Brain fog, unrelenting fatigue and getting out of breath just climbing the stairs are all symptoms that can affect Covid-19 ‘long haulers’. Over a third of people who have had a Covid-19 infection have symptoms that last more than 12 weeks according to the latest government REACT-2 study.

What IS Long Covid?

Whilst it’s perfectly normal to be more tired after a viral infection – when your fatigue isn’t relived by sleep and leaves you feeling dull, drained, and exhausted after even the smallest of tasks, then it’s not just tiredness.

We don’t fully understand the cause of ‘long covid’, but some hypotheses include the continued presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines; neuroinflammation, the virus lying dormant and mitochondrial damage.


Inflammation is arguably public health enemy number 1 and is the root of many chronic diseases. Inflammation is triggered when small proteins called cytokines are released by cells in the body, including the immune system, in response to infection.  Diseases such as Covid-19, in severe cases, can trigger what’s known as a ‘cytokine storm’.

One consequence of this cytokine storm appears to be iron dysregulation (hyperferritinaemia) caused by exhausted dying cells releasing ferritin. These high ferritin levels can cause extra oxidative stress in the body, which can then lead to mitochondrial damage and dysfunction.

The Mitochondrial Connection

Mitochondria are the energy factories for our cells.  They help us to turn the energy we take in from food into energy our cells can use. Unsurprisingly therefore when these ‘energy factories’ become compromised, chronic fatigue can set in.

It would seem to make sense therefore, that interventions to reduce inflammation, repair cellular damage and support mitochondrial function would not only be useful adjuncts to recovery, but generally protective of overall health.

What Can You Do?

There are several nutrients that have been identified to be especially supportive of mitochondrial function (CoQ10, magnesium, B vitamin complex, alpha lipoic acid).  Consider taking a targeted supplement to ensure you’re getting enough of these nutrients, such as Biocare’s Mito Complex.

A diet plentiful in protein sources (fish, lean meat, pulses) and fatty acids (oily fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, olive oil, rapeseed oil and avocados)  will help with cellular repair.  Overall, the role of an antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory diet can’t be overstated.

It’s also a good idea to get your vitamin D levels tested.  Vitamin D helps to dampen down unwanted inflammation and inappropriate immune responses.  It also supports the function of immune cells that fight off viruses like Covid-19.

Genetic variants can mean some people have very low levels of vitamin D, so testing as we go into winter is a great idea.   If you don’t want to bother your GP (!), you can do a private test from an NHS lab for around £30, here:

Eat Good Food – Not Too Much – Mostly Plants…

Antioxidants from food can reduce oxidative stress by neutralising mitochondria damaging reactive oxygen species (free radicals). You can ensure that you are obtaining good levels of antioxidants in the diet by:

  • Making sure that half your plate is filled with veg or salad at lunch and dinner
  • Eating different colours of fruit and vegetables as they contain different phytonutrients and antioxidant properties
  • Use plenty of herbs and spices including turmeric, garlic and ginger.
  • Include polyphenols found in olives, 70%+ dark chocolate (don’t go crazy, 2 or 3 squares) and small quantities of red wine.
  • Aim for 30 different plant foods per week – you can count different nuts, seeds, grains, salad vegetables, fruit etc.  Variety feeds the microbiota in your gut and may help to mitigate inflammation.
  • Consume antioxidant containing teas such as green tea and rooibos.

The future of optimum health lies with a better understanding of the interaction between your genes and your diet. Talk to the DNA Nutritionist to arrange your test and achieve the best version of yourself.

Roz Witney

Author Roz Witney

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