Posted on by Paula Gallagher
Over 600 million were affected by COVID-19 worldwide. And although many recover, we now know that the impact of COVID has long-lasting effects on many people even after “recovery.” This is known as long COVID or post-COVID-19 condition (PCC). This condition is characterized by a broad range of long-term symptoms appearing or persisting after the infection period of COVID-19. They can occur within weeks of onset of COVID and the effects can last for months.
Symptoms of Long COVID
The symptoms related to long COVID, or PCC, can impact daily functionality, and can effect both adults and children in a wide range of ways. Not everyone is affected the same way. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away and come back again.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, these are the most commonly reported symptoms of long COVID:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
Respiratory and heart symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings, tingling
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in menstrual cycles
What is Known About Long COVID?
In May of 2021, as this condition was first being recognized, researchers from Stanford University led a global review of 45 studies including 9,751 participants with COVID-19. They found that more than 70% of hospitalized patients who had recovered from the initial phase of COVID-19 had at least one of the lingering symptoms now associated with long COVID.
Recently, researchers from all over the world have been trying to learn more about this condition, and some consider long COVID a new health emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in May 2022, reported that following a review of medical records of almost 2 million people, one in five adult survivors of COVID-19 had developed symptoms of long COVID.
This is concerning, but researchers are continuing to find the causes and treatments for long COVID. One of these potential causes was discovered during research led by the University of California Los Angeles. Their findings suggested that some cases of long COVID may be a result of suppressed immunity. This could be due to factors that were present prior to infection, such as poor nutritional status, stress, and risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
How to Manage Long COVID
Long COVID shares many of the same features of chronic fatigue syndrome and other complex chronic diseases (CCD), such as fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme disease. Since these conditions share many common symptoms, to guide treatment, doctors have drawn on research on treating patients with those chronic illnesses. Two pathways that are being looked at are optimizing mitochondrial health and improving gut health. Before taking any supplements, consult with your primary care practitioner.
Optimize mitochondrial function
Energy in the body is produced by small compartments in our cells known as mitochondria. When mitochondrial function is compromised, it means cellular energy levels are low; this may produce symptoms including fatigue and cognitive dysfunction.
The brain accounts for only about 2% of our body weight, yet it consumes more than 25% of the body’s energy and oxygen. The brain requires good mitochondrial energy production to function optimally. It has been suggested that brain fog, one of the key complaints in long COVID, may be the result of reduced mitochondrial function.
Supplements to support mitochondrial function
Mutlivitamin/mineral: A high-potency multi will have all essential nutrients that are involved in mitochondrial function, especially B vitamins.
Magnesium: This essential mineral is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions. It relaxes muscles and may help improve sleep.
Ubiquinol: This active form of coenzyme Q10 is important in mitochondrial energy production.
Acetyl-L-carnitine: This nutrient is important for transporting essential fats into the mitochondria for energy production.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): NAC supports glutathione levels, a major player in mitochondrial health.
Balance gut health
We all know that the gastrointestinal tract (gut) is a place where digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of wastes takes place. It also holds 70% of our immune system, manufactures neurotransmitters, is home to over 100 trillion bacteria, and plays a significant role in systemic health. In complex chronic diseases, digestive symptoms such as gas/bloating, diarrhea/constipation, and acid reflux are common.
Supplements to support gut health
Probiotics: Research has shown that treating the gut with friendly bacteria called lactobacillus probiotics, combined with a chicory-rich ingredient known as an inulin, could help with acute and long-term COVID symptoms.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): NAC is also important to enhance gut barrier function and improve “leaky” gut, a goal in complex chronic diseases.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): GABA may play a role in attenuating gut inflammation and improving the gut epithelial barrier.
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