If you have had COVID with mild or moderate symptoms, you may have been grateful that your symptoms weren’t more severe.
However, more and more people who have tested positive for COVID have started to develop more chronic symptoms, which is coined as ‘long COVID’. Those with long COVID have experienced breathlessness, headaches, muscle aches and pains and brain fog, to name a few.
Similar to post-viral chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), following the acute infection of COVID, it appears the immune system continues to react to the virus. However, the exact mechanism is still not fully understood. Here I will examine the latest view of long COVID and how you can take steps to put yourself in the best position to help manage the long haul symptoms of this condition.
Post viral fatigue
Post viral fatigue is not a new phenomenon, so those with long COVID may benefit from similar therapies to those with CFS. As with CFS, those with a high viral load, such as past exposure to Epstein Barr virus that causes glandular fever and those with previous exposures to heavy metals and moulds, may be more susceptible to this condition.
There is no universally accepted diagnostic of CFS, and often those with symptoms of post-viral fatigue can take years for a diagnosis. However, times are changing. On 3 September 2020, the British Medical Journal hosted an online webinar on the diagnosis, management, and prognosis of “long covid” with a panel of experts. As a result, profound fatigue following COVID is now widely accepted as a possible outcome following infection from the virus.
Other risk factors of long COVID include vitamin D deficiency, an imbalance of omega 3 vs. omega 6 fatty acids, poor gut health, increased oxidative stress and thyroid conditions. Having any of these risk factors means you are more likely to have low-grade systemic inflammation, which may put you more at risk of developing long COVID.
Build strength through diet
As with any inflammatory condition, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods will help to reduce inflammation post-viral infections. The Mediterranean diet is rich in extra virgin olive oil, colourful fruits and vegetables, and oily fish is a great place to start to regain your strength.
Removing processed foods from your diet, which can be inflammatory, will help your body recover, so if it doesn’t resemble the whole food you are eating, don’t eat it!
Also, eating foods with a low glycemic load will ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t spike. Sugar in and of itself is inflammatory, and research suggests that an enzyme called furin that lets COVID into the cell is associated with high blood pressure and obesity which can be caused by eating a diet high in sugar and trans fats.
Sleep your way to recovery
Often in CFS, you may experience sleep abnormalities so maintaining good sleep hygiene as well as a consistent bedtime may help regulate your circadian rhythm. Getting outside early in the day also stimulates the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, so you are well-prepped for a good night’s sleep when nighttime comes round. Sleeping between 8 – 10 hours and prioritising relaxation over more stimulating activities will help recover from an inflammatory condition such as long COVID.
So, if you have experienced symptoms following COVID or you would like to take preventative measures to ensure a quick recovery, then take steps today to start improving your health and wellbeing. Recovering from a viral infection can take time, and the extent of your recovery is dependent on other factors in your life. However, by making some positive changes to your diet and lifestyle, you give yourself the best chance of moving forward and restoring your energy and vitality.
Victoria is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and has a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry and Immunology. She focuses on autoimmune disease including skin conditions, neurological and brain issues, chronic fatigue, and cardiovascular disorders.
 Jackson ML, Bruck D. Sleep abnormalities in chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: a review. J Clin Sleep Med. 2012;8(6):719-728. Published 2012 Dec 15. doi:10.5664/jcsm.2276