COVID is no longer the top story on the nightly news, but it continues to take a daily toll on millions of Americans. While most people who contract COVID experience no lingering effects, approximately 10% endure serious symptoms for months or even years after the initial illness. For many of these “long COVID” sufferers, symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog are so severe that it’s impossible to have an active life or hold down a job—in fact, long COVID has caused an estimated two to four million Americans to leave the workforce.
Bad news: Defining health problems and testing new pharmaceuticals can be a lengthy process, so it might be decades before government regulators approve official “long COVID” treatments.
Good news: It is relatively clear what long COVID is, and it’s very treatable.
What Long COVID IS really
Most long-COVID victims are suffering from post-viral chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The COVID infection has caused the hypothalamus—the area of the brain that plays a critical role in regulating hormones, sleep, blood pressure, temperature and more—to severely decrease its function. It’s almost as if a circuit breaker that controls the hypothalamus has been switched off.
The fact that CFS might follow COVID should not be controversial. CFS can follow other serious infections, including SARS, Epstein-Barr and Lyme disease, so it’s not surprising that it follows COVID. Numerous health organizations have made the long COVID–CFS connection, including the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This is good news—while post-viral CFS is a serious condition, there are treatments that can dramatically improve the lives of sufferers.
The confusion stems from the list of potential long-COVID symptoms unrelated to CFS—everything from lung issues to heart disease to loss of smell and taste. But while many symptoms are grouped together with CFS symptoms under the heading “long COVID,” the non-CFS symptoms should be considered separately—more about those on page five. The fact that COVID sometimes has lingering effects unrelated to CFS does not change the fact that the vast majority of long-COVID sufferers clearly have post-viral CFS.
Treating Post-Viral CFS
Set aside those long lists of long-COVID symptoms you might have seen, and for the moment, consider only four—fatigue, brain fog, trouble sleeping and widespread achiness. If more than two months have passed since you contracted COVID and you continue to experience two or more of these symptoms—and you were not experiencing them pre-COVID—that’s a classic case of post-viral CFS.
Five steps long-COVID sufferers can take to overcome this condition…
Take red ginseng. A 2021 study of 188 CFS sufferers published in Pharmaceuticals found that 60.1% of those who took red ginseng for one month reported improvement, including a 67% average increase in energy level…48% average improvement in mental clarity…46% average improvement in sleep…33% average decrease in pain…and 72% average increase in stamina. Dosage: One 100-mg chewable tablet once or twice a day. Warning: Most ginseng is of such low quality that it’s essentially worthless. Seek out HRG80 Red Ginseng chewable tablets, 100 mg or more.
Take multivitamins containing lots of magnesium and B vitamins. CFS sufferers often experience depletion of many nutrients, including magnesium, which plays a significant role in sleep regulation, pain relief, immune system function and blood pressure regulation…and B vitamins such as B-1 (also known as thiamine) and B-12, low levels of which have been linked to poor mental clarity. Warning: Many multivitamins don’t contain sufficient magnesium for CFS sufferers—choose one with 150 mg to 200 mg of magnesium. And look for at least 30 mg of most B vitamins and 250 mg of vitamin B-12.
Do a quick self-test to see if you’re experiencing “orthostatic intolerance.” As explained earlier, during long COVID, the body’s hypothalamic circuit breaker goes offline. The hypothalamus helps to keep blood from pooling in our legs and staying there when we stand up. When it is not working properly, not enough blood reaches the brain and CFS sufferers can experience a significant drop in blood pressure when they stand, potentially causing dizziness, fatigue, headaches, confusion and/or falls.
To test for orthostatic intolerance: Minimize your salt intake for 24 hours. Then lie relaxed on your back for 10 minutes. Measure your pulse after those 10 minutes—many wearable health monitors measure pulse rate—then get up and stand calmly in place for 10 minutes, checking your pulse every two minutes. If your pulse rate is more than 30 beats per minute higher in any of the standing measurements than it was when you were lying down, you have orthostatic intolerance. If your pulse goes up but only by 15 to 30 beats per minute, you could have it. If you have orthostatic intolerance: Increase your daily salt consumption to as much as your body craves…increase your daily water consumption…and wear medium-pressure (20 mm to 30 mm) compression stockings. Caution: If you think you have orthostatic intolerance, check with your doctor before following this protocol. Also, people suffering from congestive heart failure should be very careful about increasing their salt intake.
Treat “hangry” behavior as a symptom. “Hangry” refers to a tendency to become peevish when peckish. This is a common side effect of CFS caused by the brain failing to properly regulate blood sugar levels. If it is a symptom of your long COVID, take Adrenaplex, an adrenal system support supplement available over the counter. Caution: If you have high blood pressure, use Adrenaplex only under a doctor’s supervision.
Exercise…as best you can. Some CFS sufferers will find this advice frustrating—CFS has left them far too fatigued to exercise, and they become even more exhausted when they try. But while CFS sufferers cannot exercise as they did pre-CFS, it is important that they get whatever exercise they can, without crashing the next day, even if that’s just a modest amount of walking. Best: Walk as much as you comfortably can…then try to walk 50 steps farther the next day. If you push too hard one day and feel wiped out the next, rest for a few days, then cut back by 15% to 20% when you resume your walks. Try to very slowly build up to 5,000 steps a day, so you’re getting as much exercise as the average American…or better yet, push on to 10,000 steps.
Currently several different health problems are being grouped together under the heading “long COVID.” The CFS symptoms described above are by far the most common, but other, unrelated, post-COVID health issues include…
Heart disease. A large study by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that the risk for cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, can be substantially elevated during the year following a COVID infection, and potentially longer. If your doctor diagnoses heart problems following COVID, heed his/her advice but also investigate potentially helpful natural treatments, such as d-ribose. You can find natural treatments that might be appropriate for your situation in the heart disease section of my free Cures A-Z phone app.
Lung inflammation. If your COVID included pneumonia and your lungs have not yet fully recovered, there is good news—this type of lung inflammation generally heals itself, though it could take up to two years. In the meantime, take 750 mg of CuraMed twice a day. While there isn’t yet sufficient research to say with certainty that curcumin, the key ingredient in CuraMed, helps heal post-COVID lung inflammation, it is safe and has produced some promising results treating other forms of inflammation.
Also take a 500-mg dose of Boswellia two or three times per day. Also known as frankincense, Boswellia can suppress respiratory system inflammation. Consult your doctor before taking Boswellia supplements if you take anti-inflammatory or anticoagulant medications.
Helpful: Chronic shortness of breath following COVID usually is not a symptom of lung inflammation or heart failure. Use a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen levels when you feel short of breath. If it provides a reading of 96% or above when you’re seated and higher when you’re exercising, your heart and lungs likely are fine.