COVID-19 has been a moving target since it was first identified. And just as we’ve learned that many parts of the body are points of attack during the active phase, we’ve found over time that many symptoms linger for weeks or months after tests to detect the virus come back negative. The good news is that a lot can be done to help you feel better.
The array of lingering symptoms suggests that patients develop a form of postviral chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia, sometimes also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
In fact, half of ME/CFS cases in general are triggered by infections. For instance, it occurs in about 40% of people who contract the SARS virus and up to 11% of severe cases of mono (Epstein-Barr virus, EBV).
Researchers are finding the same type of postviral fatigue can occur after COVID-19 with the addition of problems related to lung, heart and brain inflammation.
Why does this happen? Numerous infections can trip key “circuit breakers” in your body as they respond to the stress of the illness, and that leads to a cascade of symptoms.
Here are healing secrets from holistic physician Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, to help alleviate the most persistent post-COVID-19 symptoms. Because numerous systems are malfunctioning, there is no single “magic bullet.” Rather, a large mix of natural and pharmaceutical treatments is needed to strengthen the system. Most can be discontinued six to nine months after the person has recovered from COVID-19.
Overwhelming Fatigue with Insomnia
These common lingering symptoms also are the hallmarks of ME/CFS. The paradox of having insomnia despite exhaustion tells you that you have tripped the “hypothalamic circuit breaker” in your brain. That is what distinguishes ME/CFS from other causes of fatigue. Anything that overwhelms your body’s energy reserves can trip this circuit breaker. And this circuit breaker controls sleep, blood pressure, pulse and hormone function.
Meanwhile, low energy in your muscles causes them to get stuck in the shortened position. (That is also why your muscles go tight after a vigorous workout.) Persistent tight muscles then trigger chronic pain.
The end result? Insomnia, fatigue, widespread pain and brain fog. Countless other symptoms, including shortness of breath and palpitations, also are common.
Fortunately, our published research shows that all of these postviral ME/CFS symptoms are very treatable, with an average 90% improvement in quality of life. The way to address these lingering symptoms is with a protocol that I developed to ease ME/CFS called SHINE, the acronym for…
Sleep. The goal is to get eight to nine hours of sleep each night. Because your sleep center isn’t working correctly, however, you will need some sleep support. Chamomile tea at bedtime can help, along with 200 milligrams (mg) of magnesium…an herbal sleep blend (such as the Revitalizing Sleep Formula from Enzymatic Therapy)…and 5 mg of melatonin.* Also talk to your doctor about a low-dose prescription sleep aid such as trazodone (Desyrel/25 mg to 50 mg) or gabapentin (Neurontin/100 mg to 600 mg).
Hormones. When your hypothalamus is affected, your entire hormonal system will be malfunctioning, despite normal blood tests. Feeling “hangry” (irritable when hungry) is a clue that you could need adrenal support. Helpful supplement: Adrenaplex from Terry Naturally, which contains vitamins B-6 and C, adrenal extract and licorice root.
If you’re tired, abnormally sensitive to cold temperatures and experience weight gain, you could need thyroid support. Supplements may help, such as Thyroid Care Plus (Terry Naturally), which contains iodine, L-tyrosine and selenium. If you have symptoms of low thyroid despite normal blood tests, you may need a holistic physician to get the necessary prescription for your thyroid.
Infections. Though you may have been treated for COVID-19, you want to rule out other preexisting infections especially candida, or reactivation of other viruses (e.g., EBV and herpes simplex virus, HSV-1), which can contribute to your ongoing symptoms. Talk to a holistic doctor for proper evaluation and testing.
Nutritional support. COVID-19 and secondary ME/CFS both trigger nutritional deficiencies (e.g., zinc) and result in increased nutritional needs (e.g., ribose, B vitamins and magnesium) to enhance energy production. A high-potency multivitamin with at least 50 mg of B complex, 200 mg of magnesium, 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D, 15 mg of zinc and 500 mg of vitamin C is recommended. Getting sunshine also is critical for optimal vitamin D production—aim for at least 30 minutes a day. In addition, our research has shown that…
Ribose (preferably in the form of SHINE D-Ribose) increased energy by an average of 61%.
Recovery Factors (RecoveryFactors.com), a unique serum-derived polypeptide, helped in 60% of cases with an average 69% increase in both energy and quality of life. This study was recently submitted for publication.
In general, your diet should be high in salt and protein to support adrenal function, and low in added sugars, which suppress immunity. Also, drink plenty of water.
Exercise. Though you feel exhausted, a graduated increase in walking can help maintain conditioning. Start at a level that is comfortable, and increase by just one minute each day. Too much exercise can cause post-exertional malaise, a reaction that leaves you feeling as though you were hit by a truck, and it can last for days. If your exhaustion gets worse, that’s a sign you’re doing too much.
Coughing and Breathlessness
For most people, COVID-19 affects the lungs and heart to some degree, and that can lead to ongoing symptoms in your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It’s important to ramp up antioxidants to combat the damage done to these organs by the virus. In addition to a multivitamin high in antioxidants, take NAC (N-acetyl cysteine, 2,000 mg a day) to boost your respiratory system and the body’s production of glutathione, the body’s key antioxidant…and Clinical Glutathione (from Terry Naturally)—take one to two tablets dissolved under the tongue twice daily. This is the only glutathione that I use because it is highly absorbed and comes in the reduced form (most brands are already oxidized and therefore don’t work).
Important: Use a fingertip pulse oximeter to check your oxygen saturation rate. A reading over 96% shows that you’re getting enough oxygen, making significant lung or heart problems less likely to be the cause of the shortness of breath. If the reading goes down more than two to three percentage points (e.g., to 93%) during exercise rather than staying the same or going up a little, check with your doctor.
Breathlessness can come from heart issues, too. Your heart muscle can get stunned by COVID-19. The nutrients discussed above, along with coenzyme Q10 (200 mg), also markedly improve cardiac function. I also recommend a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as Vectomega (from Terry Naturally, one to two capsules daily).
Important: Check your blood pressure. Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is a major contributor to chronic fatigue. Adding adrenal support, drinking more water and adding salt to your diet helps.
If diarrhea, nausea and vomiting were among your primary COVID-19 symptoms, your gastrointestinal tract could now benefit from probiotics and 2 g of glutamine twice a day. Glutamine can help your intestinal lining heal faster. After six to 12 weeks, these supplements can improve intestinal function.
In addition, I suspect candida overgrowth if you also have nasal congestion or sinusitis. Yeast grows by fermenting sugar, so a low-sugar diet and a good probiotic are especially important if these are present.
Loss of Smell and Taste
In other infections, these symptoms are thought to stem from inflammation around the olfactory nerve. But this is not the case in COVID-19. Rather, it is suspected that the loss of smell comes from zinc deficiency. Many viruses trigger the body to excrete zinc, which is critical for both immune function and the ability to smell and taste. Take 50 mg of zinc daily for one month to rebuild stores and then 15 mg a day for ongoing maintenance. This amount is usually present in a good multivitamin.
*Check with a holistic doctor before taking any of the supplements mentioned in this article, especially if you take any medication and/or are being treated for another health condition. Dr. Teitelbaum has a financial tie to the SHINE D-Ribose and Recovery Factors supplements.