A virus has shined a light on the things that have been shoved to the background for decades. All of a sudden we’re forced to reevaluate the things that truly matter most; to focus on the importance of our loved ones, the way we’re driving the economy, the impact we have on our environment and much more. But most of all it’s forcing us to take a closer look at the chronic disease epidemic.
As an orthomolecular therapist it is clear to me that we can have an important impact on the trajectory of COVID-19 in our lives. A big part of the solution lies closely within reach — your nutrition, lifestyle and ‘mind style’.
I believe now, more than ever, it’s time to double down on self-care and nourishment, especially with plenty of people suffering from long-COVID.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
What is long-COVID?
5% of the people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus experience long-COVID. 91% of this group has at least 1 persisting symptom. 55% of this group has 6 or more persisting symptoms.The most prevalent ones are fatigue and dyspnoea (shortness of breath). (1)
Long-COVID symptoms include:
- Fatigue (86%)
- Shortness of breath/breathing difficulties (59%)
- Muscle or body aches (40%)
- Chest pain (36%)
- Headaches (35%)
- Loss of smell and taste
- Difficulty sleeping
- Night sweats
- Many others (2)
During a long period of fever it’s important to support the body to turn the fever (inflammation) off. The body uses inflammation/fever to fight pathogens and protect from injury, but if it’s not turned off on time it will start to damage your own cells overtime, also known as a cytokine storm (3). Studies show that a prolonged fever (from COVID-19) results in longer lasting symptoms and problems such as: headaches, loss of taste and smell, concentration issues, memory loss, sleeping difficulties, etc.
So, what is important? It’s important to turn off the inflammation if it doesn’t stop on time and support the mechanism that regulates it — the immune system.
Loss of smell and taste
Between 30% and 90% of the people who were infected with COVID-19 experience loss of taste and smell of which a small parentage still has no single improvement after 8 weeks! Also phantom scents are a common problem for this group.
What is helpful?
Taste and smell training is showed to be helpful for improvement. So keep eating garlic, sambal/hot sauce and lemon juice. But also a frequent sniff of incense, vinegar, your partners armpits or other strong smells are helpful.
Zink is responsible for taste and smell. More on that in a minute.
Neurological problems include memory loss, headaches, sleeping difficulties, concentration and focus issues, dizziness, brain fog, etc. are all symptoms of neurological problems caused by chronic neuroinflammation. Some people who have been infected with the virus experience neuroinflammation varying in different degrees.
What is chronic (neuro)inflammation?
Inflammation is a process by which your immune system actively tries to protect you from bacteria, fungus, viruses, toxic exposure, injury, etc. A very effective and important process. It’s also important for the healing process and recovery. Take the example of a splinter in your hand. Out of protection your skin will start to get a reddish colour and swell up. When you take the splinter out the inflammation slowly decreases until it’s gone. This is acute inflammation. But what is chronic inflammation? Imagine this process in the body, but it doesn’t get turned off. This way your bodies cells can’t function in its full potential, and over time the cells will start to get damaged. Imagine your hand being constantly inflamed, does it still function the way it should? I don’t think so. A poor diet, disease, stress, physical inactivity, exposure to toxicity, etc. all contribute to chronic inflammation. Neuroinflammation is inflammation taking place in the brain, causing degeneration to your brain cells over time. A common symptom is brain fog; the feeling of living in the clouds and not being able to think clearly and to focus well.
People who have been effected with the virus also experience depression and anxiety, which could be caused by a prolonged activation of the sympathetic nervous system (also knowns as fight-or-flight mode), which in turn causes (neuro)inflammation.
Things like stress management, a good omega-3 index, physical activity, cutting our sugar and anti-inflammatory foods are importnat. But we’ll dive into how you can decrease chronic inflammation in a minute.
Post-exertional malaise (PEM)
After a long period of fever your cells can become exhausted and depleted from fighting the virus, which isn’t unique only to COVID-19. But it could result in PEM, which is a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), of which the symptoms worsen typically 12-48 hours after mental or physical activity (which can be delayed 24-72 hours) and could last for days up to weeks.
Symptoms of post-exertional malaise include:
- Fatigue after activity, impulses or emotions
- Fever-like symptoms
- Cognitive problems
- Sleeping disorders
Mest cell activation hypersensitivity (MCAS)
This basically means that the immune system is over activated/hypersensitive. Imagine you’re walking through a small, dark alley in a city you don’t know by yourself. You’re likely to be hyper alert to what’s happening in your surrounding. This is an example of what’s happens to your immune system when it thinks that your body is in danger.
MCAS symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Symptoms of histamine intolerance (which looks a lot like seasonal allergies), like; hives, itchy or flushed skin, red eyes, facial swelling, runny nose and congestion, headaches, or asthma attacks
- Headache and migraine
- Anxiety and depression
- Itching and skin problems
- Bone and muscle aches
What important here? Depending on your symptoms it’s important to support your immune system, which we’ll dive into in just a bit.
Bottom-line of the problem
Long-COVID is a complex situation with a lot of different symptoms, varying from a low to a higher degree of health problems. Chronic low grade inflammation, tissue damage and acute exhaustion on a cellular level are all things we can support and/or improve. Here’s what you can do from home.
The most effective way to healing and recovery is to have clarity on where the problem(s) comes from. We can use a bunch of tests which help us map out the source of the problem:
- Microbiome testing
The microbiome the foundation of the immune system and the root of your health. If your microbiome (the bacteria in your gut) is out of whack it’s important to bring this back into balance first.
- Blood testing
Complete blood count (CBC), Fatty acid test (omega-3, -6, -9), vitamine A, E, D and K, ferritin (for iron bounding) and a some others.
- Histamine testing
To see whether you have an intolerance for histamine. Histamine plays a huge role within the Post-covid syndrome. You can also cut out histamine rich foods: especially think of fermented foods, packaged meat, alcohol, aged cheese, citrus fruit and legumes. If you can notice a decrease of symptoms you know you’re headed the right direction.
Interventions and recovery
We’ll zoom in on a few overall treatment methods supporting the systems that need support. These systems include:
- Supporting immune system
- Restoring and recovering cells
- chronic low-grade inflammation
The ‘therapy’ can be done by yourself, but discuss accurate changes with your health care team. Keep in mind that certain supplements interact with medication. Especially when you’re on medication always contact a professional for advice.
Try to do mild to moderate exercise (for about 30-45 minutes) helps to boost immune function. When you’re feeling run down try not to overextend by heavy endurance training for example. This lowers the immune defences. Try to push yourself a little without forcing yourself too much. Going outside to get some fresh air and to exercise is always a win-win.
High quality sleep
Get sufficient sleep! Sleep really is your best friend when it comes to natural remidies and medicine. without it adequate immune response is nearly impossible. Head to bed early, every hour before 12 counts double. Get into a good sleeping rhythm and follow the 3-2-1 sleep rule:
- 3 hours before bed no more food.
- 2 hours before bed no more work.
- 1 hour before bed all screens are off.
Also, try not to sleep with your phone next to your head, especially when your phone is not on airplane mode. It’s like sleeping with your head in a microwave. This clearly doesn’t help your sleep, neither your brain function and brain health.
Supplements like magnesium taurate, 5-HTP (from griffonia) and GABA (a relaxing neurotransmitter) are helpful to improve sleep. As well as herbal teas like sage, chamomile and lavender support better sleep.
Yes, we can’t skip this one. Data are clear and it shows that increased levels of stress increase susceptibility to viral infections. It can be a challenging one to tackle in our busy society and life, but it’s a crucial one! Though, it doesn’t have to be too complicated. It can be as simple as extended inhalations and exhalations for a period of 2-5 minutes several times though-out the day.
It’s important to get out of the sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic nervous system. Helpful exercises and activities include: yoga, meditation, breath work, mindfulness, taking hot baths, walks through nature, snuggling with your partner — which actually is very effective — or practising home massage if you’re lucky enough.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" Hippocrates
I’ve written about this before extensively in this article: 23 healthy eating guidelines which you can use as a guideline.
What to eat for good immune function:
- Eat real, whole, unprocessed food. Try to eat 4 to 5 hands full of veggies and fruits daily. Preferably organic.
- Mix colours on your plate and diversify your food. Try to pick some different veggies or fruit than you usually would and look up some recipes online.
- Cut back on sugar and starch (think of them as the same thing). This includes pasta, bread, rice and patatos as well. There’s tons of alternatives from quinoa or sweet patatos to cauliflower rice and lentil pasta or just a veggie base for example. The sugar, salty and and starch suppress the immune response.
- Limit or stop alcohol. This may depletes nutrients and suppress the immune system.
And upgrade your food with immune boosting & anti-viral herbs and spices:
- Chili pepper
- Lemon balm
Consume enough protein:
Amino acids (combined amino acids form proteins) are the building blocks for your immune defence systems. Most people in Western societies eat adequate amounts of protein. Though, often the elderly and vegans have room for improvement here.
Try to eat about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight a day, depending on physical activity. Plant based protein like nuts, seeds and legumes provide enough protein only if you eat adequate amounts, because they are absorbed 25% less efficiently by the body. Tofu contains high protein but soy also has plenty of reasons why you’d want to stay away from it. Fermented soy (like tempeh or miso) or non-GMO soy is a better option. If you struggle to consume enough protein you can consider clean protein supplements.
3 main reasons why the gut is so important:
- Chronic inflammation is a breading ground for disease, obesity and a decreased function of the immune response systems. An unhealthy gut causes chronic inflammation in the body, which makes your gut health crucial. There’s a reason that the gut is the called the root of your health in Ayurvedic medicine.
- 70% of the immune system is in your gut, which is another reason why it’s critical to focus on gut health.
- The gut has more nerves running towards the brain than the other way around. A healthy gut is of great importance for mental wellbeing.
- Prebiotic foods are important Eat prebiotic foods: dandelion greens, artichokes, garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, apples, berries, konjac roots (like shirataki noodles), flax seeds and seaweed (also an important source of iodine).
- Eat probiotic food: coconut yoghurt, tempeh, miso, kimchi, pickles, kefir, natto, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, and other fermented foods.
- Don’t overeat
- Reduce or quit alcohol
- Cut back on sugar and starch
- Reduce stress levels!
- Get creative: diversify your diet and choose plenty of colours on your plate.
Get a garden
This one is so obvious as it nearly tackles them all: functional movement, real food, relaxation/stress reduction and fresh air.
Vitamin D3 & K2 combined
The combination of D3 and K2 works synergetic (meaning 1+1=3). D3 and K2 are important for good function of the immune system, during acute respiratory track infection, recovery, healthy bones and more. K2 also activates proteins to support the recovery of lungs and blood vessels.
Daily dosage to restore deficiencies:
4000 IU (100 µg/mcg) of vitamin D3.
90 µg/mcg of vitamin K2 (but be careful with blood thinner medication!).
Responsible for taste and texture perception. Also supports immune system, especially in combination with vitamin C.
Don’t consume a high dosage of zink for too long as it can throw copper levels out of balance. Also, try to stay away from consuming the -oxide form as it’s not properly absorbed by the body.
Zink is also found in large amounts in tahini and legumes.
Daily dosage for the duration of 3 months:
20 mg of zink (not the -oxide form).
It’s such an important nutrient that I decided to write a whole article about it. You could literally write a books about it (which actually have been done, haha). The bottom line is that omega-3 is essential for optimal body and brain function. Especially EPA (found in a good omega-3 supplement or fatty fish) as it’s anti-inflammatory.
Be careful with consuming your 2 servings of cheap salmon. I’m sorry to tell you, but cheap salmon is farmed and farmed fish don’t get the fed with omega-3 rich feed, but GMO soy. Hence, they are low omega-3 and high in omega-6. “Well, sh*t” I hear you think. Want to choose wiser? Choose sustainable, wild caught salmon — or even better, I’d recommend you just to read the article.
Minimum of 500 EPA + DHA together. EPA is more important in the case of post-COVID syndrome.
Look for a high quality multi vitamin. What is high quality? Forms and/or binds of the micronutrients that have a high bioavailability, which means the body and cells are able to absorb the nutrients well. Active compounds are needed. Some preferred forms of certain B vitamins are:
- B2 in the form of riboflavin 5 phosphate
- B6 in the form of P5P
- Folate (B9 in USA of B11 in EU) in the form of 5-MTHF
- B12 in the form of methylcobolamin or adenosylcobolamin
It’s also important to have a high dosage of these active/bioavailable nutrients. For optimal health you’d want to dose higher than the daily recommended intake. This is calculated for minimum amount your body needs. At the same time, don’t take higher amounts than suggested on the labels unless recommended differently by health experts. Next up, you’ll want to look for a well balanced supplement with not too many and no unnecessary additives.
Follow instructions on label.
Taurine is a big guy for healing and recovery! But also helps for GABA production (to help you chill down), supports immune system, works anti-inflammatory and more.
2x daily 1000 mg before breakfast and before sleep.
Vitamin C is important to recover tissue and is an antioxidant. Especially in combination with zink it’s very effective to support the immune system, but also during flues and fevers or even just while having a cold.
1-2x 1000 mg of vitamin C
Quercetin is a strong bioflavonoid to regulate end support the immune system, supports the liver, works anti-inflammatory and much more. Really effective in combination with vitamin C (also for seasonal allergies) and helps to get zink into the cells.
500 – 1000 mg of Quercetin during a meal.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
Responsible for making one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant glutathione, helps relieve symptoms of respiratory conditions, supports liver and kidney function (for detoxification) and much more.
1-2x daily 600 mg of NAC
Q10 (to improve fatigue)
Essential for energy production in the mitochondria (the energy factories of your body), strong antioxidant and more.
2x 100 mg of Ubiquinol Q10 after breakfast and dinner
Probiotics & sufficient amount of fibers
People who’ve experienced a poor immune response during a viral infection often are low in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
A high quality probiotic is well important. This means: the bacteria needs to survive in the digestive track, it needs different strains of researched bacteria (such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii) and ideally at least 1 billion bacteria.
The health of our gut is the root of our health and wellbeing. It’s responsible for 70% of our immune system and it’s directly linked to our mental health. A high quality probiotic supports the health and balance of your microbiome.
Daily dosage for the course of 3 months:
Follow instructions on label.
Fibers are really important to support your probiotics supplement. The new bacteria will need food to be able to survive in your gut and you’re the one providing them (or not) through your diet. Include fibers and especially the following: onion, garlic, leeks, tomatoes, asparagus, legumes, banana, berries and flaxseeds. But the real answer is: fibers, fibers, fibers.
Overview of supplements & dosage
4000 IU (100 µg/mcg)
90 µg/mcg — *interacts with blood thinners
20 mg — not the -oxide form
500 EPA + DHA together.
Follow instructions on label
2x 1000 mg before breakfast and before bed
1-2x 1000 mg
500 - 1000 mg
N-acetyl cystein (NAC)
1-2x 600 mg
2x 100 mg after breakfast & dinner
Follow instructions on label
Out of the box treatment: high dosage of vitamin C
Doctors have been using high dosage of vitamin C (50-100 mg/kg/day for mild symptoms and 100-200 mg/kg/day for severe forms) as an intervention for infected and hospitalised people in Wuhan. It’s also been used for cancer patients with up to 75 gram a day. It’s been shown a really effective treatment, though it’s not as widely used just yet. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antioxidant and recovery nutrient. If you want to take high dosage of vitamin C to your home make sure you’re using buffered vitamin C and build up your intake to a maximum of 4 gram and divide intake through-out the day. Do your research and/or seek professional support especially if you want to dose higher than 4 gram daily. Pay attention, contraindications are: during pregnancy, during chemotherapy, decreased kidney function and iron overload.
Yes, the post-COVID syndrome can be a real deal and hassle. Keep in mind that your lifestyle, mind style and diet are your medicine and recipe for prevention and/or faster recovery. Take rest when you need it, fuel your body with nutrient dense food, pay attention to your stress levels and keep moving, even when it’s only getting yourself up the stairs for now. Small steps make big changes.
If you think this article might be helpful to people around you or people you know please share it with them. It’s my wish to help as much people as I can to a more natural and medicinal lifestyle and diet.
Love and take care!
PS for a protocol to protect you from spike-protein feel free to shoot me a message.