Comments by Dr Jess Braid – co-founder of adio.https://adio.org
Dr. Jess Braid is co-founder of Health & Wellness platform – adio. The platform aims to provide well researched, practical advice for a range of conditions & lifestyle advice with the aim of enabling individuals to feel empowered to take control of their wellness. The platform features a range of sources including highly referenced articles, podcasts & reports.
Below, Dr Jess Braid discusses what Long Covid is, reasons for this & ways to deal with this.
What is Long COVID?
10% of patients with COVID-19 report fatigue (tiredness), breathlessness, brain fog and in some cases pain for 3 weeks or longer. This occurred in some people who only had mild cases of COVID-19. There seem to be a proportion of people who have ongoing symptoms for some time after COVID-19 has resolved. In some people these disappear spontaneously, in others they are still present up to 6 months later.
What are the symptoms of long COVID?
Ongoing for more than 4 weeks*:
Breathlessness and cough
Chest tightness, chest pain or palpitations
Pins and needles
Low mood or anxiety
Loss of taste or smell
Diarrhoea, nausea, reduced appetite
*see your doctor as it is important to be assessed by a medical professional to check for any other causes
Possible reasons that people develop long COVID?
There are several current theories as to why some people have gone on to develop long term symptoms after COVID infections:
1. Stress and anxiety – No we are not saying that it is all ‘in your head’ or made up. This last 2 years has been extremely stressful and as you can read about in our immune & infection zone stress has a big impact on our immunity, making us more susceptible to other recurrent infections and less likely to heal. The fear and anxiety about a positive PCR test, particularly in vulnerable patients or those with underlying health conditions can create a very real and strong stress reaction, worrying about ending up in hospital or even dying, and we can struggle to recover properly from illness and infection when we are stressed. Add to this a fear of infecting our loved ones or other vulnerable family and friends.
People with pre-existing mental illness were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with long COVID in a recent Lancet study.1
2. Post-viral fatigue - this condition is poorly understood but a widespread diagnosis linked to ME and Chronic Fatigue syndrome. We see that some viruses seem to be more likely to create ongoing fatigue after infection and can also leave your immune system more vulnerable to other infections. Glandular fever or mononucleosis is a common example, this can leave people feeling fatigued for many months afterwards. We also see many patients in practice who have never been well since an illness and have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which can encompass severe fatigue, muscle and joint aches and pains, depression and sleep disturbance and be extremely debilitating. Why some people develop this we don’t know but using a functional medicine approach we would look at nutrition, the body’s ability to heal, gut health and immune health to help recover. Working through Adio’s health toolkits could be very helpful. Dr Jess has observed in practice that COVID-19 seems to cause fatigue in many patients for up to 6 weeks, they also seem to be at high risk of further infections during this time.
3. Underlying inflammation and blood sugar issues – evidence has shown that COVID-19 can trigger off an inflammatory reaction in the body called a ‘cytokine storm’. This is more likely in those with raised blood sugar (1 in 4 of the UK adult population have signs of blood sugar problems). It is also more likely in those with pre-existing inflammation – many chronic diseases like autoimmune diseases, heart disease and even cancer and dementia can be linked to long-term, low-level inflammation. Unfortunately, we are in an epidemic of inflammation, and this is likely why those countries with a high proportion of overweight and obese individuals have a much higher rate of complication and death from COVID. The good news is that you can change your health with lifestyle, food and nutrition and we want to show you how at Adio.
4. A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) explanation – the philosophy of TCM is thousands of years old based on observation of the human body long before we understood anatomy, physiology or viruses properly. Their explanation for post-viral symptoms is that we all have a defensive ‘coat’ that protects us from infectious illnesses (we would now call this the immune system) which they call the Wei Qi. This coat can be a fine mesh or it can be a suit of armour (which depends on our underlying health). So when something attacks it can either bounce off a suit of armour, barely causing any symptoms, or it can go straight through the thin mesh coat and invade deeply causing strong symptoms and long term damage to our deeper energy. By improving our ‘wei Qi’ we can all build our metaphorical suits of armour so that infections don’t cause us as much damage.
How would you support Long COVID?
With a whole-body approach working on:
Good nutrition – a diet low in processed food, high in healthy omega 3 fats and grass-fed proteins, rich in plant foods and low in sugar. There is lots of support on Adio for how to do this.
Restorative foods – culturally we have used soups and stews for thousands of years to help us recover from illness and it makes sense that when the body is weakened we should eat whole foods, vegetables and broths to help us easily restore nutrients. Many cultures have a ‘chicken soup’ philosophy and a couple of small studies have shown chicken soup and bone broth may actually help the immune system. Regardless by optimising your nutrition and supporting your gut, as well as taking time to heal we are more likely to recover more quickly from any illness. Convalescence is an old-fashioned word for resting and taking time out after illness and something we should consider in modern life, wherever possible, before rushing back to our busy lives.
Appropriate vitamin supplements, consider having your vitamin D tested (many people in the UK have low D and this can cause fatigue and low immunity) also look at magnesium, B vitamins, iron and zinc to recover and boost immunity.
Stress and mental health support – at Adio we are big believers in ongoing mental health support for all of us and stress reduction and we show you many ways to do this. Regular time for your brain to ‘detox’ with practices like meditation and time in nature to regenerate and repair can have miraculous effects.
Consider acupuncture, herbs or seeing a functional medicine practitioner – there are many supports in integrative and functional medicine that can help boost your health. A functional medicine practitioner can take a full history look for any root causes or triggers and help you deal with them. There are many traditionally used medicines like traditional Chinese Medicine that have herbs that they have used for thousands of years to recover from illness. Astragalus is an excellent example of this and is historically used as a ‘wei Qi‘ herb, and after infection for exhaustion, breathlessness, lung issue, aching and boosting immunity it is also considered to be an adaptogen – a herb that helps the body deal with stress. It can be added to soups and stews as well as taken as a supplement.
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