The majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover in about two weeks or less.  Yet, for some, the symptoms linger longer and they can negatively affect all systems of the body, including multiple organ systems, mental clarity and emotional health.  This phenomenon is known as long COVID-19, long-haul COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome.

Additional symptoms of long-haul include shortness of breath, cough, fever, fatigue, depression, anxiety, joint and muscle pain, chest tightness, headache and brain fog.  People commonly experience tiredness that gets worse after physical or mental activities. These symptoms can appear weeks after infection and can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if their illness was mild, or if they had no symptoms, according to the CDC.

Western medicine doctors are still trying to understand the underlying causes of long-haul COVID.  Doctors from UC Davis report that the disease is so new, that much of the information about long-haul COVID-19 cases and care is anecdotal. Specialists from different departments may be teamed up to help patients, which include doctors from internal medicine, cardiology, pulmonology and psychology.

Post-viral syndromes are not new to holistic practitioners.  Chinese Medicine doctors have treated patients who had acute viral infections for centuries.  They are aware that it can leave people with lingering symptoms described in long-haul COVID.

Jessica Sowards, Director of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture at The Well, states that “In both lingering and long-haul COVID, the body has not cleared the infection,” says Sowards. “If somebody is having symptoms after two weeks of being sick, they need those symptoms addressed.”  She recommends that “one of the best ways to address ongoing symptoms is by seeking the care of a medical practitioner versed in holistic treatment.”

Jordan Crofton, FNP, Director of Patient Care at The Well agrees: “Lingering and long-haul symptoms are both an indication that there’s some kind of imbalance or underlying inflammation in the body,” says Crofton.

To address long-haul COVID, holistic practitioners suggest treating the underlying root causes to heal the system.  Here are some recommendations that can help:

1. Eat Nutritiously
Since inflammation has been linked to a poor diet, limit the intake of refined carbohydrates and focus on whole foods rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and the micronutrients.  This will boost the immune system and strengthen your overall system.

2. Build Your Digestion

Because immunity is built in the gut, it’s important to boost your system’s microbiome, which is made up of the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your intestinal tract.  Include whole, nutritious foods as well as ones that are fermented that contain healthy bacteria to help the function of your digestion.

3. Add Herbs and Supplements

A number of herbs and supplements can help you recover quicker from long-haul COVID.  These supplements include vitamin D, Zinc, probiotics, and NAC, an amino acid that the body uses to create glutathione, the body’s master detoxifier.  Also add quercetin, a flavonoid found in dill, broccoli, onions, capers, apples, and berries, and can reduce inflammation.  The herbs that can help release viral impact on your system include Chinese skullcap astragalus, isatis and medicinal mushrooms.

4. Exercise Cautiously

A study run by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre found a statistically significant improvement in exercise capacity, levels of fatigue and overall wellbeing with patients who are suffering from long-haul Covid.  Although some participants said exercise helped immensely, especially with brain fog, the medical community expressed concern and suggested that physical movement should start slow in the event that it could cause more post-viral fatigue.

5. Talk to a Therapist

Long-haul Covid can cause mental health challenges, Examples include severe depression, cases of acute psychosis, hallucinations, and other problems that are unexpected after a viral illness. “There’s a big role for therapy services in the recovery of these patients,” says John Baratta, MD, of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of North Carolina. “Personally, I’ve seen patients that I did not expect to have such severe mental health changes with long COVID.”  Therapy can help can improve poor sleep, depression, and other mental health concerns to ease the emotional challenges while recovering from the physical debilitating effects from this disease.