In for the long haul: long term effects of Long Covid
COVID-19 has highlighted to the world just how vulnerable we are, not just as individuals but as a society, to infection from viruses and how they can disrupt our lives. Although governments and pharmaceutical companies race to develop vaccines against COVID-19, it is already well documented that the vaccines cannot be anywhere near 100% reliable, effective, or free of significant side effects. Not only that, but as viruses (not just COVID-19) mutate, any vaccines will struggle to keep pace.
Even with a vaccine, many people who have been infected with COVID-19 have been subsequently diagnosed with Long Covid. It only highlights further the importance of a robust, well-balanced immune system. It is also a good indication to show that the effectiveness of a vaccine is perhaps only as good as your immune system. A vaccine is, in effect, a mechanism designed to train the adaptive immune system to recognize and identify the virus so that it can be ready to deal with it if it presents in the body. In short, this approach performs best if the immune system is functioning optimally. The immune system needs to be able to identify and be robust enough to neutralize the effects of the virus.
It is widely believed that vaccines kill viruses. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as viruses aren't living to begin with. However, the immune system effectively recognizes and "hunts" viruses, rendering them ineffective and effectively "killing" them. This doesn't mean that the virus is no longer in your body; it just means that your immune system is "dealing" with the virus, and you don't feel the effects. If your immune system becomes dysfunctional, or weakened through illness, age, or environmental factors then viruses predominant in the body can reemerge, such as what is happening with COVID-19 and the longer termed condition of "Long Covid."
The viral infection has once again shown humanity the "holes" that modern living (poor nutrition, lack of quality sleep, and bad lifestyle choices) has poked in our immune systems. It has shown us the importance of having a robust immune system. After all, a healthy immune system is our primary protection to avoid suffering prolonged sickness from pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi), regardless of what they are. Even with a vaccine, one cannot easily fight these intruders without a balanced and stable immune system.
What is a Long Covid?
According to cdc.gov, "Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Even people who did not have COVID-19 symptoms in the days or weeks after they were infected can have post-COVID conditions."
A diagnosis of Long Covid generally applies to those persons post COVID-19 infection who continue to feel Covid-like symptoms such as brain fog (cognitive), fatigue (neurological) and/or shortness of breath (physical) and which persist for more than 28 days. However, similar symptoms have also been seen in some individuals following a COVID-19 vaccination. In addition, some people might suffer severe symptoms that affect multi vital organs such as the heart, lungs, or brain. Also, autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation or tissue damage in the affected parts of the body.
The duration, severity, and the number of organ systems affected by Long Covid varies with those who have it, as do the reasons for it occurring, the varying onset times, and the type of stimulus prompting the resurgence of symptoms (i.e., stress). Long Covid has also been attributed to the reactivation of previously dormant viruses in a person's body. This is nothing new, and individuals suffering from any viral infection could experience a reactivation of a previously dormant virus due to immune system weaknesses or dysfunction. Reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, in particular, is a common culprit.
Long Covid is the canary in the coal mine in terms of immune health. It is the fact that for far too long, we humans as a species have relied upon temporary "band-aid" solutions such as vaccines or antibiotics to protect us while neglecting our greatest protector, our immunity. Others have postulated it, and we also believe that Long Covid is just the symptomatic aftereffects arising out due to a weaken immune system after contracting and dealing with COVID-19. Viruses such as Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Varicella-zoster (shingles), Herpes, or Epstein Barr Virus are prevalent and can lay dormant within us for many years. However, when we are stressed, and our immune system is weakened, these insidious viruses can mount a resurgence. COVID-19 is thought to be a significant factor causing this.
Our immunity has been compromised.
One of the problems is poor immunity and the weakened innate ability of your body to fight off pathogens regardless of age. The secondary problem is the enhancement and repairing of immunity as a solution. Many practitioners opt to put their faith in the success of vaccines and/or chemical medications without necessarily improving an individual's immune system. Unfortunately, this is only taking care of half the problem.
The reality is that COVID-19 has highlighted just how inadequate our immune function can be. As a civilization, despite all in our biotechnology arsenal, there has not been an adequate amount of time or money spent figuring out how to support our immune systems, which is what counts. No vaccine, anti-parasitic, antibiotics, or anti-fungal can help if your immune system is not optimal.
The question then becomes, what can one do to enhance, balance, and stabilize the immune system to let the immunity work synergistically with any vaccine? For those of us who like to be proactive, there are specific paths that can be taken to improve and repair the immune system.
The time is now
Enhancing one's immunity to reduce the severity of COVID-19 and the likelihood of suffering Long Covid is of immense importance to the individual and the long-term health of the community and the business environment. We learn from the news that society receives a broader benefit of less transmission and sickness as more people receive the vaccine. Still, the benefit is more significant if people develop a robust immune system.
Adopting effective immune-enhancing measures before any infection or repairing your immunity if you have been infected is just as important as developing and administering vaccines. Without an effective immune system, immunization perhaps is not much help. So, we need to improve overall health, not only from COVID-19 or Long Covid but also from the resurgence of dormant viruses or any future infections.
Like your heartbeat or your digestion, the immune response is a function you don't control. However, there are many things you can do to support a healthy immune system. They aren't as immediate as a vaccine, but they are no less effective and equally crucial for your long-term health. They are as simple as:
Stress can drain your ability to have a robust immune system. Cortisol, the stress hormone, reduces the activity of the immune system. If you have daily stressors, your system is constantly pushed to overcome that stress. To reduce stress, it is vital to ensure you have a decent work-life balance, and employ some stress-reduction techniques, like practicing yoga.
It might be hard to sleep right now, with heightened anxiety about viral protection. However, getting enough sleep is essential to combat stress. Sleep is a regenerative process and inadequate or poor-quality sleep is linked to a higher chance of impaired immunity.
Chronic inflammation can come from a combination of factors, many of them diet and lifestyle related. When inflammation occurs, they create work for the immune system, leaving unaddressed problems in the body. That's why removing inflammatory foods from one’s diet can be helpful improved the immunity. There are many natural anti-inflammatory nutrients or supplements that you can take, such as curcumin, quercetin, omega 3 fatty acids, to support reducing inflammation.
Eating a healthy diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help keep you well. Add a variety of colors to your diet with vegetables and fruits daily to ensure you're getting essential micro-nutrients. Vegetables and Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and quinoa, are also part of a healthy diet. In addition, research shows that probiotics are some of the best foods to support immunity.
Regular exercise can be one of the best things to do to support the immune system. However, there is a balance to exercise and immune function. Too much is stressful on the body and can be challenging for our immune system. The good news is, many studies show that regular moderate-intensity exercise mobilizes immune system cells, helping the body defend itself against pathogens and cancer cell growth. Those who regularly engage in this type of exercise have fewer illnesses and less systemic inflammation.
What should you do?
Simply put, there is no silver bullet yet. Everyone is different, and our health is just as unique. However, lifestyle factors play a big part in helping to maintain a healthy immune system and manage the genes that lead to diseases. The factors mentioned above can create an internal environment to allow your body to be healthy.
However, nowadays, there are Immune Repair and Enhancement Programs that can assist in boosting one’s health. These programs calm and balance the immune system, improving its ability to react to any health impact.
Bluntly, there is a lot of generalized information circulating online about "boosting" immunity. However, the reality is that everyone is unique, and to have the best shot at improving health, you need an expert to guide you in your unique way. Therefore, being managed by those who understands the human physiology involved in immunity can help further improve one’s unique health needs. In the meantime, we hope we have helped you understand a little bit more about your immune system and Long Covid; and we encourage you to look after your health using the essential tips listed above.
Authors: Miskawaan Health Group (MHG). For further information please visit us online at Miskawaan.com or contact us via: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (0)2086 8888.
Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton, Executive Director, Dataconsult Ltd, email@example.com. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.