How to get a healthy gut and boost immunity in the face of Covid-19

Annabel Jones
d - Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty images
d - Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty images

It's hardly surprising that functional health doctors are in high demand right now. Dr. Sabine Donnai, founder of Viavi Health Strategy has been busy preparing her clients to be in the best health of their lives from the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Charging an eye watering £10,000 a year, she prescribes highly individualised lifestyle plans to maximise health and well-being and decelerate ageing.  

While the average person won't have access to Viavi's premium health service, one of the most important things Dr. Donnai advocates before any medical intervention, is to improve gut health to optimize immunity, something she says is simple to do yourself at home with a few key diet tweaks. 

'Improving your gut health won't stop you from contracting Covid-19 but there are studies coming out now that show a link between the gut microbiome and Covid, which means maintaining a healthy gut is crucial for every person from children to adults right now.' 

Beauty newsletter REFERRAL (article)
Beauty newsletter REFERRAL (article)

Dr. Donnai is clear that the 'cytokine storm' that attacks the vital organs in the most severe cases of Covid-19, is largely due to underlying health conditions, but balancing the gut bacteria could be the marginal gain that makes the difference between riding the virus in a strong state and getting seriously ill.  She explains, 'all autoimmune disease from hayfever to asthma and Alzheimer's starts in the gut. Therefore, by supporting the healthy bacteria and weeding out the bad, with a healthy varied diet,  it will help to prevent the massive inflammatory response that can occur in some of the worst cases.


Weed, seed, feed: Dr. Donnai's healthy gut formula

  • Weed out processed food:  Turns out there's a reason why your stomach feels bloated after eating a sugar-laden meal. 'Any refined carbohydrate feeds the fungus and bad bacteria in your gut. The more sugar you eat, the more those bad bacteria will get out of control and take over resulting in a gut that's out of balance, which will affect your immunity,' explains Dr. Donnai. 'It's much simpler than most people think - eat real, whole foods that are fresh and natural - your body doesn't know what to do with a piece of reconstituted ham that's been manufactured in a factory. Once you remove refined sugars and processed foods, those baddies won't have anything to feed on and things will start to get back in balance.' 

  • Seed with live foods (pro-biotics):  In addition to weeding out the baddies, you must include live foods into your diet, which will reintroduce the healthy bacteria your gut needs, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or kefir. Like bread? Try sourdough instead. 'Pro-biotics or live foods are the equivalent of reseeding the grass in your garden, each spoon of sauerkraut, for example, has millions of good bacteria. says Dr. Donnai.

  • Feed with prebiotics: Now you've got a healthy amount of healthy bacteria in your gut, they need feeding to stay alive with lots of fresh (organic if possible) fruits and vegetables in a variety of colours. 'Different bacteria feed on different things, so you need to keep your plate as varied as possible. A balance of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables should make up the largest part of your diet. These pre-biotic foods create a healthy environment, and give your good bacteria something they actually recognise to feed on, so that they don't starve and die out.' 

  • Supplements: While Dr. Donnai prefers her clients get their nutrients from food, she suggests taking two vitamin supplements: zinc and vitamin D3 to help boost immunity in these precarious times. 'Zinc and vitamin D are hugely important for our immune system. Low vitamin D affects not only your immunity, it helps with brain function and bone health and even helps to manage diabetes. Plus, vitamin D is hugely important for darker skin tones as they don't absorb it from the sun as easily as lighter skin tones.' Dr. Donnai suggests taking foodstate vitamin D3 and Zinc. Try Wild Nutrition Food-Grown Immune Support which contains Vitamin D, C and Zinc. Or, for a premium all-round supplement that includes high-grade vitamin D3, try LYMA. Click here for our comprehensive guide to vitamin D.

  • Leaky gut: For the most severe gut issues, bone broth, which contains animal collagen, is the best way to heal the damage, says Dr. Donnai. While it's certainly not vegan-friendly, Dr. Donnai says its the only gold standard treatment for serious gut issues. 'there's nothing like bone marrow to heal a leaky gut. Get the bones from your butcher and make a broth - or order it online. Take it once a day for three weeks initially and then two to three days a week thereafter.' Try Borough Broths


More From

  • Gold price hits record high – here's how to buy it

    The gold price hit an-all time high this week as fears around money printing by governments and an uncertain economic outlook has pushed investors to buy the "safe haven asset". Gold is viewed as a store of value for investors in times of uncertainty. It now trades at $2,030 (£1,550) an ounce and has risen 33pc in value this year. The metal has divided the investment world for centuries. Some love it as a way of spreading risk, while others remain unconvinced of its intrinsic value. But its track record of holding value during times of market stress is undeniable. When stocks are falling and the world looks as though it is coming to an end, investors turn to gold. Adrian Ash, of precious metals trader BullionVault, said: "Anyone saying gold has no intrinsic value overlooks its use in all ages and all cultures as the ultimate store of spending power. With the level of economic uncertainty today, it's natural for investors and savers to seek safety in precious metals." Its latest rise could see investors return to the precious metal in force, should global problems persist. Below, Telegraph Money looks at the ways ordinary investors can buy gold.

  • Beirut explosion: At least 300,000 homeless and death toll of 100 expected to rise - latest news and video

    Analysis: Why Beirut’s explosion was years in the making Everything we know so far Ammonium nitrate: what is it and why did it cause the blast in Beirut? The Governor of Beirut has said that 300,000 people have been left homeless after an enormous explosion tore across the city, killing at least a hundred people and wounding thousands. Marwan Abboud added that around half of the city had been damaged by the explosion, amid warnings that the death toll was likely to raise far beyond 100, with many victims still trapped under rubble. Smoke continued to rise over the flattened port area, while in the city some people were still searching for missing loved ones. At least 4,000 people were wounded, overwhelming hospitals. The death toll could rise further, the head of the Lebanese Red Cross George Kettaneh said. The cause of the blast remains unclear, though Lebanese leaders said it was likely down to explosive substances that had been stored at warehouses in the port for years. Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told local media the blast was likely triggered by more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. The industrial chemical, used for fertiliser, had been stored at a warehouse at the dock since it was unloaded from a seized cargo ship in 2014, he said. The orange cloud that towered over the city following the blast was indicative of nitrate explosions, experts said, and suggested the release of toxic nitrogen dioxide into the air. It appeared to be the most powerful blast ever felt in this city despite it having endured the 1975-90 civil war, a 1983 suicide attack on the United States embassy that killed 63 people and a bombing of the peacekeepers headquarters in the same year, and a massive truck bomb in 2005 that killed its former prime minister Britain said on Wednesday it was too early to speculate on the cause. Only US President Donald Trump seemed to suggest it could have been a possible attack.

  • Wednesday morning news briefing: Beirut ripped apart by explosion

    If you want to receive twice-daily briefings like this by email, sign up to the Front Page newsletter here. For two-minute audio updates, try The Briefing - on podcasts, smart speakers and WhatsApp.

  • Meghan Markle wins right to keep friends' names private in latest High Court skirmish

    The High Court has ruled in favour of the Duchess of Sussex to keep secret the identities of five friends who gave an anonymous interview to a US magazine, in the latest stage of her legal action against a British newspaper. Mr Justice Warby delivered his ruling on the Duchess's application at 10.30am on Wednesday. He said: "I have concluded that for the time being at least the Court should grant the claimant the orders she seeks, the effect of which will be to confer protection on the sources’ identities. "That is confidential information, the protection of which at this stage is necessary in the interests of the administration of justice. This is an interim decision." A spokesman for the Duchess of Sussex said:"The Duchess felt it was necessary to take this step to try and protect her friends—as any of us would—and we’re glad this was clear. We are happy that the Judge has agreed to protect these five individuals. " The Duchess of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL), publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over an article which reproduced parts of a "private and confidential" handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, 76, in August 2018. At a preliminary hearing in London last week, the Duchess's lawyers applied for the five friends who gave an interview to People magazine to remain anonymous in reports of the proceedings. ANL's legal team resisted the application. In the People article, published in February last year, the friends spoke out against the bullying the Duchess said she has faced. They have only been identified in confidential court documents. The Duchess, 39, says her friends gave the interview without her knowledge, and denies a claim made by ANL that she "caused or permitted" the People article to be published.