In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals are facing another challenge known as Long COVID. This term describes the lingering, often debilitating symptoms that persist after the initial battle with the virus. It’s a reality for millions, turning what was once a temporary ailment into a prolonged struggle.
Long COVID significantly impacts daily life, making it difficult to perform tasks that used to be easy. For some, it means struggling with routine activities due to fatigue and breathlessness. Others find their work and social life disrupted by cognitive impairments and psychological symptoms.
If you or someone you know is grappling with these lasting effects of COVID-19, you may be seeking ways to recover. Read on to learn about natural ways to alleviate Long COVID symptoms and improve overall well-being.
What Is Long COVID?
Long COVID, also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), is a complex condition that continues to puzzle healthcare professionals and researchers today. It’s defined as the persistence of health issues for weeks or months beyond the initial recovery from COVID-19. There are at least 65 million people living with Long COVID worldwide, and the number of cases is increasing every day.
People with Long-COVID or “long-haulers” experience symptoms that vary in severity and duration. It affects multiple organs, including the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and liver. The exact reasons why some people experience Long COVID and others don’t are still under investigation. However, researchers are able to identify possible risk factors like:
- Severe initial COVID-19 infection
- Pre-existing health conditions
- Not being vaccinated against COVID-19
- Gender – women are at higher risk of Long COVID
- Age – people over 65 are more likely to develop symptoms
Symptoms of Long-Term COVID
Researchers have identified over 200 symptoms of Long COVID, ranging from minor to severe. The most common symptoms long-haulers experience are:
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
- Mood changes
- Persistent cough
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances
- Shortness of breath
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Loss of taste and smell
- Gastrointestinal problems such as chronic diarrhea
- Cognitive impairment such as forgetfulness or brain fog
- Neuropathy (nerve pain that causes weakness, numbing, tingling on any part of the body)
Natural Ways to Treat Long COVID
Currently, therapeutic strategies for managing post-COVID-19 syndrome focus on non-pharmaceutical measures and targeted treatment of specific symptoms. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating long-term COVID, keeping your body healthy helps manage your symptoms. Below are the best Long COVID recovery tips:
1. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
A nutritious diet is crucial for recovery. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats supports overall health. Since inflammation could be a contributing factor to Long COVID symptoms, you should focus on anti-inflammatory foods like berries, fatty fish, and leafy greens.
2. Practice Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing exercises promote relaxation and improve lung capacity and oxygen flow. It helps alleviate respiratory symptoms like persistent coughing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. Here are a few techniques you can try:
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: This technique involves breathing deeply into the lungs using the diaphragm rather than the chest. It increases lung capacity and ensures more efficient oxygen exchange.
- Pursed-Lip Breathing: This technique slows the pace of breathing, promoting deeper breaths and more effective lung function. It’s especially helpful in managing shortness of breath.
- Nasal Breathing: If chronic cough is your problem, you must breathe through the nose, as mouth breathing increases coughing. You can also try the ‘stop-cough’ technique. If you feel like coughing, close your mouth and swallow. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe through your nose slowly until the urge to cough subsides.
3. Get Back Into Exercise Gradually
While fatigue is a common Long COVID symptom, gentle, regular exercise significantly boosts energy levels. Start with low-impact activities like walking to improve cardiovascular health without overexertion. Gradually incorporate yoga or tai chi to enhance flexibility and reduce stress. Just remember to listen to your body. Make sure you start at a low intensity and gradually increase it to avoid exacerbating symptoms.
4. Stay Hydrated
A persistent cough is one of the symptoms that lingers following a COVID-19 infection. One of the best long-term-COVID cough treatments is to stay hydrated with water or electrolyte-rich drinks. Water supports every cell in your body and helps in detoxification, while drinks with electrolytes replenish any mineral deficiencies and aid in better hydration. Drink warm teas with honey and lemon to soothe your throat.
5. Keep Surroundings Clean
When recovering from Long COVID, it is essential to maintain a clean and hygienic environment. Regularly clean and sanitize your living space to minimize the risk of further infections. Ensure good air circulation in your living space to ease respiratory symptoms. When possible, open windows to let fresh air circulate and reduce the concentration of airborne pathogens. Alternatively, an air purifier with HEPA filters can do the trick. In addition, you should also avoid smoke, air fresheners, scented candles, and strong perfumes.
6. Reduce Stress
Long COVID can have a negative effect on mental health. Meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and controlled breathing alleviate stress and anxiety. These techniques also improve mental clarity and reduce “brain fog.” Seeking support, whether through counseling or support groups, is equally important.
For those experiencing body malaise, experts recommend practicing the “Three P’s”. This Long COVID fatigue treatment involves:
- Pacing (avoiding overexertion)
- Planning (organizing activities based on energy levels)
- Prioritizing (focusing on essential tasks and seeking help from others)
7. Get Adequate Sleep
Quality sleep is essential for recovery from Long COVID, especially for those with “brain fog” and mental health changes. For better sleep, here are a few tips.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body’s clock.
- Reduce exposure to screens (like smartphones, tablets, and TVs) at least an hour before sleeping.
- Avoid heavy or large meals late in the evening.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake hours before going to bed.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Do journaling, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to relax your body and mind.
- Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep. It should be dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or white noise machines if needed.
If you find it hard to sleep, you can ask your healthcare provider about melatonin supplements.
8. Take Supplements
Studies are still ongoing, and data on pharmaceutical interventions is limited. However, taking certain established supplements helps boost one’s health, aiding recovery from symptoms. Some of the best supplements for Long COVID include:
This essential mineral boosts immune function and curbs inflammation. Taking zinc may help reduce the severity and duration of Long COVID symptoms by supporting the body’s natural defense system.
Chronic inflammation is a key feature of Long COVID, and omega-3 fatty acids help control it. Additionally, they support heart and brain health, which is beneficial for individuals experiencing cardiac or neurological symptoms.
There’s growing evidence that a healthy gut microbiome plays a role in immune function. Probiotics help strengthen the immune system and aid in the recovery from Long COVID by enhancing the body’s ability to fight off lingering infections or inflammation.
Vitamin B: Take B vitamins for Long COVID fatigue and brain fog. In particular, B6, B9 (folate), and B12 are crucial for energy production and the functioning of the nervous system. They alleviate body pain and neurological changes, which are symptoms of Long COVID.
Vitamin C: This vitamin supports immune function and tissue repair. It helps combat oxidative stress and inflammation, which are common in Long COVID.
Vitamin D: COVID-19 patients often have low levels of Vitamin D. Supplementation with Vitamin D supports the immune system, decreasing the chance of developing severe symptoms of Long COVID. It is also effective in mood regulation and could ease depression or anxiety among long-haulers
Note: You must use these supplements as part of a broader treatment strategy and under a healthcare professionals’ guidance.
Frequently-Asked Questions on Long COVID
1. How long does Long-Term COVID last?
The duration varies. Some people recover within a few weeks, while others experience Long COVID flare-ups for months. Understanding the full spectrum of the condition and its duration is still an ongoing area of research.
2. Who is at risk for Long COVID?
Long COVID can affect anyone who has had COVID-19, but certain factors may increase the risk. These include severe initial infection, pre-existing health conditions, and possibly age and gender. However, it’s important to note that even people with mild cases can experience Long COVID.
3. Is Long COVID contagious?
It is not contagious. This condition happens after someone has already recovered from COVID-19. Individuals are contagious during the acute phase of COVID-19 when the virus is active.
4. Should I see a doctor for Long COVID symptoms?
Yes. It’s important to consult healthcare professionals for a proper diagnosis and management plan, especially if the symptoms are severe or worsening.
5. How is Long COVID diagnosed?
There is no single test for Long COVID. Diagnosis typically involves ruling out other causes for the symptoms and considering the patient’s history of COVID-19 infection. Healthcare providers conduct tests to rule out other conditions and assess the impact on organs and systems.
6. Is there a treatment for Long COVID?
Treatment is primarily symptomatic and supportive. It may involve physical therapy, medication for symptom relief, and strategies to manage fatigue and brain fog. Multidisciplinary care involving specialists in respiratory medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and rehabilitation may be beneficial.
When it comes to persistent neuropathic pain, and doctors are able to rule out underlying causes like diabetes and nutritional deficiencies, they can prescribe medications. Options include pregabalin, gabapentin, or duloxetine. Topical treatments with capsaicin are also beneficial.
Healthcare providers may suggest medications like cough suppressants or inhalers (bronchodilators or glucocorticoids) to manage cough symptoms.
7. How can I avoid Long COVID?
The best way to avoid this condition is to do what helps fight COVID-19 infection in the first place. Preventative measures against Long COVID flare-ups include vaccination, antiviral supplements, hand-washing and mask-wearing.
Adopt a Holistic Approach to Overcome Long COVID
Long COVID is a complex and evolving condition that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. As research continues, we hope that researchers and healthcare professionals will discover more answers. In the meantime, stay informed and adopt a holistic way of navigating the challenges of Long COVID.
Premier Health and Wellness Center provides expert and comprehensive medical services tailored to your health needs. If you have questions about your symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out. Schedule a consultation online or call 441-292-5111 to learn more about our services!
If you’re looking for COVID tests in Bermuda, we also offer them. You may visit us at 38 King Street, Hamilton HM12, Bermuda, or The Bank of Butterfield Building, 1 King’s Square St George’s Bermuda GE05.