POST-COVID Syndrome- taking ownership of YOUR health
WHAT IS POST-COVID SYNDROME or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome?
Now after a year of wearing masks, social distancing, lock downs, and fighting COVID-19 there is a “new kid” in town who is proving our worst nightmare- POST COVID Syndrome. Due to the fact that individuals both young and old experience severe inflammation in various tissue and organs another name used for POST-COVID symptoms is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or MIS.
According to the University of Washington (UW) researchers found that about 33% of COVID-19 patients who were never sick enough to require hospitalization continue to complain months later of symptoms like fatigue, loss of smell or taste and "brain fog." They're generally considered to be effects of COVID-19 that persist for more than four weeks after you've been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
WHAT SYMPTOMS ARE SEEN WITH POST-COVID SYNDROME?
So essentially, after being ill with a variety of flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, coughing, lethargy, and possibly loss of taste and smell you start to recover, but though you are feeling somewhat better a few symptoms just keep on persisting. For some it is more of fatigue and shortness of breath while for others it could be more like brain fog with loss of taste and smell. Some of the worst symptoms are lasting damage to the heart muscle, lung scar tissue causing long term breathing problems, blood clots, strokes, and seizures.
Of course, as with COVID-19, older individuals with multiple serious medical conditions are most affected, but also young individuals who appeared healthy are still at risk. A list of common signs and symptoms that are seen in what so are calling post-COVID “long haulers:”
- Fatigue, Fever, Loss of smell or taste
- Dizziness when you stand, Depression or anxiety
- Memory, concentration or sleep problems
- Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain, Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Joint pain, Muscle pain or headache
- Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities
Which symptoms linger with an individual are as varied as we are and relate more to deficiencies and weakness in one’s own body than the virus itself. The focus of healing and obtaining optimal health is mitigating the cause of the presenting symptoms versus just treating the symptoms as is most commonly done in medicine.
WHY DO WE GET COLDS & FLU’S?
Why do only some people in a classroom or workplace contract an infection and others do not? Why do some people even in the same household get an infection and others do not? Are whether we catch a cold or flu related to the strength of the “bug” or the weakness of the person?
Another interesting question one could pose: Is there anything beneficial from getting a cold or flu? If we had no colds or flu how else would our immune systems buid up and deal with more serious diseases and health problems like cancer? In fact, I have always look at most microorganisms, whether viruses, bacteria, or even parasites, as opportunists taking advantage of one’s weakened immune system. Granted, some microorganisms are stronger than others and likely to affect the health of just about anyone. Yet since mankind is still prevalent it certainly has been seen that the level of our health certainly affects our ability to withstand disease.
WHY ARE INDIVIDUALS WITH PREEXISTING CONDITIONS MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO COVID?
It has been found that individuals with the preexisting conditions of: hypertension, obesity, lung disease, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are most susceptible to being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19. The common aspect of all of these diseases is inflammation caused by a diet high in carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats found in processed foods.
The American diet can easily be divided between natural whole foods that come from nature and convenient tasty foods that are manufactured and highly processed. The natural whole foods are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber while being overall low in carbohydrates. The processed foods are high in carbohydrates, “bad” fats, additives, and preservatives while being low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. By their nature, vitamins and fat are de-natured by the high heat of processing and therefore unavailable as a resource for one’s immune system when stressed.
Therefore, individuals who consume an excess of highly processed inflammatory foods will by default have one or more inflammatory diseases. Lacking in an optimal amount of vitamins, minerals, fats and fiber will render one more susceptible to any other disease or infectious process such as COVID-19.
INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE- A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE TO HEALTH CARE
When looking at all aspects of health problems it is important to consider all therapeutic tools available from diet to nutraceutical supplements to prescriptive medicine. Additionally, as an Osteopathic physician, I am trained to look at the whole person which includes the natural ability for one’s body to participate in the healing process.
After studying past pandemics I made several interesting observations which are consistent. First, they usually last from six to nine months where they do their damage on susceptible individuals and then the infectious agent dies off. Next, the treatment, if any, is not available till after the peak of the disease where its need becomes more academic than therapeutic. Finally, either medicine takes credit for the infection not being around or if serious enough eventually develops a vaccine just in case the disease reoccurs.
You might ask if I cannot ever be “ahead of the curve” or infection then what am I to do? Again, here I see microorganisms, whether viruses, bacteria, or even parasites, as opportunists taking advantage of a weakened immune system. So how can I have a more robust immune system? And that is exactly the place I feel both as patients and doctors need to pay attention and do some critical thinking. This is being pro-active and focusing on always maintaining optimal health.
DISEASE ORIENTED VS HEALTH ORIENTED MEDICINE
The standard for the majority of health care in America is reactionary medical care after they have had a health problem often for an extended period of time. This approach typically leads to trying just to control disease symptoms and is being reactive rather than proactive with one’s health. Instead, a more pro-active approach to one’s health, as with our finances, is investing in diet and lifestyles with the goal of optimal health.
The diet I have found most universally beneficial is what I call an Anti-Inflammatory Mediterranean diet. The anti-inflammatory aspect of the diet limits bread, pasta, and tortilla along with eliminating such processed foods as crackers, chips, and bakery goods. Whereas, whole grains cooked at home such as oats, rice, quinoa, etc, along with all sorts of beans would be included. When it comes to fruit and especially vegetables I feel the nutritional benefit of vitamins, minerals, and fiber out way any negative aspect of the carbohydrate content. Additionally, individuals with digestive issues often benefit from a greater reduction of carbohydrates as with the FODMAP diet while one is going through the therapeutic healing process.
WHATS BEHIND THE MASK OF COVID-19- the reactive approach
The pro-active opportunity our nation could have used to fortify one’s immune system against COVID-19 and any other viral or disease process would have been to do a massive campaign to improve our national health like we did in the 1960’’s with the “space race.”
For over a decade I have educated and helped manage my patients’ vitamin D levels. In fact, vitamin D is actually considered a hormone due to its effect on a number of areas of the body. For the musculoskeletal system vitamin D helps absorb Calcium. For the brain vitamin D helps reduce depression and raise one’s mood found initially to help what was called Seasonal Depression Syndrome. For the immune system vitamin D has been found to boost one’s immunity against colds and flu’s. In fact, vitamin D has also been found to regulate cell growth along with reducing the risk of getting many cancers as especially seen with colon, breast and prostate cancer. In fact with colon cancer we are talking by as much as 50%.
Finally, when I first heard of the symptoms with COVID-19 often being loss of taste and smell it soon reminded me of an in office test I used 20 years ago called the Zinc Tally test through the Metagenics Nutraceutical company. Essentially, I would give a patient a teaspoon of the Zinc Tally solution and ask them what category would they place their taste with the solution? Was it a metallic taste indicating sufficient Zinc, a fuzzy taste indicating borderline Zinc, or no taste indicating a Zinc deficiency?
MOVING BEYOND POST COVID Syndrome- your proactive opportunity
So what I am seeing with Post COVID Syndrome is much the same thing I see daily when only the symptoms of a person is addressed and not the cause, As I said earlier, “bugs or microorganisms are opportunists” essentially meaning they thrive when we don’t survive. As a patient the place to start is with the known basics. All chronic disease, or dis-ease, is inflammatory. So just like putting out a fire, institute an anti-inflammatory diet, as one would put out a fire with water. In fact, the first part of my anti-inflammatory diet consists of drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. See, you can do this! Next, I will order blood tests to evaluate your overall health, diet, and check nutrients like vitamin D and Zinc.
Next, we need to look at the individual specific symptoms you are having and select natural the appropriate vitamins, minerals, and herbs to support that area of your health. Also, as an Osteopathic physician I have an additional tool of Osteopathic myo-fascial therapy to enhance any restricted circulation which might be impeding the natural healing process of your body. This therapy helps increase circulation allowing better delivery of food and supplements to the various congested and inflamed areas of your body.
I have also found most chronic conditions often benefit from IV nutrients, hi dose IV Vitamin C, IV Ozone therapy, or Nebulizer breathing treatments depending on what areas of one’s health is compromised.
So the good news is that you have the ability to substantially improve your health by personally proactively being involved and working with an Integrative Medicine Physician who is capable of tailoring necessary treatment to your body’s individual needs. Together, we can work to move you “Beyond the Mask “and from “Their New Normal” to “Your New Normal!”