Symptoms

Can Long COVID affect My Gut? Treatment Options for GI Symptoms

Long Covid, also known as post-acute Covid-19 or prolonged Covid-19, is a term used to describe the ongoing symptoms and health effects that some individuals experience after recovering from an initial Covid-19 infection. While the respiratory system is often the primary focus of Covid-19 treatment and research, long Covid can also have a significant impact on the gastrointestinal (GI) system.

Studies show that the COVID virus particles can be found in the human gastrointestinal system for months after acute infection.

GI symptoms are common in individuals with long Covid (it was one of the last symptoms to resolve for me), with research suggesting that they may occur in up to 60% of cases. These symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, these symptoms may be severe and persistent, leading to significant impairment in daily functioning and quality of life.

The exact mechanisms behind the GI symptoms of long Covid are not yet fully understood. However, it is thought that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, may directly infect and damage the GI tract. The virus is known to bind to certain proteins called ACE2 receptors, which are found on the surface of cells in the GI tract.

In addition to direct viral infection, long Covid can also lead to GI symptoms through indirect mechanisms. The immune response to Covid-19, including inflammation and the production of immune cells and cytokines, may affect the GI tract and contribute to symptoms. Stress, anxiety, and depression, which are common among individuals with long Covid, can also have negative effects on the GI system.

The management of long Covid-related GI symptoms often involves a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. Over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers may be used to manage heartburn and acid reflux. Antidiarrheal medications, such as loperamide, may be used to manage diarrhea, while laxatives may be used to treat constipation. Probiotics and dietary changes, such as increasing fiber intake, may also be recommended.

In this video, Dr Vincent Ho explains the long term effects of Covid-19 on the gut and how to mitigate these effects.

In severe cases, more aggressive treatments may be necessary. For example, individuals with persistent vomiting may require intravenous fluids or medications to control their symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat complications such as bowel obstruction or perforation.

Treatment Options for Long COVID GI Symptoms that Worked for Me

  • Water fasting every two weeks to induce autophagy which heals your internal organs via cellular regeneration
  • Taking H1 and H2 Histamine blockers initially while healing the gut
  • Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus Plantarum
  • AIP Diet – The autoimmune protocol diet reduces systemic inflammation
  • Betaine HCI for low stomach acid
  • Peppermint pills to calm IBS-C symptoms
  • Licorice root to heal GI and antiviral, anti-parasitic, antibacterial properties
  • Slippery elm bark powder in smoothies to heal GI
  • L-glutamine to heal GI
  • Mastic gum to heal stomach lining and what felt like ulcers, though H.Pylori test was negative
  • toxins binder including bentonite clay, activated charcoal and chlorella
  • Beet root supplement to increase nitric oxide and support liver and gallbladder function

It is important to note that the long-term effects of long Covid on the GI system are not yet fully understood. More research is needed to better understand the mechanisms behind these symptoms and to develop effective treatment approaches. In the meantime, it is crucial for individuals with long Covid to seek medical attention for persistent or severe GI symptoms and to follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations for management.

Overall, it is clear that long Covid can have a significant impact on the GI system, leading to a range of symptoms that can be persistent and difficult to manage. While more research is needed to fully understand these effects and develop effective treatments, it is important for individuals with long Covid to seek medical attention for persistent or severe GI symptoms and to follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations for management.

Re-infection After Long Covid | My Experience

Quite possibly my greatest fear in life during the second half of 2022 was the prospect of being re-infected with COVID-19. My previous infection in July of 2022 led to the worst form of illness I have ever experienced with seemingly no bodily system left untouched. You can read about my experience here.

On November 15th 2022, with a knot in my stomach and worsening upper respiratory symptoms, I waited for the results from the rapid test. Of course, it was positive.

This was my third infection in the past 12 months, and after my previous experience with long covid, I was worried that this time it would be even worse. Fortunately, I had learned a lot from my previous experience and was able to take specific steps to help me recover more quickly. By day 3 of my infection following the protocol below, I was out of bed and virtually symptom free. I waited a full month before writing about my experience, as I know Long COVID can take a few weeks to rear its ugly head, but as of mid-December 2022, I am still completely symptom free and very optimistic about future infections during the expected cold, flu and COVID season of the winter months here in the Northern Hemisphere.

In my previous research on both acute and long COVID recovery protocols, I had aggregated a list of the most likely actions, supplements and therapies to try in order to speed my recovery and reduce my risk of experiencing another brutal Long COVID health crisis.

Digital art showing exploding dna double helix.

The 10 Step Protocol I Followed During Re-infection after Long COVID

1. Blazing hot epsom salt bath infused with essential oils for 20 minutes twice a day

Epsom salt is a natural mineral compound (magnesium sulfate) that can help to reduce inflammation and pain in the body. When dissolved in hot water, the magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, allowing the body to access its therapeutic benefits. By taking a hot 20 minute epsom salt bath twice a day for my acute covid infection, I experienced a number of benefits. First, the warm water and the epsom salt helped to soothe my muscle aches and pains, which were particularly severe during the early stages of my infection. I also found that the bath helped to reduce my fever, which was a welcome relief. In addition, the warm water and the relaxing atmosphere of the bath helped to promote a sense of calm and relaxation, which was beneficial for reducing my stress and anxiety levels. Overall, I found that taking a hot epsom salt bath was a simple and effective way to improve my symptoms and support my body’s natural healing processes during my acute covid infection.

2. Followed by a Hot/Cold contrast shower

To take a contrast shower, first turn the water to as hot a temperature as you can handle without burning your skin, and let it run over your body for one minute. Then, quickly switch the water to as cold as your shower will go and let it run over your body for another minute. Repeat this process three times, ending with cold water.

I found that taking a contrast shower was beneficial for my recovery from viral infection. The hot water helped to relax my muscles and promote circulation, while the cold water helped to stimulate my immune system and promote a healthy inflammatory response. The contrast between the hot and cold temperatures also helped to improve my overall sense of well-being and invigorate my body. Taking a contrast shower was an effective way to support my body’s natural healing processes and improve my health and wellbeing during my recovery from this viral infection.

3. Senna and Probiotics to flush stool and toxins and support Gut Health

During my covid infection, I found that using senna was an effective way to flush toxins (hello, spike protein and viral debris!) from my gastrointestinal tract and support the health of my microbiome. I took senna twice a day, to clear my bowels entirely, as research suggests the SARS-COV-2 virus likes to hide out and propagate in organic material in the gut. In fact, this same research has linked covid severity to overall microbiome diversity and health. The gut microbiome is a complex community of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract and play an important role in supporting overall health and wellbeing. A healthy gut microbiome can help to protect against infection and support the body’s immune system, but an imbalanced or unhealthy gut microbiome can make individuals more susceptible to infection and disease. In addition to the senna, I took several strains of probiotics to support this immune function of my gut.

4. Water Fasting for 48 hours with Electrolytes

I had been practicing this 48 hour water fast every two weeks to heal from Long COVID, so I figured the same theory of autophagy and cellular regeneration would hold true for an acute infection. Water fasting can be beneficial when fighting a virus like COVID-19, because it can help to support the body’s natural immune response and allow the body to focus its energy on fighting the infection. When the body is fasting, it shifts into a state of metabolic flexibility, which allows it to burn stored fat for energy instead of relying on glucose from food. This can help to support the body’s immune system and allow it to more effectively fight the virus. Fasting can help to reduce inflammation in the body (hello, dreaded Cytokine Storm), which is a key factor in the severity of many viral infections. Inflammation can damage healthy cells and tissues, making it more difficult for the body to recover from infection. I also made sure to take fasting salts (sodium, potassium and magnesium) while fasting, to prevent electrolyte imbalance in my body.

5. Re-Feeding after Fasting with Bone Broth followed by Low Carb Diet

The approach to re-feeding your body becomes even more important on longer fasts. But, even at 48 hours, I found I needed to slow my roll, and introduce my body to nutrition slowly. I started by drinking a cup of warm bone broth about an hour before eating a light meal of mostly lean protein like chicken along with a few veggies. For the first few days after fasting, I try to keep carb consumption low to reduce blood glucose spikes. When infected with a virus, your fasting blood sugar is already elevated (part of the inflammatory response), so you want to avoid spiking this even higher and causing any additional issues related to high blood sugar.

6. Everything on the FLCCC protocol for early COVID treatment 

During my first COVID infection with the Omicron variant in January of 2022, I had followed most of the items mentioned in the controversial FLCCC Protocol with good results. It was an 18 day illness with no secondary Long COVID symptoms. However, my second infection in July, I had not practiced any of their recommendations, mistakenly trusting in my ‘immunity’ from prior infection. This of course led to my difficult 3.5 month Long COVID experience.

I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this time. With the exception of Hydroxycloriquine, I followed the FLCCC protocol religiously for 7 days. I believe my rapid 3 day recovery was due in part to this decision. You can click through to their website for more details, but this is basically what the protocol looks like. I’ve linked to the specific supplements I used. The controversial Ivermectin, I personally ordered from India, but you can also get doctors to prescribe it locally now that the anti-Ivermectin campaign has died down somewhat.

FIRST LINE THERAPIES
Ivermectin: 0.4 to 0.6 mg/kg – one dose daily for at least 5 days or until symptoms resolve.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ): 200 mg twice a day for 5 to 10 days (I avoided the risk of this anti-malarial drug).
Zinc: 75-100 mg daily.
Mouthwash: Gargle 3 times a day.
Nasal spray with 1% povidone-iodine: 2-3 times a day.
Aspirin: 325 mg daily (unless contraindicated).
Melatonin: 5-10 mg before bedtime (causes drowsiness).
Curcumin (turmeric): 500 mg twice a day.
Kefir and/or Bifidobacterium Probiotics. The linked L. Plantarum strain has been shown to fight the C-19 virus.
Vitamin C: 500-1000 mg twice a day.
Quercetin (or a mixed flavonoid supplement): 250 mg twice a day.
Home pulse oximeter – I just used my trusty Garmin Sports Watch to continuously monitor my Oxygen Saturation levels and track my stress levels and energy levels with their unique “Body Battery” feature.
SECOND LINE THERAPIIES
Nigella sativa (black cumin): If using seeds, take 80 mg/kg once a day (or 400 to 500 mg of encapsulated oil twice a day).
Vitamin D3 with K2: 10,000 IU daily (two 5,000 IU capsules) for two weeks.
B complex vitamins. One of the tests I took during my Long COVID illness showed my B1 at beriberi levels and the other B’s were all low as well. COVID seems to drain these from your body rapidly.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): 600-1200 mg orally twice a day.
Omega-3 fatty acids: 4 g daily.

7. Deep Breathing: Box Breathing and Wim Hof Method

Box breathing is a breath work technique that can help to improve overall respiratory function and increase oxygen flow to the body. To try this yourself, breath in counting to four slowly, hold your breath for four seconds, and then breathe out counting to four as you exhale. Count to four again before breathing in again and repeating the process.

The Wim Hof breathing method is a breathing technique developed by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof. The method involves a specific breathing technique, cold exposure, and meditation. It is claimed to have numerous benefits, including improved mental and physical health, increased energy levels, and improved focus and concentration.

One potential benefit of the Wim Hof breathing method for viral infections like COVID-19, is that it may boost the immune system. The method has been shown to increase the production of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in the body’s immune response to infections. This increased immune response may help the body fight off viral infections more effectively.

It has also been shown to have lasting improvement in lung function. This may be especially beneficial for individuals who are suffering from a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. By improving lung function, the Wim Hof breathing method may help to alleviate symptoms of respiratory infections and make it easier for individuals to breathe.

I practiced both deep breathing methods during my acute COVID infection, and continue to practice them as part of my longer term health protocol. Watch the guided video below to learn this breathing technique from the man who developed it.

Guided Wim Hof Breathing Method
8. Budesonide Nasal Spray

Inhaling this nasal steroid spray a few times a day was part of an earlier version of the FLCCC protocol. I found it quite helpful in reducing upper respiratory inflammation and potentially preventing lung fibrosis. At minimum, it helped me breath easier with the sinus congestion from COVID.

9. Stretching, Meditation and Daily Gratitude Prayers

I found that stretching can help to improve circulation (hello, micro clots), which can help to boost the immune system and speed up the recovery process. When you stretch, you increase blood flow to your muscles, which can help to deliver immune cells and other infection-fighting agents to wherever the roaming spike protein cells decide to go in your body. I also found that stretching (specifically after my hot epsom salt bath and contrast shower) helped to relieve the extreme muscle aches and pains caused by the virus.

I’ve written more in-depth about how transcendental meditation can help cure Long COVID, but I found it helpful to practice this during my acute COVID infection as well.

Prayers of gratitude have been shown to lower stress in the body and improve outcomes in ill patients sick with a variety of pathogens, including viruses like COVID. I found it helpful to make a mental list of all the blessings in my life I am thankful for and thank God for each one individually in combination with the deep breathing. The combination of these two practices helped my body reduce the extreme stress it was under from the viral infection.

When I say my body was stressed, this is what that looked like on my Garmin Watch stress meter.
10. Hot tea throughout the day with all the antiviral herbs: rock rose (cistus incanus), oregano oil, red sage, holy basil, fennel, garlic, peppermint, rosemary, echinacea, elderberry, licorice, astragalus, ginger, dandelion root and leaves

Many herbs have shown promise in extensive clinical studies to help the body fight viral pathogens including COVID-19. I basically took the approach of listing the top 14 herbs with viral fighting capabilities and making hot tea to drink throughout the day from these herbs. I may spend some additional time writing about the specifics of these herbs, but for now, I recommend simply Googling the names of each herb if you’d like to read up on the specifics of how each herb supports the miracle of human body immunity.

Conclusion

Following this 10 step protocol, my first re-infection after Long COVID ended up being a 3 day head cold. I am thankful to have access to the resources mentioned, and for the freedom to research and discover pragmatic and emerging treatment ideas as we all seek healing from this pandemic. Hopefully this article has been helpful to you in your own search for better health.

All the peace, all the joy, all the love!

— Josh

Does Transcendental Meditation Help Long COVID Symptoms?

Over the last 40 years of research and experimentation by western medicine, Transcendental Meditation has proven to be a highly effective and scientifically verified way to prevent and reduce stress and fatigue. Numerous studies by medical organizations around the world have proven the effectiveness of this ancient practice. From dialing down stress and other symptoms in veterans suffering from PTSD to reducing high blood pressure in at-risk groups of people, this form of mindfulness and meditation offers significant potential. Regardless of one’s age, circumstances, religion, culture or profession, TM as a healing practice should be explored in relation to Long COVID. My own experience was quite positive and was one of the few things I tried which gave me almost immediate positive biofeedback of symptom improvement for Long COVID. But first, let’s talk about what is TM?

What Is Transcendental Meditation?

According to the Cleveland Clinic:

“Transcendental Meditation is a type of meditation. You silently repeat a word or phrase in your mind to settle yourself into deep consciousness. Transcendental meditation has been found to have many health benefits, including lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress.”

Cleveland Clinic

During a session of transcendental meditation, your mind and body enter a state of relaxation. This helps balance your neurotransmitter activities and hormones while calming the thoughts in your mind and the physiological stress response of your body. Can you see how this might help with some of the most severe neurological and hormone related symptoms of Long COVID? That was exactly my train of thought as soon as the brain fog caused by Long COVID had lifted enough for me to start Googling potential treatments.

Benefits of Transcendental Meditation for Long COVID Symptoms

In my own experience with transcendental meditation, I found the following benefits and improvements to several of my 50+ Long COVID symptoms:

  • HRV (as measured by my Garmin watch) climbed from around 30 to the mid 50’s
  • resting (racing) heart rate dropped from ~95bpm to ~60bpm
  • blood pressure which was fluctuating dramatically throughout the day stabilized within a normal range
  • my racing thoughts slowed dramatically and stopped overwhelming my consciousness
  • the multiple daily ‘adrenaline dumps’ and borderline panic-attacks all but disappeared
  • the severe tension I had experienced in several muscle groups throughout my body started to relax (massage therapy also helped with this)

To be clear, my background is technology, not health or medicine, so I approached all of this fairly pragmatically. My initial thought was the idea that TM was specific to the Hindu religion and not worth exploring since I don’t practice that religion. In fact, several of my Christian friends expressed concern that at best the practice is questionable and at worst, potentially opening up oneself to evil. However, I had taken on the mindset of ‘trying everything’ to escape from the living hell of Long COVID symptoms. After two sessions, I was convinced of the benefits and would without hesitation recommend it to anyone experiencing Long COVID symptoms. At best, you experience remission of many of your symptoms, and at worst, it doesn’t do anything for you and you continue trying other therapies for Long COVID. There are also no side-effects, unlike most drugs being prescribed to Long COVID sufferers.

The video below was my initial introduction to Transcendental Meditation on my Long COVID recovery journey. With the immediate positive biofeedback I saw just watching this video, I decided to pursue it further and am thankful for the role it played in my healing process.

To learn more about my experience with Long COVID and the diet, protocols, therapies, supplements, substances (yes, I know), specialists, lab tests, and medical imaging that helped me be sure to read my full story of Surviving Long Covid. If you currently suffer from the effects of this parallel pandemic, I pray you also make a full recovery to health!