevertheless, it is important to reinforce our immune system through various means such as maintaining a healthy gut microbial diversity.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet supplemented by prebiotics, probiotics, vitamin supplementation, can help us to strengthen our immune system during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Some Powerful Probiotic Foods
- Buttermilk (Lassi)
Lassi or Buttermilk is a good source of 1st class protein, Vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus.
Another powerful probiotic food is Yogurt. Some studies showed that yogurt can provide health benefits for certain gastrointestinal conditions, like lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhoea, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome. Some of the common bacteria culture that ferment the milk to form yogurt are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Yogurt is a high source of protein which helps in muscle growth, calcium which is excellent for skeletal health, magnesium and Vitamin B12.
Sauerkraut is pickled cabbage which is made by finely shredding cabbage, layered with salt, and left to ferment. When you ferment it by using salt and putting it in a steel/glass container, the cabbage starts to release its own brine. Over time when cabbage is immersed in this liquid, it starts to ferment into a crunchy sour thing called sauerkraut. It is high in Vitamin C, promotes good digestive health, can help with colon cancer and even bone health.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean-side dish. it is made by fermenting vegetables like napa cabbage, radish, cucumber red chilli, garlic etc.
Kanji is a traditional North Indian winter drink made with carrots. One can also add beetroot to it for variety, enhancement of taste and for more nutrients. Then you add mustard seed to kick start the fermenting process. Kanji is loaded with iron, calcium and manganese.
Pickles also called “Achar” in India is an ancient method of food preservation. People can make pickles from many vegetables but, for many, pickles are synonymous with pickled cucumbers. Pickles in India are of three basic types: those preserved in vinegar; those preserved in salt; and those preserved in oil. In India, oil is a popular medium used for pickling. The process of pickling is one of the best ways to preserve a food item. It is very high on Vitamin K and Sodium.
Kombucha is an ancient Chinese drink that is made from black tea and sugar. Kombucha has lots of nutrients like folic acid, vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B12.
Just like vitamins, probiotics are available as supplements. If one is not able to get their desired probiotics from food then they can use a trusted and branded supplement for their benefits.
Coronavirus is an emerging disease. Lots of trials are on to see which line of treatment works best for it’s cure. People’s concerns about immunity are understandably at its peak this time, with many people turning to potential treatments or preventive measures they believe will protect them. However, the best advice to all would be to follow a healthy balanced diet with proper sleep and exercise. Last of all – STAY POSITIVE and STAY SAFE!