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Decoding Long Covid: A Gastroenterologist Explains Why Acidity, Loss of Appetite Shouldn’t Be Ignored

As we reach what seems to be the end of the deadly second wave of Covid-19 in India, several recovering patients stare at a long haul of dealing with persisting symptoms — now being defined as ‘long Covid’ by doctors. In light of the situation, News18 will run a 15-day series ‘Decoding Long Covid’ where doctors with different specialisations will address concerns, recommend ways to deal with them and suggest when to seek help.

In today’s column, Dr Kunal Das, HOD and consultant – gastroenterology, HCMCT in Manipal talks about gastrointestinal sequelae characterised by acid reflux and loss of appetite.

While long Covid can include several symptoms, one of them is gastrointestinal sequelae that include loss of appetite, nausea, acid reflux, and diarrhoea. Studies claim that this can continue to plague recovered Covid-19 patients for almost three months after testing negative.

In an interview with, Dr Das said, “Covid-19 affects all organs of the body through the primary respiratory system. Gastrointestinal symptoms are present in almost 60% of the patients. In the second wave, we observed that most of Covid patients had symptoms of stomach flu-like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.”

Das pointed out that according to a study published in the journal Lancet Gastro Hepatol in May 2021, 44% of the discharged patients had GI sequelae. “These patients are presented after discharge but not at the time of admission or within the month before the onset of Covid-19,” Das said.

The Lancet report that this gastrointestinal condition could be because of hypoxia — a condition where one region of the body is affected because of reduced oxygen supply. Decreased blood oxygen saturation is a symptom closely related to severe pneumonia and was associated with gastrointestinal sequelae. The study said that “hypoxia not only occurs in patients with COVID-19 with dyspnoea but also in many patients without dyspnoea”. Dyspnoea is a medical term for laboured breathing.

Dr Das explained that some lesser common symptoms could also be signs of GI sequelae, like abdominal distention, belching, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In some cases, people have also had bloody stool, and if such symptoms are found in people post-recovery, they should consult a medical practitioner without any delay.

The findings of the Lancet report suggest that GI sequelae can appear in patients any time within three months of Covid negative status. It was also found that patients affected with GI sequelae are associated more frequently with dyspnoea and myalgia.

“Treatment of GI symptoms is symptomatic use of antacids, anti-emetics, and anti-diarrhoeal agents. Mostly they don’t require the use of anti-biotics or any costly investigations. Having a good and nutritious diet is important and helps in the recovery of such patients,” said Dr Das. He added that regular exercise and a stress-free lifestyle could help in speedy recovery.

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Source: News18