While many people have recovered from COVID without issue, Long COVID is creating challenges for those who have prolonged symptoms of the virus that can last for months. According to Penn State College of Medicine, more than half of the 236 million people diagnosed with COVID-19 since December 2019 will experience post-COVID symptoms up to six months after recovering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list the several symptoms of Long COVID here and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Board certified internist Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, bestselling author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! who explained what to know about Long COVID and signs you’ve had it, using the list from the CDC. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Teitelbaum shares, “Many infections, including COVID, can directly suppress the body’s mitochondrial energy furnaces. Because the infection can trip a key circuit breaker in the brain that controls sleep, blood pressure and hormones, this can dramatically amplify the fatigue.”
Dr. Teitelbaum states, “The paradox of inability to sleep despite being exhausted after COVID largely confirms the presence of Long COVID. This is because the hypothalamic circuit breaker, which controls sleep, has been tripped by the viral infection. Taking measures to improve sleep are a critical part of healing, as once symptoms have persisted for five months, they usually will not go away on their own without treatment. The hypothalamus is an almond sized critical control center in the brain.”
According to Dr. Teitelbaum, “Difficulty with word finding and substitution, as well as horrible short-term memory, are a classic part of both post viral chronic fatigue syndrome and long COVID. There are a number of factors contributing to this, including a special form of brain inflammation called microglial activation. Some experts, including myself, believe this can be shut down after two months by using a very low-dose (3 mg) of the narcotic blocking medication called naltrexone. It is also very helpful to use supplements that turn off the inflammation and free radical injury from the viral infection. This includes special highly absorbed forms of curcumin and glutathione.”
“Long Covid triggers a body-wide energy crisis,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “When muscles don’t have enough energy, they get locked in the shortened position. This is why after a heavy workout, when our muscle energy is depleted, the muscles go all tight instead of limp. When the muscles stay tight for several days, this triggers widespread pain.”
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Dr. Teitelbaum explains, “For most people, as Dr. Fauci has noted, long COVID is simply post viral chronic fatigue syndrome. Numerous viruses can trip a circuit breaker in the brain called the hypothalamus. This controls sleep, hormones, and autonomic function (blood pressure and pulse), inflammation of tissues such as the heart, lungs, and brain can also contribute.” Says the CDC: People commonly report experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Chest or stomach pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Joint or muscle pain
- Pins-and-needles feeling
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
- Mood changes
- Change in smell or taste
- Changes in menstrual period cycles.
Dr. Teitelbaum says, “Anybody who had a symptomatic COVID infection can develop Long COVID. Even if the infection is mild. But as is the case for most illnesses that affect immunity, such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, about 75% of cases are women. Needing to be able to bear children without rejecting them, a woman’s immune system is quite different from a man’s.”
“It can be modest, leaving them able to work but not much else. Or it can leave people housebound or even bedridden,” Dr. Teitelbaum explains. Talk to your doctor about your specific symptoms. Although there is no “cure” for Long COVID, it can be treated. “The best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to prevent COVID-19 illness. For people who are eligible, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as you can is the best way to prevent getting COVID-19 and can also help protect those around you,” says the CDC. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.