Could dietary changes be the key to symptom management in cases of long-term COVID-19? Although the cause of the prolonged symptoms is uncertain, some experts believe that diet could play a role in alleviating them. Yet, the evidence for this needs to be clarified. Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, often resolves the infection within a few days, but for some, it results in an array of symptoms that can last for weeks, months or even years. Unfortunately, there are currently no effective treatments.
It is estimated that at least 10% of individuals who have had COVID-19 will experience a long-term, often debilitating illness known as long COVID. Symptoms associated with this condition can last for months or over a year.
The CDC states that COVID-19 can cause a broad array of symptoms, including but not limited to:
Older age, female gender, other chronic conditions, and having had severe COVID-19 are all factors that can potentially increase the likelihood of developing long COVID. However, the exact cause of why some people experience long-term symptoms is still unknown.
Research has demonstrated that receiving a vaccine and prompt treatment with antivirals may reduce the chances of enduring long COVID. Additionally, a preprint yet to be reviewed by scientific peers has suggested that convalescent plasma may have a similar outcome.
What are some potential causes of long-term COVID-19, and could lifestyle changes, like changing one's diet, help manage its symptoms?
There is no definitive explanation for why some people experience prolonged symptoms of COVID-19.
For some individuals, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can cause a malfunction of the immune system that will persist and potentially cause a prolonged illness.
Following a COVID-19 infection, the immune system is activated and remains active after clearing the infection.
The immune system is constantly alert, working hard to prevent potential infections and maintain a heightened inflammatory state.
Although we have only known about COVID-19 for three years, its inflammatory nature is becoming increasingly accepted. It is important to remember this when considering the effects of the disease.
Adequate rest and gentle exercise are recommended to aid in the recovery from post-viral syndromes such as chronic fatigue/myalgia. It is important to avoid strenuous activity as this may worsen symptoms.
Research on the effectiveness of dietary intervention for post-viral syndromes determined that taking supplements and following long-term elimination diets did not offer any advantageous results.
The research found that consuming a healthy diet of various nutritious foods was the most effective way to alleviate symptoms.
To help with post-viral conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, eating a nutritious and balanced diet can assist in optimising body function and boosting overall well-being.
Eating a healthy diet can be essential to managing post-viral conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and supporting overall health and well-being. Although diet alone cannot cure such conditions, it can help to alleviate symptoms and improve overall health.
Even though research has uncovered methods to lower the chances of enduring the long-term effects of COVID-19, a comprehensive review has pointed out that there is currently no widely effective cure.
Low-dose naltrexone is an effective treatment for pain, fatigue, and neurological symptoms, while low-dose aripiprazole can help reduce fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, and brain fog. Additionally, probiotics help relieve gastrointestinal symptoms.
Instead of exercising, the article suggested pacing as an "active self-management strategy" that allows individuals to learn how to balance their activity and rest to increase their function and participation in meaningful activities.
Therefore, it is suggested by experts that dietary changes may be more beneficial than medication, as it may provide relief for some without the risk of side effects. Additionally, no therapy is effective alone, so lifestyle changes should be incorporated into the treatment plan.
Studies have been conducted to assess the potential of specific diets in treating long COVID, and there is increasing evidence that some of them can be helpful while others may not be as effective.
Diets that reduce inflammation have been studied as a potential treatment for allergies. These varied diets include vegetarian and vegan diets, anti-inflammatory diets and antihistamine use. The evidence so far suggests that anti-inflammatory diets may be the most effective in reducing allergy symptoms.
While it is reasonable to assume that diets that reduce inflammation would benefit people with long-term COVID-19, it isn't easy to draw a definite causal relationship between diet and outcomes due to the situation's complexity. Factors such as diet composition, genetics, and microbiome need to be considered, and it will take time and effort to establish a causal relationship.
There is currently little scientific evidence to support the claim that an antihistamine diet positively affects the symptoms of long COVID-19. However, a study has indicated that taking antihistamines may help in relieving some of the symptoms associated with the condition.
Studies have explored the potential of a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and bioactive compounds in managing long COVID symptoms. These foods have been found to have properties that act against inflammation and oxidation, which may be beneficial in easing some of the effects of long-term COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, studies on epidemiology, observation, and clinical trials showed that a plant-based diet benefits individuals suffering from conditions also found in those with COVID-19.
Symptoms caused by prolonged technology use include exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, migraines, uneasiness, despondency, and aching muscles.
Research indicates that a diet consisting mainly of plants and a reduced consumption of animal products could be beneficial for reducing the symptoms associated with long-term COVID-19.
Studies conducted to date indicate that a diet rich in plant-based foods can have a positive effect on symptoms of long-term COVID-19, including fatigue, headaches, anxiety, depression, and muscle pain.
Research shows that consuming a diet high in plant-based foods may be beneficial in managing symptoms of long-term COVID-19, such as fatigue, headaches, anxiety, depression, and muscle pain.
People with long-term COVID-19 should consider the Mediterranean diet, known for its many health benefits. This diet contains beneficial components, including monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
These compounds have been found to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, making them a potential treatment for diseases associated with long-term, low-level inflammation.
Scientists from Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California are conducting a controlled trial to determine if an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce the symptoms of long COVID based on the increasing evidence that inflammation may cause many symptoms.
The 50 participants of the 30-day dietary trial will be split into two groups. One of them will receive a diet that is low in carbohydrates and contains a medical food that elevates the ketone level in the blood. At the same time, the other group will not be subject to any dietary intervention.
Research in rats indicated that a ketogenic diet could reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Additionally, a review of animal studies suggested that this diet could reduce neuroinflammation.
Eating a keto diet consists of limiting the consumption of carbohydrates and increasing the intake of proteins and fats. Balancing the glucose levels in the body can significantly reduce the inflammatory state.
Costa expressed enthusiasm for the study, stating that its investigation of a low-carbohydrate diet and medical food to boost blood ketone levels may offer a different way to cope with the long-term effects of COVID-19.
This intervention may reduce inflammation, improve antioxidant defence, and repair damaged DNA by transitioning the body's metabolic state to ketogenesis dependent on fat.
The researchers will analyse inflammatory markers, measure the tolerance of the intervention group to the diet, and evaluate long-term COVID-19 symptoms in both the control and intervention groups at the start and end of the 30-day trial. If the diet group shows a positive outcome, the researchers plan to expand the trial to involve a larger population.
A 30-day intervention period is used as this is likely to be long enough for us to start seeing an impact on the inflammatory state and allow us to monitor the nutritional supplement's safety adequately.
The preliminary evidence of this research suggests the potential of dietary changes to influence the body’s immune and metabolic functions. It is hoped that this research will help to create successful long-term strategies to treat the effects of COVID-19.
A healthy lifestyle is recommended to manage long COVID, including:
Apart from relieving lingering COVID-19 effects, these lifestyle modifications can also decrease the chances of developing several other diseases.
Individualised approaches are likely the most effective in addressing the long-term effects of COVID-19 since symptoms can differ significantly from person to person.
Eating the right foods and maintaining a well-balanced diet can help manage symptoms and support overall health and well-being in post-viral conditions. For this reason, it is essential to consult a dietitian to create a tailored plan for nutrition and lifestyle changes.
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