Our attention has rightfully focused in the last several months on COVID-19 infection and mortality rates, but after several months of observing surviving patients, we are starting to see many emerging long-term effects of the disease. We are still in the early days of understanding what this virus might mean for the growing number of COVID-19 survivors — what symptoms they might expect to have and how long it might take them to get back to feeling normal.
This blog addresses the lingering symptoms and health conditions we are beginning to observe in COVID-19 survivors. In the coming weeks, we will discuss in more detail some of these health ramifications, including allergies, auto-immune conditions, and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
Many doctors believe that SARS-Cov-2 is causing damage to the nervous system and the immune response is going haywire. Some doctors believe the culprit is a neurological condition, stemming from an accumulation of inflammatory cytokines in the central nervous system that could lead to post-viral symptoms.
Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale, believes that there are three potential explanations to post viral syndrome:
Reactivation of dormant reservoir of virus in the body
Inflammatory symptoms triggered by traces of virus, even if the virus is dead
Immune response goes into overdrive and mistakenly starts attacking body’s own cells
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and chemical messengers that all collaborate to protect and defend you against potentially harmful substances. When your body detects a threat, it triggers your immune system to launch an attack to target and neutralize the invader.
It is common for people to have an underactive or overactive immune system.
An Underactive immune system, also called immunodeficiency, can be:
Inherited - primary immunodeficiency diseases or complement deficiencies
Reaction to medical treatment - such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy
Caused by another disease - such as HIV/AIDS or certain types of cancer
An Overactive immune system can take many forms, including:
Allergies – an exaggerated response of the immune system to allergens
Autoimmune diseases - in autoimmune conditions your immune system no longer accurately differentiates between “self” and “non-self” and mounts a response against normal components of the body. There is mounting research pointing to viral infection that can sometimes lead to autoimmunity.
Your immune system is the most effective weapon
Now more than ever it’s important to address any underlying health conditions and reduce your viral load and inflammation. Some of the most powerful ways you can support your immune system and bolster your defenses are through:
Gut health: The beneficial microorganisms in your gut influence your immune system by regulating the immune response and maintaining the integrity of your gut lining – a crucial barrier designed to keep invaders from reaching your bloodstream.
Reduce Your Toxic Burden: Your body is designed to naturally process out potentially harmful compounds through natural detoxification pathways. The problem arises when your body can no longer keep up and toxins begin to accumulate, causing chronic inflammation.
Address underlying viral infections and chronic inflammation: A viral infection disrupts immune homeostasis and can send your immune system into a tailspin, especially when there is a reservoir of dormant viruses in the body. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to address underlying viral load.
Here’s the bottom line…
We are just beginning to see the many emerging long-term health implications of COVID-19. We still don’t know why some patients have long lasting effects while others don’t. There can be multiple factors that contribute to the misfiring of your immune system which can look different for each individual. That’s why, now more than ever, we should support an optimally functioning immune system.