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The Challenge

We work with many people who experience symptoms of Long Covid. New research is now being published almost daily on common factors associated with Long Covid, and hopefully, a deeper understanding will emerge on how to help those individuals who are struggling.

However, it can take years for official regulatory bodies such as NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) here in the U.K to provide standardised recommendations due to the research process. There is also the problem of just how many symptoms are associated with Long Covid, and whether they are true to the pathophysiology of the virus or present because of something else.

A brand new systematic review and meta-analysis published in Nature in August 2021 found that there were over 50 different effects of Long Covid.

You can see their visualisation in the image below:

Lopez-Leon, S., T. Wegman-Ostrosky, C. Perelman, R. Sepulveda, P. A. Rebolledo, A. Cuapio and S. Villapol (2021). "More than 50 long-term effects of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Sci Rep 11(1): 16144.

We wanted to share this meta-analysis with you for a few reasons.

First, this is a useful research paper (access here) because as a meta-analysis and systematic review, it sits at the top of the evidence-based medicine hierarchy.

This form of research sifts through all the research papers published so far, seeks to remove studies that lack high-quality study design, methods, and analysis, and provide us with a more accurate understanding of Long Covid.

Second, it has a large sample size. Nearly 50,000 people were studied in the end (n=47,910). This can help with having confidence in the statistical significance of the data.

Third, the study offers potential insight for the future which healthcare practitioners can use to guide their interventions.

Their summary was as follows:

“The five most common effects were fatigue (58%), headache (44%), attention disorder (27%), hair loss (25%), and dyspnea (24%). The recovery from COVID-19 should be more developed than checking for hospital discharge or testing negative for SARS-CoV-2 or positive for antibodies.”

The Top Five Effects of Long Covid:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Attention Disorder
  • Hair Loss
  • Dyspnea

Now, it is important to note that correlation does not mean causation. With the stress of a worldwide pandemic, it is possible that these issues could be driven or exacerbated by general worry, anxiety, uncertainty, and hyper-vigilance.

Nonetheless, the person experiencing those issues does not care for the pathophysiology of their problem: they just want to fix it. This is where functional medicine can be so powerful.

"Functional medicine is the perfect systems-biology approach for helping those with Long Covid. It addresses root cause imbalances that drive symptoms, rather than chase symptoms alone."

- Justin Buckthorp, MSc

The Opportunity

Functional Medicine seeks to determine how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual. This is so important in Long Covid.

When a health issue like Long Covid is associated with so many symptoms chasing each of these through multiple medications alone can be a recipe for many problems because it fails to address the underlying driver of those symptoms.

Functional medicine looks at the body as an interconnecting web of different physiological systems. 

By working with clients to understand their history, functional medicine can use relevant laboratory diagnostics to understand core imbalances and address priority areas. In our experience of applying functional medicine with clients, this approach is very empowering.

For example, if someone experiences fatigue, there can be multiple drivers that underpin it:

  • Fatigue might be mitochondrial-related, and that person might need specific nutrients to support energy production and oxidative stress at a cellular level.
  • Fatigue might be gut-related, and that person might need support for the gut microbiota and gastrointestinal tract to balance and support the immune system.
  • Fatigue might be driven by ongoing chronic low-grade inflammation, and that person might need support to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine activity and increase immune resilience.

With functional medicine, you can identify a primary domino rather than chase the fifth. You can then track your subjective progress and physiological wellbeing over time with our 360 digital health app.

In our experience, this person-centred, systems-biology approach is powerful. It gives you, the client, much greater clarity, confidence, and a sense of control. All of these elements are vital in themselves to our health.

To find out more about functional medicine, go to the Institute for Functional Medicine website here. There are amazing practitioners all around the world who can help you.

We have delivered functional medicine care for 10 years now at 360 Health & Performance and were one of the first in the U.K to utilise this approach. As part of our work with clients, we also use the award-winning 360 app, which allows you to track and monitor physical and mental wellbeing.

If you have any questions, please get in touch. We’d love to help.

Justin Buckthorp, MSc

Justin Buckthorp is the Founder of 360. He has over 20 years of experience in health and wellness and is passionate about improving people's lives.

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