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Friendly gut bacteria speeds long Covid recovery

Two capsules a day containing a scientifically chosen blend of natural ingredients could help patients suffering from long Covid, says a major UK study.

The year-long investigation was undertaken by experts at Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Bedfordshire, and volunteer patients across both counties.

Now, a research paper just published in the open access journal Infectious Diseases Diagnosis & Treatment (opens in a new tab), concludes that treating the gut to a blend of five different friendly bacteria called lactobacillus probiotics, combined with a chicory-rich ingredient known as an inulin, could help with acute and long-term Covid symptoms.

Professor Robert Thomas head and shoulders
Professor Robert Thomas

Addenbrooke’s and Bedford hospitals oncology consultant, Professor Robert Thomas, says the study started after researchers worldwide began reporting that Covid patients were suffering a disruption in the ratio of friendly to unfriendly bacteria in the gut, called dysbiosis. This was especially true of those with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as nausea, indigestion and diarrhoea.

Then, London’s Kings College developed an app-based study, involving over 400,000 people, which showed those who took regular probiotic supplements had a lower risk of catching Covid. Until now, it was not known whether taking probiotics after catching Covid could help. This research suggests they do - or more precisely a specific blend of lactobacillus probiotic and a chicory-rich inulin. (Inulin is a prebiotic which helps feed the lactobacillus in the capsule and other friendly bacteria in the gut).

The study involved 126 people, a third of whom had an acute Covid infection with the majority reporting a wide variety of longer term symptoms lasting over 100 days. Results, analysed by university statisticians showed that cough, fatigue, gut and well-being scores improved. Many said gut symptoms suffered for years were resolved.

Dr Thomas said:

Such a rapid improvement in the majority who had been experiencing symptoms for over eight months was clinically relevant and welcomed, especially among those more likely to have pre-existing gut dysbiosis. The authors believe that the importance of interventions to improve gut health should emphasised to people with Covid.

Professor Robert Thomas

Going forwards, our research group is analysing the second phase of this study, which evaluated whether a whole phytochemical rich nutritional capsule, in additional to the probiotics, could further enhance Covid recovery.

“In addition, with the support of Roche pharmaceuticals, they are evaluating whether intake of this blend together with vitamin D could also enhance antibody titres levels post-Covid vaccination.”

Carol-Ann Barrett of Bishop Stortford in own pharmacy
Carol-Ann Barrett

Among the volunteers who took part in the study was alternative therapist Carol-Ann Barratt from Bishop Stortford who was amazed at the difference it made to her long Covid.

She said:

We do actually have a very good diet - lots of herbs and spices and things - but I did notice quite a dramatic effect. It is definately great for my digestive system and definitely I have more energy and hopefully it's increasing my immunity

Carol-Ann Barrett

More information about the trial can be found on the trial website .For further advice and information about the effects of long Covid visit the NHS site at

Earlier this year Professor Thomas and colleagues in Cambridge and Bedford published the findings of a study that identified that pomegranate, turmeric, tea and broccoli could ease common symptoms of menopause.