Long Covid & Post-Viral Fatigue
Post-viral fatigue is a well-known response that can follow an acute viral infection, where symptoms can change and become more ‘chronic’ or long-term in nature. These symptoms may include muscle or joint pain or weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, low mood, headaches, brain fog, persistent cough, post-nasal drip, or changes in digestion, to name a few.
One of the most well-known viruses to cause post-viral fatigue is Epstein-Barr virus, or glandular fever. However, post-viral fatigue can occur following immune challenges with almost any infectious agent. It has been a commonly reported experience for many following acute Covid infections, otherwise known as "Long Covid".
A variety of factors can contribute to lasting post-viral fatigue; changes to sleep patterns such as over- or under-sleeping, nutritional deficiencies, demanding work and other responsibilities, over- or under-exercising, and heightened anxiety or stress.
Fortunately, natural medicine is a wonderful, valuable, and accessible tool with a powerful and unique role to offer in supporting post-Covid recovery, particularly in areas where Western allopathic medicine currently has limited options to offer.
A Natural Management Approach...
Firstly, recognise that the symptoms you are experiencing are real; be kind to yourself, and explain how you are feeling to family, friends and colleagues.
Secondly, it's important to listen to your body. Often following an acute infection, when we start to feel better, it's tempting to go back to all of the activities we were doing before we got unwell. This is one of the biggest drivers of slow recovery following an illness: doing too much, too soon. It's a balance however, as gently getting moving, getting some fresh air, and starting to bring more of a regular routine into life is also important for recovery. The key is to really listen to what your body is telling you. For example, if you're feeling tired, typically you need more rest! This is something that can be so challenging to do in our 21st Century culture of busy-ness but is so needed when recovering.
Diet wise, maximise fruit and vegetable intake, whilst minimising processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. For extra support, include antioxidant and nutrient-rich foods such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, thyme & other herbs, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, citrus fruits, onions, honey, and fermented foods such as yoghurt & sauerkraut. During periods of recovery, especially as we move into cooler months, warm, slow cooked and nourishing foods are more restorative for the body. Think soups, stews, boil ups, and curries, all with plenty of vegetables. Try to eat at least three wholesome meals each day.
Since last year, our organic fresh produce is now able to be shipped across New Zealand. Ordering a weekly fruit & vege box is a great way to ensure you get your 5+ a day to support recovery.
When it comes to lifestyle, aside from ensuring you rest more (at least 8-9h sleep each night when recovering), also avoid high intensity exercise for a couple of weeks following acute infections. Instead, choose gentler forms of exercise such as walking. Spend time in nature, and time doing things you enjoy. Laughter and pleasure is powerful medicine.
Herbs & Supplements
We have formulated a new tonic called Immune Restore to support convalescence and post viral fatigue, especially Long Covid. It contains Astragalus and Siberian Ginseng, adaptogenic herbs that have been traditionally used to support recovery after illness (read more on adaptogens below).
It also contains Nigella, which is able to bind to ACE II receptors, reducing the inflammation that is characteristic of long covid. Echinacea is included for its well known immune stimulating properties.
Adaptogens are medicinal plants that promote balance in the body; they possess properties which support and strengthen body systems compromised by stress. They work by supporting stability in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands, thus modulating the release of stress hormones. This leads to their array of beneficial effects including the potential to enhance mood, energy and immune function.
Astragalus is an adaptogen with a particular affinity for strengthening the immune system, especially during recovery and convalescence, as well as supporting cardiovascular health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it has been used to strengthen the Qi (vital energy) and support immune function. Research supports this traditional usage, with astragalus shown to stimulate B cell and macrophage activity, whilst enhancing antibody responses. It can also be taken as a tea or tonic.
Withania, also known as Ashwagandha, supports immunity as well as nervous system function to gradually build strength and resilience, whilst reducing stress and anxiety. The Ayurvedic herb has a long history of use as an adaptogen and rejuvenating tonic, improving stress adaptation and supporting healthy serum cortisol levels in healthy individuals. It has also been used to support sleep. As well as a tea and tonic, capsules are also readily available.
Rhodiola is an adaptogen which can be both stimulating or sedating for the nervous system, depending on the dose. It supports physical endurance, and enhances cognition, mood and energy levels. Rhodiola is commonly used to enhance work performance, reduce fatigue and to treat symptoms of debility following intense physical and psychological stress. Human clinical trials have found favourable results in depression, anxiety, fatigue and sports performance. Less common than the above adaptogens, this can be found as a tonic.
Medicinal Mushrooms such as Chaga, Maitake, Shiitake and Reishi have also all been used for thousands of years to support immunity, resilience and overall wellbeing. They contain βeta-D-glucans; a group of polysaccharides that exhibit immunomodulating activity. Studies have shown a number of actions on the immune system including; T-lymphocyte activation, increase in certain serum proteins, activation of the complement system, stimulation of interferon production and increased phagocytosis. Medicinal mushroom powders added in to hot drinks or smoothies daily can be a powerful way to fortify the immune system.
Although not strictly adaptogens, other herbs can also offer specific symptomatic support, for example a lingering cough may benefit from tonics such as our Chest Relief, Lung Rejuvenator, or Bronc Ease.
Alongside herbal medicine, the below supplements work synergistically to support immune function and reduce inflammation in the body post-infection.
Nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), & quercetin, the same ones recommended for prevention and recovery from acute infections, are all also valuable to support recovery. If you were taking these before, it's important to continue until you feel you are back to normal. Even if you haven't been taking them, it's not too late to start. NAC is particularly beneficial in cases of mucous production, experienced either as a 'wet' cough, post-nasal drip or blocked nose as it helps to break down mucous.
New in stock, GPX Immune Protect, combines vital ingredients targeting chronic inflammation, infection prevention and recovery. Covid decreases glutathione, which is our body's main antioxidant, therefore there is much interest in increasing glutathione levels to improve recovery. GPX Immune Protect works to boost your own natural production of a group of immune enhancing enzyme systems called the Glutathione Peroxidases (GPx), thio-redoxins and peroxy-redoxins along with their co-factor glutathione (GSH). These systems naturally support our optimum immune function and help the body to clear infections and oxidative stress to increase energy levels.
Nigella, or Black Seed Oil, is also specific for helping post-viral recovery. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, shown in studies to be associated with faster recovery of symptoms than usual care alone for patients with mild COVID-19 infections.
Finally, gut health cannot be overlooked, and plays a large role in the immune system. Many people notice that post-covid their gut health seems a bit 'off', and this can be helped with targeted probiotics such as Gutsi. This Microbiologist-formulated, 100% spore-based, broad-spectrum probiotic formula reconditions the gut by increasing microbial diversity and encouraging the growth of key gut bacteria and antioxidants to support a healthy microbiome and overall immune system.
Personalised Recommendations & Support
We have a qualified practitioner on call, 7 days a week, able to provide personalised, tailored recommendations to support your energy, immune system, and anything else that may be going on, post-viral or otherwise.
Call us on (07) 825 7444 or send us an email to get in touch.