Thousands of people had long-term stomach problems after COVID


  • People who contracted COVID-19 were more likely to develop stomach problems, according to a new research paper.
  • Even those who were mildly ill had a higher risk of gastrointestinal problems the following year.
  • Acid reflux, constipation and diarrhea were common, the researchers found.

Dave, a COVID long-hauler in the UK, told Insider he developed “burning” acid reflux and “horrendous nausea” after contracting COVID in 2020. Although he had a pretty strong before falling ill, he found himself unable to eat his favorite foods and drinks – pizza, beer, coffee and chocolate – without feeling unwell afterwards. Dave, who also tweets and blogs about long COVID, requested that he be identified by his first name only due to privacy concerns.

Dave’s experience is not unique. In fact, he’s one of thousands of people who contracted COVID-19 in 2020 and experienced lingering digestive issues like acid reflux, stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea long after their infections, according to a researcher. study published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

The new study found that those who were infected with the virus, even people who had mild cases, were much more likely to have stomach problems than those who had not contracted COVID.

The researchers compared the medical records of more than 154,000 US veterans who contracted COVID with approximately 5.6 million peers who did not contract the virus. They found that 9,605 people with COVID later experienced problems affecting the digestive system, pancreas or liver.

The risk of long-term gastrointestinal problems has increased for those who have been hospitalized with more severe COVID infections. On average, people with COVID were 36% more likely to have long-term gastrointestinal issues than those who were uninfected, according to The New York Times.

The most common stomach-related problem was gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a type of acid reflux. Other commonly reported symptoms included abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea.

Researchers don’t yet know why the stomach is affected by COVID

Dave eventually consulted a functional nutritionist to learn more about the bacteria in his digestive tract, known as the gut microbiome. Studies have shown that disturbances in the microbiome can contribute to gastrointestinal disorders, including GERD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The coronavirus can interfere with the natural balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, leaving patients at risk for secondary infections, according to a separate study published in Nature Communications in November 2022.

However, scientists are learning even more about the effects of COVID-19 on gut health.

The researchers of the recent study hypothesize that chronic inflammation associated with COVID may play a role in persistent gastrointestinal symptoms. It is possible that some viral fragments remain in the digestive tract after the initial infection resolves, causing continued inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

They also noted that the lining of the small intestine can be particularly permeable to the virus, allowing it to easily enter the gastrointestinal system. More research is needed to better understand how the coronavirus affects the body long term and how doctors can treat the symptoms of long COVID.

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