Long-Covid Symptoms Explained
Over the last few years of the COVID-19 pandemic our clinic has worked with patients at the acute stages of infection, immediately after the acute stages, when they still have a lot of lung and sinus symptoms, difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and now with omicron variant, a lot of sinus congestion, headaches, ear inflammation, muffled hearing, dizziness, and lastly, we have worked diligently with the population of people suffering from long-COVID.
The difficulty about naming this experience long-COVID however, is that the name does not convey the huge degree of variation between people. For many, this is a loss of taste and smell, for others, it is alterations in taste and smell, where certain things smell and taste foul, but the reality is, most people with long-COVID have not just 1 main symptoms, they actually have a pretty long list of new symptoms that arose after a COVID-19 infection, or a worsening of pre-existing symptoms.
The patients we treat often have headaches, extreme fatigue, poor sleep, muscle and joint pain, anxiety, depression, tingling, numbness, brain fog, autonomic dysregulation, and many other manifestations of neurological disorders. Because our clinic specializes in neurological disorders, it became our job to start diving into the research that continues to be published on all aspects of COVID-19 to understand what the mechanisms are, in the body, that cause such a wide variety of symptoms, so that we could understand how best to help these people.
That is what we want to share with you today because that is the question that we hear from all of our patients – why is this happening to me? Why do I feel like my health is crumbling away, how can my health go so far off the rails after having even a mild case of COVID?
There are important ways in which the SARS-COV-2 or the COVID-19 virus differs from other viral infections, and other colds and flu. When the COVID-19 virus gets into the lungs it immediately interrupts normal signaling of the body’s own innate cytotoxic immune system, and it blocks it. So, right out of the gate, that infection, throws the immune system off balance. That’s insult #1.
Then, as the virus enters Type 2 pneumocytes in the lungs and starts to replicate, a second arm of the immune system shows up and starts to create inflammatory processing to attack the virus. In this war that takes place in the lungs, there are byproducts. Some of the byproducts are from the virus itself – these are called Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns, PAMPs, and some are from the body’s own response, and these are called Damage Associated Molecular Patterns, DAMPs. This virus is unique in the fact that a much larger amount of PAMPs and DAMPs are produced compared to say, a regular flu. Now, I understand, this is likely the first time you’ve heard of these molecules, because they haven’t been getting their own headlines in mainstream news, but bear with me, because this will answer a lot of your questions.
These PAMPs and DAMPs produced in the lungs and respiratory system as a result of an infection get into the blood stream, and from there, they can go everywhere, they can make their way into every internal organ in the body, into the gut and digestive tract, and into the brain, and into the peripheral nervous system, and even the cranial nerves. What happens next is very important to understand. These organs, and the brain, and the nerves, respond to these PAMPs and DAMPS by saying, something is wrong, we are under attack, we need to mount an inflammatory response. So, even if the virus itself is not infecting the brain, or the nervous system, or the liver, or spleen, or kidneys, or heart, or blood vessels, all of these organs and tissues in the body can mount a local inflammatory response to essentially a ghost.
In some very rare cases, we do see actual COVID-19 viral infections of the heart, the spleen, the kidneys, and the brain, and these often become fatal or very life threatening cases. I’m not saying this doesn’t happened, but what I am saying, in the vast majority of cases, the underlying mechanism for a systems-wide inflammatory response that can include the brain and central nervous system is what I just described above. If you would like to listen to an excellent conversation with Dr. Benjamin TenOver, an expert virologist, who describes this inflammatory response I will provide a link to the podcast.
My point of spending the time going into detail on this, is because this inflammatory response is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to helping people. When patients come into our office, we ask a ton of questions, we do a very thorough intake, and a functional neurological examination in order to understand what systems in the body have been affected by this inflammatory response, because it is different for everyone. Some people have more inflammation in the peripheral system, they have joint pain, muscle aches, or numbness and tingling. Other people develop inflammation in the lymphatic system, and have swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck or other areas, other people have inflammation in the central nervous system, and have cognitive symptoms, brain fog, memory problems, anxiety, and depression.
Every patient with long-COVID is different, and every patient requires their own individual treatment program to get them back to health. This is where we excel. Before COVID, we specialized in working with patients with concussions and TBI, and we still do. But the most important tenant of that process, was understanding that every brain injury is unique, and every patient with a brain injury requires a tailored treatment plan. So, our whole clinical model and our integrated approach, looking at the whole body, and the brain, and understanding how everything is connected, and understanding how to provide customized, tailored medicine, was already in place.
In our clinic we utilize a lot of different therapies. We create customized treatment plans for everyone, and we utilize very high quality powerful herbal medicines, we utilize photobiomodulation therapies, and hands-on
therapies like acupuncture. Our goal is to improve the function of the internal organs that were affected by the systemic inflammatory response, remove inflammation from whatever tissues were most affected for the individual, bring the immune system back into balance, and support the organs that are responsible for clearing inflammation out of the body – like the kidneys.
Kidney function is one of the most important things to pay attention to when it comes to clearing these PAMPs and DAMP out of the body, and that is a very important missing element in medicine at large today…that lack of support for the very organs that will be clearing the inflammation out of the body. When that foundational piece is missing, the whole treatment plan is less effective.
Ok, we hope this information was valuable to you. We hope that this gives you a better understanding of why and how so many different health issues and symptoms can occur as a result of a COVID-19 infection. And we hope that if you are still suffering, and looking for answers, you will contact us, and give us the opportunity to help you. The road to recovery is not always fast, or easy, but there is road, and we will show you how to find it, and walk that path with you.
Link to the podcast interview with Dr. Benjamin TenOever