While mainstream medicine long ignored post-viral chronic fatigue, conventional doctors must now acknowledge the long term effects of Post-Covid Long Hauler syndrome alongside functional medicine providers who show no surprise at this situation. Functional medicine practitioners like our clinic have long treated patients who report months and years of debilitating physical and mental fatigue which began after some past viral illness. Now with thousands of people simultaneously experiencing the severe viral illness we call COVID-19, we also have literally thousands of new patients from all walks of life telling their conventional doctors the same story. Mainstream medicine must join with functional medicine to acknowledge and respond to this new epidemic.
The patients are mainly tired- really tired. Daily activities drain them. Attempts at exercise leave them wiped out for days. They are also foggy in their brain. Memory slows and glitches. Work routines drop into low gear. After the fatigue and brain fog, many other symptoms pile on from there. Even the Center for Disease Control acknowledge these on their website:
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
Other reported long-term symptoms include:
- Difficulty with thinking and concentration (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Muscle pain
- Intermittent fever
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
Cited from cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html?ACSTrackingID=USCDC_425-DM42580&ACSTrackingLabel=Weekly%20Summary%3A%20COVID-19%20Healthcare%20Quality%20and%20Worker%20Safety%20Information%20–%20November%2016%2C%202020&deliveryName=USCDC_425-DM42580 Accessed 2/17/21
Many of these sufferers already endured the stress of a severe COVID episode, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The sickest were already told that they had organ damage to lungs, heart, kidneys, or brain from the severity of the initial acute disease. They knew they would require time to recover.
Many, however, only experienced mild symptoms with their initial viral encounter. They came through the first week or two expecting to bounce back to normal within a week or so afterwards. Instead of a quick recovery, they too face ongoing symptoms of fatigue, mental fatigue and the rest of the symptoms noted.
Stories include those mentioned in the New York Times:
“Hannah Davis, 32, a researcher and artist in Brooklyn, described neurological and cognitive symptoms that began in late March. “I forgot my partner’s name,” she said, adding: “I would regularly pick up a hot pan, burn myself, put it down and literally do it again. I forgot how to shower. I forgot how to dress myself.”
Months later, some things have improved, but she still struggles to remember things, saying “I feel like I am basically on a 48-hour memory cycle.”
(New York Times, Online Published Dec. 4, 2020, by Pam Belluck, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/health/covid-long-term-symptoms.html, Accessed 2/17/2021.)
And a list of stories from Body Politic Website (admittedly not my usual type of source, but helpful information nonetheless. Overlook their political stances for the moment.):
At this site, they report a survey of 3,800 members of a COVID survivor support group in which cognitive dysfunction was reported by 85%, neurological symptoms in 81%, and 75% reported difficulty working after COVID.
(Reported by New York Times, Online Published Dec. 4, 2020, by Pam Belluck, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/health/covid-long-term-symptoms.html, Accessed 2/17/2021.)
The numbers are impressive when you do the math. Depending on whether you take the 10% rate quoted from the British self-reported smartphone app study or the significantly high rates in the other studies cited below, you still give a large number when multiplied by the millions of people who have suffered from the virus. This is especially true if one considers that one study report only 1 in 3 COVID-19 patients returned to pre-infection work related activity levels (Tenforde 2020).
As mainstream medicine searches for answers with its large academic centers and newly opened Long Hauler Centers, functional medicine continues to apply the same root cause approach in caring for post viral syndrome patients which has produced results for decades. We expect to see similar improvements in Post COVID syndrome patients as we see in post EBV or post
“whatever virus it was” patients.
In the present situation we will be a step ahead in knowing that COVID 19’s virus started the avalanche of symptoms. From there, we search for root causes of prior dysfunction which set up patients for the post viral condition. These may include toxins, other chronic infections, nutritional deficiencies, immune dysfunctions, or chronic stress. We identify the underlying root causes and employ whole person science based integrative approaches.
While addressing what predisposed the patient to a post viral illness, we manage symptoms with lifestyle and a mix of therapeutic approaches. Where we can do so, we focus on natural therapies to improve energy, relieve pain, augment brain function, and more. As the underlying weaknesses improve, we turn our attention to regenerating cells and metabolism so patients can move back into their normal flow of life.
Those of us in functional medicine look forward to collaborating with those in mainstream medicine willing to incorporate whatever therapies work to care for these undeniably sick patients. That includes not only natural therapies and lifestyle changes, but the resources below for Post-COVID recovery. Together we can help thousands and thousands return to healthier more abundant lives again.
CDC LONG HAULER Site Accessed 2/17/2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html?ACSTrackingID=USCDC_425-DM42580&ACSTrackingLabel=Weekly%20Summary%3A%20COVID-19%20Healthcare%20Quality%20and%20Worker%20Safety%20Information%20%E2%80%93%20November%2016%2C%202020&deliveryName=USCDC_425-DM42580
Rate of post COVID symptoms:
Greenhalgh Trisha, Knight Matthew, A’Court Christine, Buxton Maria, Husain Laiba. Management of post-acute covid-19 in primary care BMJ 2020; 370 :m3026
COVID Symptom Study. How long does COVID-19 last? Kings College London, 2020. https://covid19.joinzoe.com/post/covid-long-term?fbclid=IwAR1RxIcmmdL-EFjh_aI-.
Sheehy LM. Considerations for postacute rehabilitation for survivors of COVID-19. JMIR Public Health Surveill2020;6:e19462. doi:10.2196/19462 pmid:32369030CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Carfì A, Bernabei R, Landi F, Gemelli Against COVID-19 Post-Acute Care Study Group. Persistent symptoms in patients after acute COVID-19. JAMA2020; doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12603 pmid:32644129CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Tenforde MW, Kim SS, Lindsell CJ, et al., IVY Network Investigators, CDC COVID-19 Response Team, IVY Network Investigators. Symptom duration and risk factors for delayed return to usual health among outpatients with COVID-19 in a multistate health care systems network — United States, March-June 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep2020;69:993-8. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6930e1.htm. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6930e1 pmid:32730238CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Rubin R. As Their Numbers Grow, COVID-19 “Long Haulers” Stump Experts. JAMA. 2020;324(14):1381–1383. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17709
(Inclusion of these resources does not imply that Sanctuary Functional Medicine has reviewed 100% of their recommendations to approve of each one. These resources are offered for your benefit, but any decision to utilize or pursue them should be undertaken after a personalized discussion with me as a patient or your own medical provider. Sanctuary is not responsible for the information provided on these sites nor the services provided by them. Sanctuary has no financial or other business connection with these sites.)
Post COVID Centers
Connections where you can donate Convalescent Plasma:
(Those who have experienced COVID-19 and possess antibodies to the virus can share their antibody immunity with others and help those with severe illness to recover faster)
Ways you can contribute to the ongoing research efforts into relieving Long Hauler Syndrome:
- The You + ME Registry and Biobank, found on the website of a group called “Solve M.E.” is working to gather information from people with long-haul COVID-19. They will be comparing this data to patients with prior ME/FS condition. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
- Another site called Survivor Corps mobilizes post-COVID survivors to help with research efforts. At their website you can find national and state-specific research trials and research findings.
Physical Recovery Resources:
- Workwell Foundation COVID-19 Resources.
This non-profit foundation primarily works with patients experiencing Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in helping them with rehabilitation and disability legal issues. Sanctuary has not fully reviewed the site, but in a quick review, its multitude of resources is worth mentioning. https://workwellfoundation.org/resources/#covid
The following article lists 10 helpful tips regarding Long Hauler Syndrome and Disability benefits:
- 10 Tips for COVID-19 Long-Haulers Seeking Disability Benefits. By Caroline Christian. The Mighty. Published November 14, 2020. Accessed 2/17/2021. https://themighty.com/2020/11/covid-19-long-haulers-disability-benefits/
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.