The Power of Nutrition for Managing Long Covid

Marisa Matos
Written by Marisa Matos

While the recent pandemic may soon become a distant memory for many and with the majority of people having caught COVID-19 recovered, a significant proportion of the UK population have daily reminders of the pandemic having developed Long COVID. Long COVID has emerged as a significant health concern affecting individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 but continue to experience persistent and debilitating symptoms. The latest figures from the office of national statistics published on 2 January 2023, reports an estimated 2.0 million people in the UK were experiencing Long COVID symptoms.

Long COVID is defined as a range of new or ongoing symptoms that persist for at least four weeks after the acute phase of the SARS-CoV-2 infection has resolved and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. These symptoms can affect multiple organ systems, including the respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointestinal systems, among others.

The symptoms of Long Covid can vary widely between individuals and may include fatigue, brain fog, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, joint pain, muscle weakness, and gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Some individuals may also experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues as a result of Long Covid.

One of the most frustrating aspects of Long Covid is that symptoms can come and go and may be triggered or worsened by physical or mental activity. Many individuals with Long Covid report a “boom and bust” pattern, where they may have a good day followed by several days of debilitating symptoms.

While there is no universally agreed-upon list of mechanisms, several potential mechanisms have been proposed based on the available evidence. These include viral persistence, immune dysregulation, neuroinflammation, autoimmunity, endothelial dysfunction, mitochondrial dysfunction, and dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. These mechanisms may not act in isolation, and it’s possible that multiple mechanisms may be involved in the development of Long COVID. With this in mind, it’s critical to work with professionals that employ a whole-body approach to healing. By taking a whole-body approach, personalised plans can be tailored to the individual which not only address a person’s physical symptoms, but also supports their overall health and well-being. This can help individuals achieve optimal health outcomes and improve their quality of life.

How Nutrition can help

Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing Long COVID, as it can help address the core disruptions in metabolism that contribute to the syndrome. Specifically, mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked to several chronic illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and Long COVID. Studies have shown that people with CFS and Long COVID have impaired mitochondrial function, which may contribute to their symptoms of fatigue and brain fog. Additionally, oxidative stress, inflammation, and immune dysfunction associated with CFS and Long COVID can further exacerbate mitochondrial dysfunction. A well-designed nutrition, lifestyle and supplement plan may support the reduction in inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Several dietary approaches may be employed by an individual to support symptom management in Long COVID.

The low histamine diet has been reported to help some people with long COVID manage their symptoms. Histamine is a compound that is naturally produced by the body and is also found in certain foods. In people with Long COVID, histamine levels may be elevated, leading to symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues. The low histamine diet involves avoiding foods that are high in histamine or that can trigger the release of histamine in the body, such as fermented foods, aged cheeses, and certain types of fish. By reducing histamine levels in the body it’s thought that the low histamine diet may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of long COVID.

Other nutrients, such as vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and quercetin, have also been shown to support immune function, reduce inflammation, and improve energy levels, making them valuable additions to a Long Covid management plan.

Just as important as nutrition is addressing the autonomic nervous system and the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves in the body, connecting the brain to many organs, including the heart, lungs, and gut. It plays a crucial role in regulating many bodily functions, including heart rate, breathing, and digestion. There is growing evidence that the vagus nerve may be involved in Long COVID. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can all help to activate the vagus nerve and promote relaxation and calm throughout the bodily system. Additionally, certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to support vagus nerve function.

If you are still plagued by the symptoms of Long COVID and are looking for support in managing your condition, I encourage you to get in touch.

Main photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash