In March 2020 the scientist of the ME community predicted that Covid-19 would cause ME, a lifelong post-viral fatiguing illness, in a portion of those who recovered from infection. They estimated roughly 5-10%, based on SARS1, would struggle to return to pre-infection energy levels, and that many of these would never recover. It didn’t take long for their predictions to prove accurate.
So now what? You’re one of the unlucky 10%, what can you do to give yourself the best chance of recovery? You’re in the fortunate position of knowing the risks of non-recovery and havingthe opportunity to do something about it. Most of us with ME found out too late, or received bad advice from doctors who didn’t believe us.
We know what helps improve the chances of recovery from post viral fatigue. If everyone followed this advice, almost no-one would end up living a life like mine. So listen up.
IMPORTANF NOTE HERE: I’m not talking here about the people with organ damage from covid, they need specialist care. I am talking about the people who appear to have nothing wrong but are still exhausted and symptomatic well after the infection has cleared. I am also well aware that employers are often total prats who will not accept that this is what is needed. I can’t help with that, sorry, but here’s what you need to (try to) do with or without their support.
1) You need to be patient or you’ll be stuck here forever. Your body has depleted it’s energy savings account so no longer has a buffer it can draw on for extra activity. You need to replenish that account and reinvest your energy through rest. Any day you push past your daily budget is a day you take on energy debt, and energy debt comes with heavy interest.
2) Hydrate. Electrolyte solutions are especially helpful if you get dizzy or your symptoms are worse when standing (but check with your doctor first if you have any issues like high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease etc etc. Or stick to water). You need at least 2-3L of liquid each day above what you get from food. You don’t need to slosh when you walk, but you do need to be drinking constantly. This helps every organ do it’s job and keeps your systems running smoothly while you’re recovering.
3) Eat properly. This means focus on fresh, unprocessed foods low in saturated fat. You remember the food pyramid, right? Focus on things like fruit, veges, beans, lean meats, fish, get lots of fibre (your bowel will need the help).
You can add salt to help with hydration, if you were allowed salt before you got sick (again, check with your doctor about compounding factors, but for most people, adding salt is ok). Avocado is excellent for the importamt electrolyte, potassium, without binding the gut like bananas can.
Low carb is often better because of weirdness in post viral metabolic systems, but don’t stress too much about this.
I find those pouches of soup really good – easy to prepare, easy on my digestive system, bonus water, easy to eat.
Find what works for you. The main thing is quality fuel for your furnace.
4) Now we get to the hard part. Identify the minimum amount of activity you can stand to do in a day.
5) Do half of that. If you’re still tired, half it again keep doing this until you no longer have symptoms.
6) When you’ve found the point where you no longer have symptoms, slowly and gently add activity a little each day.
STOP as soon as you have any symptoms.
Remember that you may not pay for the activity until as much as 48 hours later.
7) When you have found that tipping point, stay below that for at least 4 weeks. At that point, see if you can add a little more each day and recalibrate your tipping point.
8) repeat until back to normal.
This is your best chance to avoid long term illness.
The further below your tipping point you can stay, the faster you will get back to normal. If you ever want to be able to go back to the gym, then stay in bed for a few weeks. Take the hit now for the sake of future you.
9) Relax. It should go without saying, but many people these days really struggle to unwind. It’s very important for your recovery that you actively relax, in a non-physical way. That means no going for a walk, or running or lifting weights to unwind. Even yoga can be a bit of a stretch (LOL, see what I did there?). Read a book, watch a movie, have a bath or massage, do art, meditate, cuddle on the couch with your pets, laugh, whatever makes you feel happy. You need to keep your mood up while you’re resting as depression is the enemy of recovery and depletes the energy you save. It’s a tough balance.
10) If you want to try some gentle exercise, there are a few movements you can do that will help keep your body functioning and slow down any deconditioning. Use with care and always within your energy budget. You can find them here.
Are you a ‘hipster long covid’ sufferer? What advice do you have for the newbies?