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MDs: Anxiety Is a Key Symptom of Long COVID — The Natural Remedy That Helps 84% of People Feel Better

Plus, the strategies that helped one woman overcome long COVID

By now we’re all too familiar with the fever, coughing and difficulty breathing that signal infection with COVID 19. After all, CDC data indicates nearly 80% of Americans have had COVID. And while making it through a COVID episode should be cause for celebration, up to 84% of people still suffer from fatigue and other symptoms afterward — a condition known as long COVID. What’s more, long COVID anxiety is also common. The good news is that it’s possible to overcome these draining symptoms. Read on for expert advice on the topic, and keep scrolling to see how Alisa Boiling, 61, conquered long COVID.    

What is long COVID?

The CDC defines long COVID as signs, symptoms and conditions that develop or persist after an acute COVID infection and last for four weeks or more. But in a Stanford University study, 73% of patients reported at least one COVID-related symptom that lingered for 6 months or longer. Plus, researchers reporting in The Lancet Regional Health determined that 84% of long COVID sufferers experienced draining symptoms two years after recovering from their initial COVID infection. And in an advisory issued by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, anxiety proved to be more common in long COVID sufferers than either brain fog or fatigue. 

What causes long COVID anxiety?

Separate findings from Stanford University suggest that imbalances in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) are a major reason anxiety and other long COVID symptoms can drag on and on. “The ANS is made up of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, which are supposed to work with each other to regulate body processes such as heart rate, respiration and brain function, “ explains Norman Gaylis, MD, who treats long COVID patients at Arthritis & Rheumatic Disease Specialties in Aventura, FL. “But persistent inflammation produced by COVID can cause an imbalance between the two systems that triggers fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety and other symptoms that can be debilitating.” Indeed, the Stanford study identified ANS dysfunction in 66% of long-COVID patients. And as a result, they experienced significant reductions in both physical and emotional health.   

Related: Top Doc: Secret to a Happier Mood + Better Sleep Is a Regulated Nervous System

Hot to know if long COVID is to blame for your anxiety

While there’s no single test to diagnose long COVID, doctors do so based on physical exams and telltale symptoms that linger for three months or more after COVID infection. So if you suffer from the following, long COVID could be to blame:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Changes in smell or taste

4 natural strategies to help speed recovery

Just as there’s no specific test for long COVID, there’s no specific treatment. And while doctors may prescribe medications for specific symptoms, the following can also help ease anxiety, beat brain fog, restore energy and more.

1. Indulge in stress-easing ‘me time’ daily 

Findings in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research suggest practicing techniques such as meditation and deep breathing for 30 minutes daily can reset the ANS in as little as five weeks. Plus, results of a BMJ study reveal that prayer also has ANS-balancing effects. Dr Gaylis advises engaging in any activities you find personally relaxing, such as reading, listening to music or enjoying a hobby, each day.

2. Consider supplements

In a study conducted by Dr. Gaylis and colleagues, ANS-balancing supplements significantly eased long COVID symptoms within four weeks. In the study, up to 84% of people who took supplements containing a blend of beta-caryophyllene (a compound isolated from black pepper), pregnolone (a natural steroid), the herb St. John’s Wort and other ingredients designed to restore ANS balance and tame inflammation experienced significant improvements in symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and joint pain. The study-backed supplement to try: RESTORE (buy at Nviromune, $67.09 for 120 capsules).

Note: St. John’s Wort can interact with some antidepressants, so check with your doctor if you’re taking medications for anxiety, depression or other mood disorders.

3. Fill up on friendly fats

It’s possible to alleviate COVID-induced memory blips and fuzzy thinking, says Leo Galland, MD. He explains that fatty acids known as omega-3s boost a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which spurs the growth of neurons the virus depletes. That’s why he urges filling up on food sources such as fish, leafy greens, walnuts and chia seeds. Or try a 3,000 mg. omega-3 supplement containing EPA and DHA daily. A study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found supplementing with the omega 3 fatty acids spurred significant anxiety reductions within 12 weeks. (Click through to learn how omega 3, 6 and 9s can help with weight loss.)

4. Increase your magnesium intake

Correcting shortfalls in the mineral magnesium can ease stress and anxiety, note experts reporting in the journal Nutrients. And when a separate study in the same journal tested people with an active COVID-19 infection — then again one month after the infection had cleared — those with lower levels of magnesium proved more than twice as likely to experience long COVID symptoms than their counterparts with higher magnesium levels. The researchers say the mineral boosts the virus-fighting ability of white blood cells. The recommended daily dose: 320 mg. of magnesium daily from a supplement or foods like pumpkin seeds, spinach and beans.

Related: MDs: You’re Likely Not Getting Enough Magnesium If You Feel Anxious, Achy or Tired

Long COVID success story: Alisa Bolling, 61

Alisa Boling, who overcame long covid anxiety
Robin Roslund

Ugh. If only I felt as normal as I look, thought Alisa Bolling as she struggled to make small talk with the grocery store cashier. “Ordinary things like having a conversation or navigating around the neighborhood I’ve lived in for years were suddenly difficult due to living with long COVID,” she recalls.

Alisa was tired all the time

“Immediately after testing positive for COVID in December of 2020, I began experiencing brain fog, abdominal pain, dizziness, numbness, tingling, joint pain and GI symptoms, including bloat and gas. I also felt allergy-like symptoms, including a stuffy nose and breathing issues. My head was so very fuzzy and cloudy. I could barely concentrate, and there were days the fog was so bad, I appeared to have been drinking too much, even though I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol. As a retired registered nurse, I was prone to looking for a cause for any symptom or health issue, so I was constantly trying to find a solution to my symptoms.

“I bounced from doctor to doctor, seeing more than 20, including a concierge doctor service. I had my thyroid checked, got blood tests to check for vitamin deficiencies and discussed the importance of a healthy diet and exercise routine — which I had maintained for years — yet nothing lessened my symptoms. The doctors were dismissive; however, some had compassion but no answers beyond suggesting several supplements or random things in an attempt to find answers.

Doctors told her to ‘be patient’

“Just about every doctor agreed I had long COVID and offered little more than to ‘be patient’ that I might someday feel better. Eventually, I saw a naturopathic doctor who said my cortisol levels were high and told me I needed to try to relax my sympathetic nervous system because my fear and frustration about my health was kicking that into gear. How do I do that? I wondered, as weeks living with my symptoms turned into months, then more than a year. I became scared, frustrated and desperate.

“Feeling helpless to reclaim my health was frightening, and that didn’t help me relax. And people didn’t understand that even though I looked healthy, I felt awful. I stopped socializing or even making small talk with strangers because I couldn’t concentrate on a conversation.

“To prepare for retirement, my husband and I had bought an RV and had planned on traveling once we both retired, but after COVID, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like I had aged 10 years. Something has to change, I told myself one day, fed up with my symptoms controlling my life.

How Alisa got relief from her long COVID symptoms

“I had read that Dr. Norman Gaylis was active in researching long COVID, and I tried getting enrolled in his studies but didn’t qualify. Finally, in June of 2021, I was able to join his study on the Restore supplement.

“That meant taking Restore in the mornings in order for my immune system to return to normal, healthy levels. Doing my own research, I learned the immunity-restoring ingredients in the supplement, like vitamin D, zinc and quercetin, have been found to reduce inflammation in the body and fight free radicals to improve the symptoms of long COVID.

“Dr. Gaylis explained that to get my nervous system under control, I needed to learn to be calm and eliminate my fears in order for my immune system to heal. I tried to control my stress and relied heavily on prayer that I’d find my way out of the fog to heal my body, mind and spirit.

“As a nurse, my standard is: If you have steady improvement, you are doing well, and I was thrilled that within days of first taking Restore, I was feeling better. My brain fog started to slowly clear and my joint pain began to lessen. I continued experiencing almost daily improvements and started thinking that I was finally on the road to recovery. Those improvements let me let go of my fear and frustration, and easing that stress unlocked the last piece of my ability to heal my immune system.

“After a few months I went from feeling like I couldn’t function at all with brain fog to having the concentration and confidence to have real conversations! I was able to continue working on some remaining business items and do computer work, and I was back traveling, working and doing activities in the summer of 2022.

“I still experience symptoms from time to time, but they are less frequent and not as severe. I’m so thankful and I look forward to enjoying our grandchild and all the plans we made for retirement!”


For more COVID information, keep reading:

This Easy Exercise May Lower Your Risk of Long COVID Symptoms, Diabetes, and Depression

Dry Mouth Is Often The First Sign of COVID (& Menopause): Dentists on What to Know

63-Year-Old Woman Finds a Way to Bring Back Taste and Smell a Year After Long COVID

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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