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Long Haul COVID: a Very Long Haul, with Similarities to Brain Injuries in mTBI/Concussion

It has been a year now since I was infected with presumed COVID.

Since then I have discussed Long Haul COVID (post-COVID damage to brain and body) a bit, writing back in December that I had cured myself, which seemed close enough to true for some months.

The term “Long Haul COVID” is a badly chosen one but it has stock. I prefer to call it chronic viral sequelae, a sort of chronic fatigue plus brain fog thing in my case.

A year later, I have not been able to resume even a baseline training schedule, let alone hard training*. At my best, always after 3-4 days of baseline training, and spite of feeling great and riding hard (“good days”) on a few days, I would suffer a setback of weakness for several days. That was the oscillating cycle since I popped out of the severe symptoms just before Thanksgiving.

In February things went so-so and then went a little downhill. Then March went downhill similar to last August—increasingly long periods up to a week of fatigue intermixed by several days of difficulty completing a baseline ride, dragging my sorry ass home and then skipping it for a day or three.

Over the past 6 weeks, that has turned into 7-10 day periods of not riding at all, saving my strength, which now relegates me to gardening. But the worst thing has been the return of brain fog, an inability to concentrate and being pretty useless some days to get work done. At present, I can manage a few hours of decent work and that’s it. I suffered through months of that last year. Active mental effort to stave off negative feelings is essential, but fortunately I mastered that after my 2018 concussion. But if you or someone is going through LHC, it's essential to be alert for depression or similar—seek support. But IMO it is extremely risky to use drugs (prescription or otherwise), which could well damage an already damaged brain and nervous system that is trying to repair and rewire itself.

The cognitive effects doctors discuss are very real and deeply disturbing—I would rate them as worse than my concussion because a concussion at least steadily heals and affects only parts of the brain.

Symptoms

  • Overall lack of energy, easily fatigued.
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating.
  • Light headaches, feeling of pressure in head.
  • Sometimes, joint aches or stiffness and other feelings of something rheumatic.
  • Numbness in two small finger sfrom even half-bending arm while sleep (both arms), clearly a nervous system issue in Ulnar nerves. Odd feeling in hands and feet at times.
  • Mandatory minimum of 10 hours of sleep a day, trending to 12 hours per day. Yet rarely being rested in the morning.
  • Frequent overwhelming need for a nap by mid-afternoon.
  • Asides from a positive thyroid peroxidase antibody test (but normal thyroid hormone levels) and mildly high bilirubin, no other clinical symptoms on blood work.

* Hard training in spring in previous years was riding 50 miles a day, every day, and getting stronger and stronger while dropping 10 pounds of body fat,

Working hypothesis

My working theory is that Long Haul COVID is primarily a neurological and brain problem, with myriad manifestations all stemming from damage to the brain and vagus nerves.

That’s not to say that physical damage cannot/does not happen, but it is crystal clear that in my case my physical body is as strong as ever, good endurance on the rare good days, etc. Only a brain/neurologial problem can explain the same body performing vastly differently overnight,

Doctors as a group pretty slow on the uptake on such things, but some seem to be finally catching on to that idea. But brain/neurological treatments are notoriously crude to non-existent. Heck, most doctors still prescribe chemicals for depression and similar without knowing a damn thing about nutrition or excitotoxins or anything about the role of magnesium deficiency with all sorts of mental and physical illnesses. Not much hope from that crowd.

Doctors won’t heal you—only your body can

Prognosis? No one knows.

If you expect a doctor to heal you, prepare to suffer. YOU are the only person who has any hope of healing yourself. Your body is going to heal itself as well as it can, which means you have to give it every chance to do so. No drug is going to fix this and only a fool could think otherwise.

  • Eat a nutrient dense diet free of all artificial ingredients. Supplement key nutrients that are hard to get from food, such as magnesium, some B vitamins, Vitamin K2.
  • No prepared meals, no canned soups, no aspartame, no MSG, nothing that might possibly have excitotoxins or inflammatory issues (e.g. added sugar).
  • Aside from nutrition, sleep should be your #1 priority.
  • Daily sunlight for its healing properties and Vitamin D.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Avoid prescription drugs unless absolutely persuasive needed.

I challenge any MD to give better advice than that above. Though I cannot rule out emerging treatments that involve brain and nervous-system stimulation, such as PONS.

Diatribe, a realistic one, on most doctors

Standard doctors have nothing to offer for things like this in their paint-by-numbers medicine, at least the ones I’ve seen. My annual physical was a total waste of time and money. The lack of any insight with both of my regular doctors (one an internist, family medicine) is especially disappointing and dare I say it... pathetic.

Specialists have even more siloed knowledge, where you play an expensive game of musical chairs shuttling between them. And I have yet to meet a doctor qualified to discuss nutrition, let alone suggest or even acknowledge that health can only exist with a robust foundation of nutrition.

Yeah, doctors are terrific for some things (like removing my cracked/infected molar tomorrow), but for improving total health—the profession is a dismal failure.

 


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