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Certain medications could make you more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and could worsen infection. NSAIDs: You may have already heard that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and aspirin used to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation) may aggravate coronavirus infection. Because these drugs may affect the immune response, they can potentially elongate the infection time and increase the possibility of complications. While some studies support this line of thinking, the evidence is minimal and more studies are needed. Experts agree that they know very little about how NSAIDs effect coronavirus infection and are looking further into the association. In the meantime, the recommendation is that patients should use acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to reduce pain and fever.  Corticosteroids: Because of their immunosuppressive characteristics, the routine use of corticosteroids is discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic. These recommendations are in place because corticosteroids dampen the immune system, hypothetically increasing the risk of…

Fresh air and sunlight could be important factors in combating the Coronavirus. Past studies have highlighted the phenomenon called the “open-air factor” (OAF), defined as the “germicidal constituent in outdoor air that reduces the survival and infectivity of pathogens”, which has been proven to reduce the survival and infectivity of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus epidermidis, group C streptococcus, and the influenza virus. In fact, open-air therapy was the standard treatment for infectious diseases before antibiotics were introduced. Sunlight levels also provide some protection against pathogens: A 2019 study showed that sunlight levels are inversely correlated with influenza transmission. Not only does spending time outside protect against viral transmission and reduce the survival of pathogenic microbes, but it also helps support the immune system. Sunlight is our main source of vitamin-D, a vitamin that plays a key role in optimizing our immunity. Additionally, a 2016 study found that…

COVID-19 possesses a strong GI component. As details on coronavirus symptoms and transmission evolve, it has become clear that COVID-19 has a gastrointestinal element. Commonly reported coronavirus symptoms include nausea, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea, which often present themselves before the onset of respiratory symptoms. In fact, in the latest study looking at GI symptoms associated with COVID-19, approximately 50% of those analyzed experienced diarrhea. Mild to moderate liver impairment has also been reported. In a study published in Gastroenterology this February, scientists found that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the fecal-oral pathway. The study analyzed 73 coronavirus patients and found that over half of the stool samples tested positive for the virus. Positive stool tests ranged from day 1 to day 12 on average, but approximately 23% of the stool samples remained positive even after the respiratory samples were negative. Takeaway: While these findings open up possible new avenues…

Maternal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) mixtures are associated with lower IQ at the age of 7 in offspring. Previous studies have looked at the effects of single EDCs in children, and they have been linked to negative neurodevelopment outcomes. This latest study, published in the January of this year, looked at the impact of exposure to a mixture of EDCs (we are most often exposed to multiple EDCs at a time). The study included 718 mother-child pairs and measured 26 EDCs in the first trimester using blood and urine samples, then assessed IQ scores in offspring at age 7. Results showed that EDCs had the greatest impact on boys and resulted in significantly lower IQ scores at the age of 7. Probably one of the most concerning findings was that bisphenol F, the thought-to-be safe replacement for BPA, may not be any safer for children. Researchers plan to…

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs – acid blocking medications prescribed for reflux and GERD) are linked to increased rates of acute gastroenteritis in the winter months when enteric viruses are at their peak. In a cohort matched study containing 233,596 patients receiving proton pump therapy and 626,887 not receiving the therapy, researchers found that the PPI group had 1.81 times higher instances of infection. JAMA Takeaway: Previous studies have linked long-term PPI use to a host of health complications, including dysbiosis, kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, declining bone health, and even an increased risk of death. If you are taking a PPI and are considering tapering off the drug, check out our article on this subject and work with your healthcare professional for support to be sure this is the right decision for you and your condition.

A 6-month randomized controlled trial investigated various dietary fat levels and their impacts on the gut microbiome. The study included 217 young, healthy adults, aged 18 to 35, and provided all of the food participants ate during the 6-month period. Fat consumption was split up among three groups – a low-fat diet (calories from fat 20% of energy consumed), a medium-fat diet (calories from fat 30% of energy consumed), and a high fat diet (calories from fat 40% of energy consumed). Effects of dietary fats on the gut microbiome were assessed using stool samples and plasma inflammatory markers. Study results showed that short chain fatty acid production was significantly lower in the higher fat group, while plasma inflammatory markers were elevated. The lower fat diet was associated with increased microbial diversity and other positive microbial markers. BMJ Takeaway: Researchers who conducted the study conclude that a high fat diet in…

Antibiotics disrupt flu vaccine success. A study published this fall found that in those who hadn’t had the flu shot or the flu in the last three years, receiving antibiotics just before the flu shot made it less effective. Cell Takeaway: This is the first human study of its kind, and illustrates the key role our gut bugs play in determining our immune response, as well as how our microbiome can impact the success – or failure – of medication. If you plan to receive the flu vaccine (and even if you don’t!), avoiding antibiotics is an important step in cultivating a strong, responsive immune system.

Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) use in infants increases risk of infection in certain populations. PPI’s (as well as other acid blocking drugs) are commonly prescribed to infants who suffer from gastrointestinal upset and reflux. A recent study found a significantly increased rate of infection in infants who take PPIs and have regular CYP2C19 gene function – a gene that plays a role in processing and metabolizing some commonly prescribed drugs. The rate of infection was significantly increased in those infants compared to ones who have heightened CYP2C19 function. Pediatrics Takeaway: Researchers who conducted the study concluded that CYP2C19 function should be assessed when considering PPI therapy in infants. PPI and acid blocking drugs are commonly prescribed in infant populations, yet studies show they are both ineffective and unsafe – and this study proves more of the same. Unfortunately, parents are often given prescriptions for acid suppression medications – a particularly…

The link between diet and depression is meaningful in an at-risk population. In only the second study ever conducted in young adults looking at the therapeutic impact of diet on depression, researchers found that a short 3-week dietary intervention, utilizing a diet comprised of vegetables, fruits, other whole plant foods, fish and lean meats, resulted in significantly lower self-reported depression symptoms. The randomized controlled trial consisted of 38 study participants in each group – the diet and the control groups – and reduced depression scores remained significantly lower in follow-up calls three months post study. PLoS One Takeaway: Approximately one fifth of the adult population suffers from depression symptoms with only a little over one third of these individuals seeking treatment. The findings from this study, and the fact that participants in the diet group had high rates of compliance, show that diet can be a viable and effective treatment…

Oral antibiotics are tied to colorectal cancer (CRC). Researchers matched over 28,000 patients with CRC found in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink database with controls. Results showed that CRC risk depends on antibiotic type and location in the colon, but overall, CRC risk was dose dependent with any antibiotic use. Antibiotics with anti-anaerobic activity, which disrupts the gut microbiome in a way that allows carcinogenic microbes to develop, posed the greatest risk, especially in the proximal colon. These antibiotics include penicillin (ampicillin and amoxicillin). Interestingly, antibiotics showed a protective effect against rectal cancers, specifically in doses of more than 60 days of antibiotic exposure when compared to no antibiotic exposure. While the study was funded by Johns Hopkins Fisher Center Discovery Center and Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, the study reported indirect competing interests, including receiving financial support from pharmaceutical companies. Gut Takeaway: While these results do not prove a…