Some “IBS Experts” will have you believe that because you have IBS you’re at HIGH risk of COVID-19.
But is that true???
What does the scientific evidence say? And what about government agencies and charities?
Numerous charities, societies and scientific evidence states that having IBS doesn’t put you at greater risk of catching COVID-19 or that you’ll suffer more severe COVID symptoms (BSG, 2020; gutscharity.org, 2020; Magro et al., 2021; Oshima et al., 2021; theibsnetwork.org, 2020).
And some countries’ gastroenterology societies make no mention of IBS regarding risk factors, such as the American College of Gastroenterology (2020) and the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) (2021), so perhaps you could assume there is no confirmed increased risk otherwise they would’ve stated IBS in their list of risk factors.
The IBS Network in the UK states on their website that there is no evidence that people with IBS have an increased risk of catching COVID or that they have more severe symptoms (theibsnetwork.org, 2020).
The Guts Charity in the UK states that there is little evidence that having IBS on its own puts you at risk of severe COVID illness, unless you also have other medical conditions such as diabetes; hypertension (high blood pressure); severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis (an inherited condition causing sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system), severe asthma and severe COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); cancer; if you’ve had an organ transplant; and if you’re taking immune-suppression medications for example, if you have Crohn’s disease and taking Infliximab (gutscharity.org, 2020).
Some people seem to confuse IBS with IBD (which is the umbrella term for Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis). These are different conditions, but if you do have Crohn’s or Colitis, then the Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity state that having IBD itself doesn’t put you at higher risk of COVID or developing severe illness if you do catch it (crohnsandcolitis.org.uk, 2021). But they do say, if you do have Crohn’s or Colitis and having a flare; taking certain medications; if you’ve had a large part of your gut removed and now require to be feed by a tube; or if you’re fed straight into your blood stream then you are at higher risk (crohnsandcolitis.org.uk, 2021). You can check out their website for more information and support: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/.
People at the greatest risk of COVID and of severe illness from COVID are commonly reported to be those over 60yrs old, those with heart and lung conditions, diabetes, chronic liver disease, kidney disease; cancer, people with obesity, HIV, those with a compromised immune system, and pregnant women (badgut.org, 2020; CDC, 2021; Gastroenterological Society of Australia; 2021; GESA, 2021; Government of Canadian, 2021; WHO, 2021).
Key Take-away Message:
So, unless you have an underlying condition and/or taking medications that puts you at greater risk of COVID and more severe COVID symptoms, then having IBS itself doesn’t increase your risk.
But, the stress/anxiety around COVID, the lockdowns and how it has impacted our daily living and work life, along with any fear of catching it, can trigger IBS symptoms in some people with IBS (Kamp et al., 2021; Magro et al., 2021; Zi Quek et al., 2020).
By the way, you need to have a confirmed diagnosis of IBS by your doctor, as it might not be IBS.
N.B. It is crucial to get your food and fluid intake right if you want to control your IBS symptoms and if you want train harder, go faster and recover quicker from training sessions and competitions. Dietary requirements are highly individualised and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Working with a Registered Clinical & Sports Dietitian to develop a bespoke plan based on your unique requirements will help to ensure the most appropriate strategy and best results are achieved.
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- American College Of Gastroenterology. (2020). https://gi.org/2020/03/15/joint-gi-society-message-on-covid-19/
- BSG. (2021). https://www.bsg.org.uk/covid-19-advice/
- crohnsandcolitis.org.uk. (2021). https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-what-your-risk-means-for-you
- CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
- GESA. (2021). https://www.gesa.org.au/education/covid-19/
- Government of Canadian. (2021). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks. Government of Canada. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks.html.
- Guts Charity. (2020). https://gutscharity.org.uk/2020/03/update-coronavirus-covid-19-and-people-with-conditions-affecting-the-gastro-intestinal-system/
- Kamp, Kendra J. PhD; Levy, Rona L. PhD; Munson, Sean A. PhD; Heitkemper, Margaret M. PhD. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on Individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and comorbid anxiety and/or depression, Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Volume – Issue -doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001515
- Magro F, Nuzzo A, Abreu C, Libânio D, Rodriguez-Lago I, Pawlak K, Hollenbach M, Brouwer WP, Siau K. COVID-19 in gastroenterology: Where are we now? Current evidence on the impact of COVID-19 in gastroenterology. United European Gastroenterol J. 2021 Jun 30. doi: 10.1002/ueg2.12115. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34190413.
- Oshima, T., Siah, K. T. H., Yoshimoto, T., Miura, K., Tomita, T., Fukui, H., and Miwa, H. (2021) Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome: A population-based survey. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 36: 1820– 1827. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgh.15346.
- The IBS Network. (2020). https://www.theibsnetwork.org/news/articles/coronavirus-and-ibs-frequently-asked-questions
- WHO. (2021). https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19
- Zi Quek SX, Ling Loo EX, Demutska AD, et al. (2020). IDDF2020-ABS-0205 The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on irritable bowel syndrome. Gut; 69:A7-A8.