Long-haulers Syndrome - Important Facts
The term “Long-haulers Syndrome” broadly relates to people of all ages who have had a recent Covid-19 infection, subsequently tested negative at least once, yet still have persistent symptoms that may include fatigue, brain fog, gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, shortness of breath, muscle aches, anxiety, reduced exercise tolerance and heart palpitations. These symptoms often evolve after the initial infection and may persist for months.
Long-haulers syndrome does not overtly appear to be dependent on the presence of other conditions (such as asthma or diabetes) or the severity of the initial Covid-19 infection. In fact, some patients report an asymptomatic initial infection, followed by the onset of symptoms. A prior Covid-19 infection can be identified with a serum antibody test. This condition has recently been termed “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV2 infection (PASC)” by Dr. Anthony Fauci. It is believed to occur in 15-30% of people who get Covid-19 infection.
Here is a functional medicine perspective on the Covid-19 version of post-viral syndrome.
Patients with long standing symptoms of fatigue and brain fog when seen for the first time often report the most common observation; “I was perfectly fine, exercising regularly, working hard, raising my kids and living a full life, until I came down with a bad flu. Since that infection, I’ve never been able to recover my health nor regain my previous level of activity.”
The occurrence of “Post-viral Syndrome” is not new. A CDC-funded study performed in Australia followed 253 individuals for 12 months after developing an infection with either Epstein-Barr virus (a DNA virus) or Ross River virus (an RNA virus). The researchers found that 11% of the participants developed symptoms consistent with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) during the 12-month post-infectious period. These symptoms included fatigue, brain fog and muscle pain.
Deep into the history of a person with post-viral syndrome, there is often evidence that the individual was not eating properly, not sleeping well, had been over-extending themselves and/or was possibly suffering from anxiety or depression that had not been properly addressed. They usually had no idea that their health was becoming progressively out of balance. This can be called the “house of cards” scenario.
In this scenario, a depleted state has gradually been evolving over several years. This might be represented by age-related mitochondrial dysfunction, a gradual imbalance of brain neurotransmitters, a progressively unhealthy gut microbiome and/or an immune system that has been subject to multiple previous infections and/or antibiotic use.
Recovering from post-viral syndrome is definitely possible. The recovery program recommended often includes several of the following interventions:
1. Mitochondrial support with key micronutrients
2. Microbiome support guided by stool testing
3. Adrenal support with nutrients and botanicals
4. Deep, restorative sleep is absolutely necessary.
5. Avoiding excessive stress is critically important.
6. Medications can be very helpful to relieve symptoms while giving natural therapies time to work.
7. Conserving energy using a technique known as “strategic pacing” is very helpful until adequate energy reserves have been restored.
8. Investigate the patient’s environment to rule out the possibility of mold exposure or chemical toxicity playing a contributing role to their lack of immune resilience.
Long-haulers Syndrome is the Covid-19 variant of post-viral syndrome. It uncovers a lack of balance and immune resilience that is most frequently related to a person’s underlying health prior to the recent infection. Despite the understandable fear that you may never recover your previous level of health, experience indicates that you can recover and use this event in your life as an opportunity to make real, lasting changes that can lead to improved long-term health.