Shortening Long-COVID

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In 2023, about 35% of people in Hawaiʻi experienced “long-COVID” – lingering long-term health effects following a COVID-19 infection.

Common symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, brain fog, headache, joint and chest pain, and loss of taste and smell. Other reported symptoms include dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, heart palpitations, changes in sexual desire, loss or change in sense of thirst, and feeling a relapse of infection symptoms immediately after physical or mental exertion. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and last from weeks to months.

Long-COVID is a term that was created by a patient, who was summarizing her experience after being infected in early 2020. As time went on, numerous doctors recognized this happening in some of their patients, wherein it appeared their bodies were still fighting the virus, even after getting negative test results.

People more likely to get long-COVID include those who have had COVID-19 infections more than once. Researchers believe some people have “viral reservoirs” where their bodies never fully eliminated the virus after their initial infection. Since the virus continues to survive in the body, symptoms do not resolve. Those with long-COVID may also have more widespread viral reservoirs, as the virus has been found in over 30 different areas throughout the body.

Long-COVID is also common among those who have chronic health conditions prior to being infected.

COVID-19 infections cause injuries to multiple organs in the body, including those affecting the heart, kidneys, brain, eyes, lungs, skin, and digestive system. These damages affect the ability for these organs to function properly resulting in people developing new health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, lung dysfunction, and more. This in itself can make it challenging for a person to recover, especially those who already had another chronic condition or a weak immune system to begin with.

There are certain nutrients that can help the body overcome long-COVID faster. Probiotics help restore not only gut and digestive health, but also lung function. Foods high in probiotics include sour poi, natto, kim chee, and yogurt.

Pineapple and papaya contain natural anti-virals that can attack those viral reservoirs and restore immune strength. To increase its fighting power, include ʻōlena (turmeric) at the same time. Add a piece of ʻōlena to your pineapple or papaya smoothie. Or make ʻōlena tea to have with a meal that includes pineapple or papaya.

Mamaki tea is also a powerful antioxidant. Among its many benefits, it contains a chemical specifically shown to fight against COVID-19.

Fish, avocado, tofu, and nuts provide the amino acids and minerals needed to restore physical and mental strength and ability. Leafy greens, such as Chinese cabbages and spinach, limu, and citrus fruits help improve heart and circulatory function, increasing blood flow and ensuring nutrients get distributed throughout your body.

While each of these foods have their specific benefits, all of them work together toward boosting your immune system and putting you on the path to quicker recovery.