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COVID-19 long haulers: are you still suffering from post-viral symptoms?


It seems that we have all been given lots of important advice on how to avoid the virus and what to do when we get it, but very little on what to do when it turns into a long-term chronic health challenge. Nutritional guru, Lucinda Miller, is passionate about holistic health and shares her top tips to help all the “long-haulers” get their mojo back on track!

The problems that can persist after contracting coronavirus are now formally called “Post-acute Covid-19” and can include cough, low grade fever and fatigue. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, brain fog, muscle pains and weakness, gastrointestinal upset, skin rashes, chilblain like lesions (“covid-toe”) and loss of smell and taste. Sound familiar? If you are suffering from these symptoms, try out some of Lucinda’s tips to help you bounce right back. But be gentle on yourself and build things up slowly – think of it as a marathon, not a sprint!


Why might you be recovering more slowly?

There are many factors that can dictate how badly you experience Covid-19. These include:

  • Age
  • Pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung issues
  • Underlying health issues such as an underactive or autoimmune thyroid, disrupted iron metabolism, low B vitamin levels, low vitamin D, a lack of omega 3 essential acids or a depleted gut microbiome.
  • Poor stress management leading to an imbalance of cortisol during the day and night
  • Issues with the mitochondria (the batteries inside our cells that create our energy source).
  • Oxidative stress triggered by the cytokine storm from the body’s response to the virus

What can you do at home to help with post-viral fatigue?

The NHS have put together a useful guide focusing on a range of areas, including on testing to ensure there are no serious complications bubbling away in the background. However, as an extension to the NHS guidelines, here is a little bit more detail on how you can self-manage your symptoms at home:

1) Prioritise Your Sleep – Try to aim for a good 8-10 hours of quality sleep every night until you are feeling fully re-charged. The key sleep disruptors include caffeine, alcohol as well as screen time before bed. If you still don’t sleep well, consider herbal adaptogens like AshwagandhaTheanine or Magnesium before bed. An Epsom salt bath before bed can induce sleepiness and is lovely and relaxing.

2) Breathing Exercises – is is the lung function that seems to take the longest to recover from the inflammation. It’s important to learn breathing techniques to help to optimise oxygenation and lung health. Regular yoga helps to incorporate breathe work into your daily life, as does a walk or exercise in the fresh air.

3) Movement – Graduated exercise is key to post-viral recovery. Aim to build up your daily walk from 5 minutes to one hour depending on your strength. Once you have achieved a full hour of walking consider starting to incorporate short sharp bursts of running to this walk, then build up to doing some basic exercises like lunges, squats and press-ups.

4) Hydration – A well hydrated body and mind helps to reduce residual inflammation. Start each day by drinking at least 500ml water and aim to drink 2 litres over the day.

5) Diet – A healthy Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, salads, fruits, pulses, nuts, seeds, oily fish, good quality protein, cocoa and olive oil is known to be anti-inflammatory, whereas a highly processed diet can be very pro-inflammatory and exacerbate symptoms. Aim to eat lots of foods that help us to internally make our master antioxidant glutathione that helps to modulate inflammation and encourages cell repair: red, orange, yellow, green and purple fruit and vegetables. Alliums such as onions and leeks also help us to make glutathione, as do cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and rocket.

 


Foods & Supplements for Inflammation & Oxidative Stress

There are various basic nutrients that have sound scientific evidence to help with systemic inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, help renew the cells, and also regain better lung function:

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a natural anti-inflammatory. Some people carry genetic SNP’s called VDR (Vitamin D Receptor) which compromises vitamin D uptake despite sun exposure, a good diet and supplementation. Ideally levels should be checked via a blood test to keep levels optimised. It is thought that a blood level of 100-110 is ideal for reducing inflammation.
  • Vitamin C: Several controlled trials have found significant effects of vitamin C helping with recuperation from lung conditions such as pneumonia. Vitamin C has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can be taken orally up to 2,000mg daily. Parsley, red peppers and potatoes contain a surprising amount of vitamin C, as well as citrus fruits and berries.
  • Zinc: Zinc is being researched for supporting those with active viral load as it has both antioxidant and antiviral properties. Oysters contain the most zinc, you can also get some in other shellfish and beef. Baked beans and pumpkin seeds also contain some zinc.

  • Omega 3: This essential fatty acid has been found to decrease overall lung tissue inflammation as well as reducing cell death in pneumonia. It also helps to nourish the gut microbiome and is well known to help with cognitive challenges. Try eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies as well as omega 3 rich eggs, organic whole milk. There is a little in walnuts, flax and chia seeds.
  • Probiotics: It is thought that gut permeability, also known as leaky gut, can contribute to the severity of coronavirus, especially amongst the frail. To keep your gut microbiome in sync is eating probiotic rich foods such as kefir, live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and apple cider vinegar. You can also take a probiotic supplementation.
  • Turmeric: This bright yellow spice is a well-established systemic anti-inflammatory and it has been found to be particularly good at repairing lung injury and reduces the pesky inflammatory cytokines. It may also help to rebalance red blood cell markers and one of the hallmarks of coronavirus is high ferritin levels (iron stores) due to oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • N Acetyl Cysteine: NAC is the precursor to glutathione which the master antioxidant our metabolism generates when it is healthy. Glutathione helps regulate immunity, detoxification and inflammatory pathways. NAC is also a mucus thinner and may also help to counteract the effects of oxidative stress and inflammatory response in post-viral patients. It has also been found to be helpful for those with chronic lung disease.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you to restore your energy and vitality. If you are struggling then do book in with one of the NatureDoc clinical team who can dig a bit deeper and work out how to get you back on track.


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