Long COVID, one of the colloquial terms for post coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) condition, is an umbrella term used to describe chronic outcomes of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, the virus that causes COVID-19. I prefer to use the term Postcovid Syndrome as the pathology is similar to any postviral syndrome (viral complications) we came across before.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a clinical case definition of long COVID:
“Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms and that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others and generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.”
Most people who develop COVID-19 fully recover however current evidence suggests approximately 10% to 20% (recent studies indicate it could be even higher at more than a third) of people experience a variety of lasting symptoms after they recover from their initial illness. This can include fatigue, shortness of breath and neurological complaints such as cognitive dysfunction. Some people also experience psychological effects as part of long COVID. These symptoms might persist from their initial illness or develop after the typical convalescence period. They can wax and wane or relapse over time. People who experience long COVID sometimes refer to themselves as “long-haulers”. From my clinical experience, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who have had covid may experience postcovid syndrome.
The 2021 Study has identified a total of 55 long-term effects associated with COVID-19 in the literature reviewed. Most of the effects correspond to clinical symptoms such as fatigue, headache, joint pain, loss of sense of smell and taste, etc. In addition, diseases such as stroke and diabetes mellitus were also present. Other researchers have identified as many as 206 Post Covid symptoms.
Why do people have different symptoms of Postcovid Syndrome?
Each case of COVID-19 is unique and each person will have a different experience in their recovery. Some people may recover in days, some in weeks and for others, it could be months. Some people are infected by SARS-CoV-2 and never get sick while others suffer damage to their immune system and ongoing inflammation. As such there are different categories of long COVID. Some people have direct cell damage because of the virus and this can cause lingering symptoms where they do not recover completely. When a person’s symptoms are related to chronic hospitalisation, and recovering from severe COVID-19, they may have lung or other organ damage as a result of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome, muscle weakness, cognitive brain dysfunction or they may have lingering symptoms consistent with post-intensive care unit syndrome, which is a post-traumatic stress disorder-like syndrome. Then there are those cases in which symptoms appear after recovery reflecting the interplay between inflammatory markers and the immune system.
Post covid syndrome ( Long COVID) can be difficult to identify because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and conditions. It is also difficult to predict what length of time long COVID will last for any given patient. Therefore a practitioner should take a detailed case study of a patient and do pathology tests. There is much to learn about it, but current research shows that patients can experience lingering symptoms for weeks to months following COVID-19. The research also shows that patients can improve with time. In my clinical experience, the sooner the symptoms are identified and treated the faster is recovery, particularly since some studies indicate that organ damage may occur.
How does Covid enter the body?
To understand long COVID first it is important to understand how SARS CoV-2 infects. There are special receptors in the body where covid spite protein attaches itself leading to inflammation, vasoconstriction, and thrombosis. Those receptors and the protease (enzymes that break down protein) are both expressed in lungs, heart, gut smooth muscle, liver, kidney, neurons, and immune cells which provide an explanation for the symptomatology of COVID-19.
What are the Common Symptoms?
The most common side effects of long COVID appear to be fatigue and shortness of breath, often
lasting for months after the initial infection. Other persistent symptoms may include:
• Difficulty breathing
• Chest pain
• Persistent cough
• Sore throat, trouble speaking
• Deterioration of diabetic control
• Osteoporosis due to prolonged immobilisation
• Cognitive decline such as confusion, forgetfulness, lack of mental focus and clarity
• Insomnia, sleep problems
• Post-traumatic stress disorder following a severe illness
• Brain fog
• Cognitive impairment
• Long-term fatigue
• Loss of smell or taste
• Pins and needles
• Blood clots in the veins
• Muscle aches, pains and weakness
• Inability to exercise
• Joint stiffness
• Skin rashes
• Hair loss
• Reduced nutritional status and weight loss
• Low-grade fevers
• Renal impairment
• Gastrointestinal upset
• Liver dysfunction
• Pressure sores
• Reduced quality of life
What Natural Medicine can do For Treatment & Prevention?
Treatment in natural medicine aims to manage not only the symptoms itself but any number of causative factors from viruses and other microorganisms to inflammatory and immune abnormalities, gut dysfunction and dysbiosis and circulatory, cognitive, hormonal and biochemical factors. Other factors often overlooked is taking a naturopathic approach to post-viral chronic fatigue the primary prescription would be convalescence, maximising self-care, sleep, minimising stress, relaxation, sunshine, gentle exercise, fresh air and nutrition. In summary, a focused strategy would involve encouraging the consumption of a clean and healthy diet together with the intake of high-quality herbal and nutritional substances for immunomodulation and inflammation reduction. The key treatment goals may include addressing:
• Inflammation and oxidative damage
• Mitochondrial dysfunction and boost immune function
• Cardiovascular and microcirculatory dysfunction
• Metabolic imbalances and insulin resistance
• Potential viral reservoir
• Energy levels and mood
Natural medicine is well equipped with herbal medicine, nutrition, and other modalities to address modern ailments.
If you would like to know more about how natural medicine can help you, please contact Danuta Hulajko on 02 4854 0205
Danuta Hulajko is a holistic practitioner, international speaker, the founder, and the practitioner at the DH Natural Medicine Clinic and www.healingremedies.com.au , Southern Highlands. She specialises in anti-ageing, autoimmunity, thyroid conditions, digestive disorders, cardiovascular health, heavy metals chelation and CIRS ( mould related illness). For more information please go to our website. You can follow Danuta Hulajko work, events, seminars, expos, latest health research, her health tips and advice on Facebook and LinkedIn
Herbal Extract Company, July 2022,”The Naturopath’s Guide , Long Covid”