Catching and recovering from COVID-19 was disruptive enough to the lives of more than half a billion people worldwide. But for millions of those people, the health impact of COVID persists far beyond the initial infection period.
Post-COVID-19 condition (PCC), also known as long COVID, is characterized by a broad range of long-term symptoms appearing or persisting after the infection period of COVID-19. They usually occur within three months of onset of COVID-19 and the effects last for at least two months, although some people first experience them months after initial infection.
Symptoms of PCC
The symptoms related to PCC, or long COVID, can impact daily functionality. They impact both adults and children in a wide range of ways. Some symptoms experienced by “long haulers” include the following.
- sleep problems
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- persistent cough
- muscle aches or weakness
- joint or muscle pains
- chest pain or heart palpitations
- loss of or distorted smell or taste
- low fever
- cognitive dysfunction (in the form of “brain fog,” memory loss, and difficulty concentrating)
- depression or anxiety
- symptoms that worsen following physical or mental effort
These symptoms tend to wax and wane. Any sort of physical, mental, or emotional stress can lead to worsening or a relapse of symptoms.
What do we know 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 percent 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.
More 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. In May 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.
Although there’s deep concern, and enormous efforts are being made to discover the causes and potential treatments for long COVID, there remains much to learn. One of the major challenges is that this “condition” is probably not a single disease, which makes finding ways to treat it extremely difficult.
One of these potential causes was discovered during research led by the University of California Los Angeles. Their findings suggest that some cases of long COVID may be a result of suppressed immunity. This could be due to factors present prior to infection, such as poor nutritional status; stress; and the presence of risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Management of long COVID as a complex chronic disease
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. These conditions share common characteristics, and the most common pattern of onset of CCD is following an infectious event. In addressing long COVID, some support strategies related to other CCDs may prove helpful.
Optimize mitochondria function
Energy is the currency of life. Energy in the body is produced by small compartments 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 percent of our body weight; it consumes more than 25 percent 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
|protein||may help to improve overall energy|
|high potency multiple vitamin and mineral formulas||all essential nutrients are involved in mitochondrial function, especially B vitamins|
|magnesium||essential mineral involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions; relaxes muscles and may help improve sleep|
|ubiquinol||active form of coenzyme Q10, with greater bioavailability; important in mitochondrial energy production|
|acetyl-L-carnitine||important for transporting essential fats into the mitochondria for energy production|
|n-acetyl-cysteine||important in supporting 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 percent of our immune system, manufactures neurotransmitters, is home to over 100 trillion bacteria and plays a significant role in systemic health. In CCD, digestive symptoms such as gas/bloating, diarrhea/constipation, and acid reflux are common.
Supplements to support gut health
Supplement Description peppermint oil may help reduce cramps, gas, and bloating; supports proper peristalsis and the movement of food through the digestive process n-acetylcysteine (NAC) NAC is also important to enhance gut barrier function and improve “leaky” gut, a goal in CCD quercetin exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy effects gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) may play a role in attenuating gut inflammation and improving the gut epithelial barrier