Post Viral Fatigue & Long Covid

Post viral complications are not new. Common symptoms that can persist for months or even years after a viral infection include fatigue, brain fog, body aches and sleep disturbances.

This subject is gaining more attention at the moment due to the fact that many people who have contracted Covid 19 are finding that they are not fully recovering and are experiencing long term symptoms as mentioned above. Interestingly the risk of developing “Long Covid” seems to be greater in women, especially those with a history of depression and anxiety. It does not appear to be associated with initial severity of the illness, so even a mild bout of Covid 19 can cause long term complications.

I have seen many clients over the years with post viral issues. Often these present as a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue. I always dig deep into health history and ask about previous infections and illness, even if these may be in the distant past.

My approach to Long Covid is similar to my approach to post viral issues in general. I always consider the following key components:

A healthy foundational diet is so important. The temptation when you feel ill or tired is to eat easy quick foods which provide instant energy. These will often be simple carbohydrates and sugars which lack real nutritional value and cause imbalances in blood sugar levels in the body which can contribute to wide fluctuations in energy levels. So I always encouraged my clients to ditch these foods in favour of more vegetables, salad, fruit, complex carbohydrates, quality protein and healthy fats. I like to use a Mediterranean diet or a paleo diet with some added carbohydrates as a basic template here to use food to support energy production, immune function and a reduction of inflammation in body.

I use kinesiology muscle testing to assess any foods which are causing stress to the body. A post viral state is one in which stress hormones are high, so anything that can be done to relieve stressors is going to help. It is therefore also important to consider lifestyle factors which may be causing added stress. Sleep, relaxation time and practices such as yoga or meditation can all help. I also talk to most of my clients about their electromagnetic exposures, which are usually incredibly high because of all the tech we now surround ourselves with. Most people are surprised to learn that this has a huge impact upon our immune system, melatonin levels and our ability to recover well and quickly from illness.

It is important post Covid to support the integrity and health of the blood vessels. A diet high in antioxidants and polyphenols such as quercetin and resveratrol is crucial here. Supplements can also be helpful for therapeutic doses of these micronutrients.

Vitamin D status has been shown to be important when it comes to severity of Covid symptoms in the first place. it is also important to support recovery afterwards. Vitamin D levels can be tested with a simple blood test and supplements should be high dose if levels are low.

Glutathione is a hugely important antioxidant in the body. It is crucial to support levels of glutathione pre, during and post illness. Cruciferous vegetables, avocados, spinach and alliums can help here. Supplementation is also possible. N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is a precursor amino acid to glutathione. It is especially useful to support lung function, break small blood clots, and support oxygenation of the body.

Intermittent fasting is the practice of leaving significant gaps during the day and night between meals and snacks. It stimulates the process of mitophagy – the removal of damaged mitochondria. Mitochondria are the little energy factories in all of our cells and we need them to be working well to support good health. I find that three meals per day, no snacks and a good 12 to 14 hour overnight fast is a good place to start if trying out intermittent fasting for the first time.

There are other ways to support mitochondrial function. This is such a crucial thing to understand as mitochondria are the energy factories in all cells, including immune cells. Certain nutrients are important for mitochondrial function. For example, co-enzyme Q10, B vitamins, magnesium, glutathione, curcumin, and antioxidants. I will also always assess if there is anything else depleting the mitochondria and health in general. Toxins, infections (bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal), poor detoxification capabilities and acid/alkaline balance in the body are all important.

Gut health is important to take into account also. The balance of our microbiome has a significant impact upon immune function and energy production. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and homemade yoghurt can really boost healthy gut bacteria, as can probiotic supplements and a diet high in diversity of plant foods to feed our good gut bugs.

There are other things I will consider too depending on the client in front of me. Adrenal function can be compromised by illness and supporting that can help someone feel a lot better. Some herbs can be very useful to act as antivirals, to support immune function and to reduce inflammation. Andrographis, licorice and Chinese skullcap are very good.

Post viral issues are complex and must be considered in the context of the general health and terrain of the body in which they present. So, my focus is always on supporting both the post viral complications as well as the person as a whole.