Long-Haul COVID: Signs, Symptoms and SupplementsMay 31, 2022 03:00PM ● By Veena Verma-Dzik
People affected with long-haul COVID usually present with symptoms more than four weeks after first being infected, and can last over weeks to months—perhaps years. What may come as a surprise, much like chronic Lyme disease, is that many people with long-haul COVID are not aware that they were ever even exposed to COVID.
While most people with post-COVID conditions know for certain that they were sick with COVID, there are a handful of people who may not have tested positive or were unaware they were infected with the virus. Testing for long-haul COVID can be just as uncertain as it is for Lyme and tick-borne diseases.
Why Are Some Affected?
Patients with Lyme disease and autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and Epstein-Barr virus, get hit the hardest once infected with COVID. The inflammatory response that is triggered by the virus interacts with the immune system and genetics, most likely causing an adverse reaction. Those with underlying symptoms will have symptoms from previous infections either return or become exacerbated, and with autoimmune conditions, reignite or worsen. This is not a complete surprise, since viruses are a known trigger for autoimmune diseases.
Another potential explanation, which researchers are still exploring with long-haul COVID, is the viral load of the RNA virus present in some people’s system may be greater than others, which contributes to the presence of this condition. These people become ill not just with post-COVID symptoms, but with a worsening in their underlying conditions.
The Long-Haul COVID Picture
Recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, it is expected that more than 15 million people will become ill with long-haul COVID, another national health disaster. The reality is the ill-effects of COVID can negatively impact multiple systems of the body. The wide range of symptoms associated with long-haul COVID can be presented in different ways, including unrelenting fatigue, difficulty breathing, cognitive decline, headaches, changes in sleep, neuropathy, irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, hair loss and more. These are all symptoms that are very similar to tick-borne diseases.
We must also emphasize the rise in anxiety, depression and other mood disorders—not from the psychosocial consequences the pandemic has had, but as a result of the COVID and long-haul COVID infection. The neuroinflammation induced by the virus has caused a significant impact on the brain, leading to crisis in the state of our mental health.
Let’s focus on some of the most prevalent symptoms associated with post-COVID: cognitive decline, migraines, anxiety, depression, fatigue, compromised breathing and pain.
How is it that a respiratory virus can cause neurological issues? Many of the neurological symptoms that result from the COVID infection are due to the widespread inflammatory response to the infection and associated blood vessel injury. The presence of inflammatory cytokines within the brain and spinal cord leads to both neurological and cognitive deficits, with neurological symptoms in more than 80 percent of the severe cases.
COVID causes traumatic brain injury. One study revealed several changes including reduction in gray matter thickness and overall size of the brain, and an increase in cerebrospinal fluid. Another study showed that large cells, known as megakaryocytes, were found in the brain, blocking blood flow and starving it of oxygen. This is only a fraction of what has been discovered, and it goes without saying such alterations and more significantly impact both cognitive and mental health.
In a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 50 participants assessed after low intensity exercise were found to have low fatty acid oxidation and higher blood levels of lactate, which are findings associated with a defect in mitochondrial function. This is the same type of cellular damage that is thought to play a role in myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. At a complex level, the mRNA virus affects the biogenesis pathways of specific mitochondrial products, which ultimately leads to many of the symptoms with which long-haul patients struggle.
What Can Help
From a functional alternative medicine perspective, there are supplements that have been found useful in helping those with long-haul COVID, many of which can be found on the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance website, Covid19CriticalCare.com. Since long-haul COVID shares several key characteristics with chronic Lyme disease, many of these therapies overlap.
Here are just a few of the therapies that have benefited patients.
It has been shown that after taking curcumin, patients who have exhibited mild, moderate and severe COVID symptoms were able to recover earlier with less deterioration in their health. Diving more into the science behind curcumin shows broad-spectrum antiviral activity against enveloped viruses, exerts immunomodulatory activity by blocking NF-κB inflammasome, alleviates oxidative tissue injury by increasing antioxidant defenses by modulating NRF2 and much more.
Quercetin, Vitamin C and Zinc
Quercetin is a flavonoid and potent antioxidant with broad spectrum anti-inflammatory, antiviral, cardioprotective and neuroprotective properties. The neuroprotective effects of quercetin are due to its antioxidant and free radical scavenging abilities. Quercetin is also beneficial to our mitochondria and energy (ATP) production. Quercetin targets NLRP3 inflammasome, a protein that triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and causes cell death. The extra added benefit is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier. Quercetin, together with zinc and vitamin C, can exhibit synergistic antiviral activity.
Resveratrol is a natural polyphenol found in red wine and Japanese knotweed. Resveratrol has widely been researched and proven to have many beneficial effects against numerous viruses, including the flu virus, HIV and RSV. Its antiviral and antioxidant benefits may further be enhanced when used in combination with other nutraceuticals.
There are many more therapies that can provide great benefit for those suffering from long-haul COVID, including other supplements, herbs and immunotherapy. While more studies and clinical trials are being conducted to find better treatments and perhaps a cure for COVID, it is important to know that there is support to help with recovery.
Dr. Veena Verma-Dzik, ND, FIAMA practices at Insight Counseling, 105 Danbury Rd, in Ridgefield. Connect at 203-431-9726, InsightCounselingLLC.com or DoctorVeena.com. See ad, page 21.
Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More »
Dr. Verma specializes in treating patients with Lyme disease and other vector-borne infections, women’s health, ADD/ADHD, GI conditions, MTHFR, mood imbalances, allergies, fatigue and hor... Read More »