What helps for long Covid when people do not recover from Covid-19? Researchers reviewed this recently. Most people who were vaccinated recover from Covid-19 within a few days. But about 10% of people are not that lucky. This is particularly the case for older women and people with chronic health conditions. On Oct. 18, 2023 Katharine Lang reviewed what helps for long Covid in her review. For those who develop long Covid debilitating symptoms can persist for weeks, months or years. Physicians recognize long Covid as a chronic condition. But there is only a partial understanding why some people develop it and others don’t.
Symptoms of long Covid
Patients who develop long Covid have a long list of symptoms. This includes tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life, fever and difficulty breathing, cough or shortness of breath. It may also include chest pain and heart palpitations, difficulty thinking or concentrating, also referred to as “brain fog.” Other symptoms can include headaches, sleep problems, dizziness when standing up and pins-and-needle feelings in limbs. In addition, change in smell or taste, depression or anxiety, diarrhea and stomach pain may be present. Finally, joint or muscle pain, skin rashes and changes in menstrual cycles in women can also occur.
An overreacting immune system
Dr. Rao is a medical director of the Keck University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He is in charge of a Covid Recovery Clinic. He said: “We suspect that the underlying problem is that the immune system gets activated after COVID infection and stays on after the infection has resolved. The continuous activation of the immune system means that the body is very active seeking to fight infection and is in the high-inflammatory state.” When the immune system is in an active state, immune cells produce cytokines that cause chronic inflammation.
Treatment for long Covid
Symptomatic treatment for long Covid can involve low dose Naltrexone for pain, fatigue and neurological symptoms. Aripiprazole may be useful to help for fatigue, brain fog and unrefreshing sleep. Probiotics can treat gastrointestinal symptoms.
Experts do not recommend an exercise program for long Covid patients. Instead, it is preferable for them to pace themselves in daily activities and not to exceed their limits. Diets that help long Covid patient are vegan, vegetarian and anti-inflammatory diets. Prof. Arturo Casadevall, chair of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated: “Since long COVID is an inflammatory condition, it is reasonable to hypothesize that diets that reduce inflammation would be associated with improved long-COVID outcomes, but rigorously establishing a causal relationship is going to take time and effort given that so many variables are at play, including diet composition, genetics, microbiome, etc.”
Research established that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and bioactive compounds are best for managing patients with long Covid. One of the best studied diets is the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet.
This diet is characterized by its richness in bioactive compounds, such as monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Other lifestyle changes
Apart from dietary changes it is important for long Covid patients to rest and relax. They need to set achievable targets and get quality sleep. They need to limit alcohol intake and also cut down on caffeine consumption. It is important that they do not smoke and follow a healthy diet.
Patients with long Covid have an immune system that overreacts. Only 10% of patients with Covid come down with long Covid. It is a chronic condition where the immune system is overreacting and producing inflammatory kinins. Some symptomatic measures help with the chronic symptoms. Rest, pacing yourself within your capabilities and an anti-inflammatory diet are useful. It can take months or even years to overcome long Covid. A Mediterranean diet is a useful tool to tone down chronic inflammation. More research is needed to find other treatment modalities.