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Long COVID; a naturopathic approach

With Australia rapidly approaching five million COVID-19 infections, the healthcare system’s looming challenge in 2023 and beyond will move from hospital care to long COVID. Many people who have recovered from Covid-19 have gone on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest. Between 10% and 30% of those infected do not recover fully and suffer significant ongoing disability that lasts for months and longer. That is at least 400,000 Australian long COVID sufferers in the year ahead.

.The medical profession, at this point, doesn’t seem to have much to offer people with long COVID. This is where natural medicine can provide support to help people regain their health and quality of life.

At the personal level, long COVID can significantly decrease the individual quality of life. Depression and anxiety are both symptoms of long COVID arising from the condition. At a societal level, it has implications for workforce participation. Large swathes of the population will be impacted by long COVID.

Possible causes of long COVID

  • Reactivation of Epstein Barr Virus

  • MAST cell activation

  • Pathological inflammation

  • Dysautonomia

  • Gut-brain axis and microbiome dysregulation

Symptoms of long COVID

People often experience a cluster of symptoms. They include physical, mental and psychological symptoms. Because covid-19 can affect many body systems, the list of long covid symptoms is extensive.

The most-reported are;

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia and sleep difficulties

  • Brain fog/cognitive dysfunction

  • Shortness of breath

  • Persistent cough

  • Muscle aches

  • Post-exertional malaise

  • Altered bowel motions


  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Reflux

  • Absence of taste/smell

  • Headaches

  • Heart palpitations

  • Dizzy spells

  • Body tingles

  • Loss of hair

  • Anxiety/depression

  • Hearing loss / tinnitus

  • Skin rashes and lesions

Who is most at risk for Long COVID?

  • Presence of five or more of the long covid symptoms. Higher symptom load in the acute stage is significantly associated with developing long covid.

  • Prior history of Epstein Barr virus or cytomegalovirus infection

  • Low Vitamin D

  • Existing inflammation and pre-existing chronic conditions

  • Female

  • Older age

  • Chronic disease co-morbidities, especially hypertension

  • Psychological stress

  • Gut dysbiosis

Overcoming Long COVID

I recommend that anyone who has had Covid-19, (severe or mild) take proactive steps by following a plan to repair and rebuild the body.

Working with lifestyle factors, diet and supplements may considerably improve the long-term outcome for your Health.

This is where Functional Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine really shine, as they provide relief by addressing the underlying damage and understanding the pathophysiology that this virus has taken on the body.

Our approach is to appreciate the integration of the human body and to consider:

  • Mitochondrial Function & Disruption

  • Immune Function & Dysfunction

  • Inflammation & Oxidative Stress

  • Co-infections

  • Biochemical Imbalances

  • Lifestyle

  • Nutritional insufficiency including reduced vitamin and mineral and macronutrient intake increases the risk of long COVID

  • ·Targeted supplementation of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can support patients experiencing long COVID. Consider vitamin D, zinc, vitamin A and CoQ10

  • ·Exercise with long COVID is important for recovery, however intensity and duration should be carefully considered. Low volume, high load strength training may suit patients with long COVID

  • Some herbs for chronic, recurrent and relapsing infections include; medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps sinensis (cordyceps), Trametes versicolor (Coriolus), Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) and Lentinula edodes (shiitake). Also consider andrographis, green tea, elderberry, astragalus, perilla, baical skullcap and many more



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