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1 in 5 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 will experience symptoms more than five weeks after diagnosis. 1 in 10 will experience symptoms for more than twelve weeks (3 months) after diagnosis.      [Ref: UK’s Office for National Statistics] In March 2021, a US National Institutes of Health review reported that of those patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, 50-89% continued to suffer from ongoing symptoms after TWO months.

If you have had COVID-19 but still continue to suffer from its effects well past the typical recovery period, then you are likely suffering from the condition known as “Long COVID”. Long COVID is not a viral infection; instead, it is a cluster of symptoms associated with the body’s response to the aftermath and associated damage from the initial viral infection. 

It is important to understand that whether your infection is bacteria or viral, it is not always the primary infection that causes the most significant problem; instead, it is often the secondary damage to cells and tissues that the infection causes, which takes time to recover from. 

An example of this effect can be found with those who suffer from a Strep throat infection; these bacterial infections are generally painful but short-term of the throat and fairly common in children and adults; however, in a few children, a Strep throat infection can lead to a life-threatening condition called Rheumatic fever. 

Rheumatic fever is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by a bacterial infection and causes damage to the tissue of the heart. It can take children years or even decades to recover from the damage bought on by the original Strep infection. 

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Long COVID?

Long COVID does not appear to cause life-threatening consequences like rheumatic fever. However, it is a major issue for many of those who have contracted the viral infection. 

Experts suggest that there are more than 200 known symptoms of Long COVID. 

THREE most commonly reported symptoms include: 

  1. Shortness of breath and coughing upon mild or moderate exertion cognitive dysfunction or brain fog and headaches.
  2. Chronic fatigue and lethargy (extreme tiredness)

Some patients have also reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Others report muscle aches, fever, loss of taste or loss of smell as well as chest pain, tightness, or heart palpitations. 

Other Commonly Reported Symptoms Of Long COVID Include:

  1. Joint pain
  2. Muscle weakness, aches, and pains
  3. Sleep disturbances and insomnia
  4. Hallucinations
  5. Changes to taste and smell
  6. Hearing and vision changes
  7. Short-term memory loss
  8. Speech and language issues, including trouble speaking

How Long Does Long COVID Last? 

Patients are reporting that symptoms last for weeks, and often as many as several months. THREE to SIX months are commonly cited for a period of extended duration. However, our understanding of exactly how long that “Long COVID” will last, is still not completely clear. 

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Being just 18 months into this global pandemic, health authorities and researchers have yet to undertake the additional studies required to follow those patients that develop long COVID to see just when their symptoms finally resolve.

What we do know from the studies completed so far by those suffering from long COVID is that their symptoms can often change in frequency and intensity, starting today. Many also report having a period of being symptom-free before relapsing. 

These relapses can occur in an irregular pattern or otherwise as a direct and rapid response to a specific trigger event such as; 

  • stress,
  • menstruation,
  • physical or mental activity,
  • heat, or
  • alcohol consumption

Who Is Most Likely To Get Long COVID? 

Anyone can get it; young or old, mild, moderate, or severe cases are all candidates for the syndrome called Long COVID. However, those with either underlying health conditions or those with a particularly severe case seem to be most susceptible to long COVID. 

Researchers believe that symptoms of Long COVID are generally consistent with a massive inflammatory response to the original viral infection (sometimes called the Inflammatory Cascade or the Cytokine Storm). 

Therefore, those individuals with existing autoimmune diseases or other underlying condition that is caused by, or result in, a low to moderate grade systemic inflammation are particularly susceptible to long COVID. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Other Factors That May Increase The Risk Of Suffering From Long COVID Include: 

  • being over 60 years of age;
  • a higher body mass index than 30;


  • being female (It is twice as common in women);
  • suffering from five or more symptoms during the first week of illness.

More research is planned, which includes whether those who had been previously vaccinated and then suffer from a breakthrough infection of COVID-19, are less likely to suffer the symptoms of Long COVID. 

How Do You Manage Long COVID? 


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Firstly, you must work closely with your primary care doctor. They will first ensure that your symptoms are not associated with a more significant underlying condition. Assuming that your physician has excluded a more serious ongoing complication or underlying condition, then treatment is largely about managing and treating the symptoms until all the symptoms finally resolve. [Ref: BMJ 2020]

Another promising approach to the management of the symptoms of Long COVID is through our diet. Ongoing research has increased our understanding of how our diet can affect the body’s inflammatory process in both a good and bad way. We are now learning that certain dietary patterns and specific foods can actually diminish the levels of chronic inflammation within the body and improve our overall health.

We have known for a number of years that some foods promote inflammation within the body while other foods suppress inflammation. Only recently have we been able to demonstrate the potential disease-causing effects that pro-inflammatory foods have when all other factors are accounted for. 

For example, in the combined studies of Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which involved 200,000 subjects, over 32 years, the pro-inflammatory foods alone, increased the risk of heart disease by 39% when other possible factors were accounted for. 

Given what we now know about pro-inflammatory foods, it would make perfect sense to limit or totally avoid these types of foods when managing the recovery of an inflammatory-based condition such as Long COVID.

Pro-Inflammatory and Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Similar studies into pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods have shown that certain dietary patterns focusing on anti-inflammatory foods are closely associated with lower overall inflammation within the body. These patterns have also shown that there is a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Examples of better-known anti-inflammatory foods include those found in the Mediterranean diet. The diet promotes anti-inflammatory foods and limits pro-inflammatory foods, such as refined carbohydrates and red meat.

Another approach that enables someone to integrate anti-inflammatory foods into the diet without shifting to a new protocol like the Mediterranean diet would be to add 2-3 servings of either super red or super green powders into the diet. 

These powders, which are produced as “plant concentrates”, come from a variety of important green or red fruits and vegetables. They tend to be very low in calories and high in anti-inflammatory superfood plant concentrates. There are several options available. Research what you buy and aim for products that contain a clinically proven blend of plant concentrates called UAF1000+ that are capable of suppressing the inflammatory response. (100% suppression of IL-1B in cell-based assays). 

Photo by Michelle Leman from Pexels


Dos and don’ts

Regardless of the plant concentration that you opt for, regular consumption of high-quality plant concentrate powders, either mixed into a juice or added to smoothies, will soon help to reset the immune system and modulate the inflammatory response once again. 

During this time we strongly recommend the avoidance of added sugars of any kind. You should limit the serving of very sweet fruits such as apples, oranges, and bananas, instead, choose berry fruit. Avoid all simple sugars and limit the consumption of flour-based foods such as bread and pasta. Avoid high omega-6 based oils, which include all seed-based oils. Consider nut-based oils (including coconut oil) instead; or use our all-time favorite, which is virgin olive oil.

Also, try to increase the uptake of omega-3 oil in your diet. This can be done either from wild-caught deep-sea fish or, if that is not practical, through high-quality supplements. 

In closing

Over time, you should modulate the inflammatory response through diet and other positive lifestyle choices. These include improved sleep hygiene, such as optimal 7-8 hours per night, and increased physical activity. These approaches should be introduced gradually and with the advice of your primary care doctor. 


Ref: BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 11 August 2020)

Grant Washington

Grant Washington

Grant Washington-Smith is a nutritional physiologist with a BSc (Hons) in human physiology and postgraduate study in nutrition. Grant started writing as a regular columnist for US magazine, Nutraceuticals World. A former Ironman triathlete, Grant has had over 20 years of experience in product formulation, science communications and sports nutrition.


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