As stated in Part 1 of this blog series, specific naturopathic supports for Lung Health and Long-COVID will be further discussed. In order to see how these supports could potentially help long-COVID and support lung health, it is first important to understand the pathophysiology and mechanisms that the COVID-19 virus uses.
After a COVID-19 viral infection, certain symptoms such as POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), respiratory and cardiovascular distress, fatigue, mood changes, loss of smell (anosmia), brain fog and more can persist.
Initially, the virus triggers the first part of the immune system called the "innate immunity". This triggers certain factors of the immune system called T cells and cytokines. These cytokines (IL-1 and IL-6) are inflammatory, and in the early days of COVID, caused the "cytokine storm" that led to hospitalizations/use of ventilators and further organ failure. These high inflammatory levels persist in the body after the infection, and if pre-existing inflammatory conditions, chronic illnesses or gut imbalances exist, then long-COVID risk increases. Inflammation in small doses is actually helpful to help the body rest so it can heal. The problem happens when it becomes uncontrolled and the body's immune mechanisms become overwhelmed, on top of being exposed to other inflammatory factors in the individual's lifestyle and environment.
In addition to inflammation, cell-receptor hijacking, damage to cell mitochondria (energy producing) and endothelial tissue damage (blood vessels, lungs, gut) also make COVID capable of producing detrimental effects to the body. When the virus enters the cells, the ACE2 receptor becomes inactive, leading to blood clots and inflammation. This further causes mitochondrial damage, making it harder for cells to produce energy. This may be a reason why chronic fatigue is so common after COVID.
Heal the Gut - After a COVID infection, dysbiosis (a bacterial imbalance), is produced. Having less good bacteria can lead to "leaky gut" and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Certain gut bacteria can be promoted by both polyphenols and probiotics. Butyrate is then produced by the bacteria itself, which helps to regulate the T cells (mentioned earlier), is food for the anti-inflammatory Bifidobacterium strain and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Other ways to support the microbiome are to increase dietary fibre intake which promotes bacterial balance, and increases butyrate. Intermittent fasting also restores ACE2.
Reduce Inflammation - As discussed earlier, inflammation is one of the key components of COVID-19 and its sequelae. Ginger, licorice, curcumin, lemon balm and omega-3 are anti-inflammatory agents.
Support Immune function - Bifidobacterium promotes anti-inflammatory pathways, but Lactobacillus, on the contrary works mechanistically to increase Th1. Th1 is a T cell that promotes viral destruction. Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Quercetin and Echinacea are other ways to increase this factor. Severe and critical COVID cases were associated with vitamin D levels less than 20 ng/mL. It is recommended to be tested for Vitamin D, especially if suffering from long-COVID.
Repair mitochondria and vascular damage - Glutathione, is the number one antioxidant found in the body, which is supported by N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). Therefore, supplementation may help the mitochondria recover. Exercise, sleep, stress reduction can all dilate blood vessels which help repair the lining. Foods that are high in nitric oxide such as red beets, tart cherry, pomegranate juice, leafy greens and cocoa.
Do you or anyone you know suffer from Long-COVID?
I have had success treating this through naturopathic therapies and acupuncture. Click below to book an Initial Naturopathic Consultation for Long-COVID treatment (virtual and in-person available).