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Coronavirus Disease 2019

Long COVID: What You Don’t Know May Be Hurting You

The deeper science of a hidden challenge we may all be facing.

Key points

  • Roughly a third of people affected with COVID will have a diagnosable new onset medical condition in their post-infection life.
  • Covid can leave a long-term mark even if you don't feel different now.
  • Coronavirus may interact with other underlying infections (latent or active) and could exacerbate medical problems (hidden or tolerable).

I got a call this morning from a friend who was having a crisis and didn’t know what to do. This happens. I am a doctor that specializes in solving strange and difficult problems.

My friend is young and vital and historically “super healthy.” She was calling from Europe, and despite an enviable vacation brimming with fun plans, she couldn’t function. She had a residual cough, weakness, and an inability to exert herself, and her mood and cognition were off. The rest of her story is commonplace now. She had a cold “a month ago that couldn’t have been COVID” because she had the virus the month before.

Andrew Levinson, M.D.
Source: Andrew Levinson, M.D.

The idea that she could have had a second coronavirus infection or that her symptoms could be “long COVID” never occurred to her and it isn’t something that is offered as a possible cause to most patients when they seek care.

But the reality is roughly a third of people affected with COVID will have a diagnosable new onset medical condition in their post-infection life, and, in my clinical experience, another third have been altered by the infection and haven’t sought help or identified that the source of these “changes” may have been from COVID-19.

My work over the last 25 years has been routing out the causes of mysterious symptoms that are too often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and sadly as a result, mistreated. Strangely, it is as if I have been prepared and seasoned to manage long COVID syndrome.

Early in my medical career, I understood that identifying the root cause of systemic issues was fundamental to healing and long-term vitality.

Through solving seriously complex disorders, I gained expertise in various niche areas of medicine (both western and alternative) which are proving to be incredibly useful for COVID-19 survivors: metabolic rebalancing, detoxification, nutritional therapies, and lowering inflammation to name a few. In my years of practice, I learned that problems rarely occur in a vacuum. Rather, problems beget problems.

Coronavirus interacts with other underlying infections (latent or active) and exacerbates medical problems (hidden or tolerable), which is why some of us develop significant symptoms, while others seem to escape unscathed. The result is a dramatically unwell community. Heavy metals, toxic mold, underlying inflammation, and pre-existing low-grade infection are just a few examples of “hidden” conditions–linchpins–that amplify and, in some cases lead to catastrophe.

Much in the same way that Epstein Barr virus and Borrelia infections were triggers for chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic Lyme disease respectively. This post-viral syndrome’s inflammatory after effects have an insidious impact on many body systems and are affecting cellular and organ efficiency. From poor exercise tolerance and brain fog to crippling symptoms that match with long-standing medical diagnoses from every discipline, these changes in end-organ function result in cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hormonal and psychiatric illness at worst or serious changes at best.

And the “changes'' are affecting almost all of us, whether we realize it or not; and it is likely to get worse with each successive infection.

The pandemic has generated a broad mix of justifiable and to many, seemingly meaningless fears of the consequences of infection. Like so many things unless it affects you, it is an invisible specter, a bogeyman. But to those who have had COVID-19 and struggle to recover, realizing in the wake of their infection, weeks to months later, something isn’t as it was—and that things (i.e. their minds, bodies and/or emotions) aren’t working correctly, and moreover, nothing conventional is working to get it back. I hear you and there is hope.

Andrew Levinson, M.D.
Source: Andrew Levinson, M.D.

Here are the key tenets of my approach that can be accomplished without robust medical intervention in a clinical setting like mine.

First, lower inflammation. There are a host of treatments for this but a safe start might be curcumin (think of the yellow Indian spice called turmeric).

Second, boost metabolism and cellular support. The sense of low energy and brain fog is your body’s way of telling you that the fuel lines aren’t working efficiently.

Third, keep your diet healthy. This is more nuanced and covers a lot of ground but for right now, clean up your diet. Ditch the processed and fried foods and non-organics, and try eating low on the food chain.

Lastly, address the presenting symptoms as possible. I believe that good medical care treats the cause while alleviating symptoms and suffering. Working on both those angles speeds healing.

Whether you want to party in Europe, get back to exercising, or just have the energy to show up to work or be a good parent (or all of the above), my goal is to help you get there. And for those of you who think that COVID-19 hasn’t left a mark, I encourage you to dig a little deeper because, based on my experience, unfortunately, the mark is there.


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