Covid-19 is a complicated illness and long covid is no different.  It can affect many parts of the body, but for many it involves extreme, debilitating fatigue, brain fog, difficulty sleeping and pains and aches. 

This is important to state at the outset because where long covid is concerned no “one size fits all” solution – every approach needs to be tailored to each person’s individual symptoms.  But it can be done and done successfully!

In the clinic I have worked with a number of people recovering from long covid (defined as symptoms lasting longer than four weeks[1]) and specifically its effect on energy, strength, sleep and thought processes.  The approach involves a number of stages, taking account of the different phases of the illness.

The first stage is to make sure that the infection has cleared the body.  This is important for when we start the strengthening protocol later.  As naturopaths we use a combined approach of diet, lifestyle and, if appropriate, herbal formulas.  In this stage we suggest a healthy diet with plenty of protein, essential for the immune system, good sleep, if possible, as well as an anti-viral formula aimed at resetting and supporting the immune system. 

Once the infection is cleared Stage Two starts.  The focus on Stage Two is strengthening the body, but the specifics will be defined by the client and their illness.  In addition to strengthening herbs, it may also include herbs for the brain, for pain, digestion or sleep. 

Strengthening herbs proven to help with debility, convalescence and strength include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Ginseng, Astragalus and others, but selection is dependent on the individual – their level of debility and parts of the body which are suffering the most. 

The brain can be affected by Covid-19 as SARS-CoV-2 has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier.[2][3] It has been shown that some people experience neurological symptoms as part of long covid.  Herbal medicine has a number of herbs specific for brain function and these may also be considered as part of any protocol.

Sleep is very important at this time as it is a critical element in immunity and allows repair and restoration of the body – important in any recovery plan.  If required, supports for sleep including diet, lifestyle, supplements and herbal formulations are used.

Finally, exercise is important on a number of fronts.  It strengthens the immune system and helps with relaxation.  Many people suffer with anxiety and stress post-Covid.  However, exercise must be taken in moderation.  Too much, too soon can leave someone shattered and slow recovery.  For this reason, a phased exercise plan is agreed, where exercise increases as the person recovers.

Stage Three is getting back to normal and is just a light touch continuation of Stage Two to ensure there is no backward slide as activity increases and addressing any mild concerns which may arise.

This three-stage approach works well with long-covid.  It is an approach that must be implemented with patience as we progress through the stages, but in my experience, it has resulted in clients getting their energy back and feeling much better.  For many people there are things they can do if suffering from this illness, but some people need natural support and help in what can be a long covid recovery period.

[1] BMJ 2020;371:m4938.

[2] Achar and Ghosh, 2020.  COVID-19-Associated Neurological Disorders: The Potential Route of CNS Invasion and Blood-Brain Barrier Relevance. Cells 9(11), 2360.

[3] Welcome and Mastorakis, 2021.  Neuropathophysiology of coronavirus disease 2019: neuroinflammation and blood brain barrier disruption are critical pathophysiological processes that contribute to the clinical symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection.  Inflammopharmacol 29, 939–963 (2021).

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