Long COVID, a condition characterized by persistent symptoms after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, affects at least 10% of individuals who have had COVID-19. The underlying causes of long COVID are not fully understood, but some researchers believe that an overactive immune system may play a role. The continuous activation of the immune system leads to a high-inflammatory state, which contributes to the prolonged illness experienced by some individuals. While there are currently no widely effective treatments for long COVID, experts suggest that diet may be a key factor in managing its symptoms.
Studies have shown that vaccination and early treatment with antivirals can decrease the likelihood of developing long COVID. However, there is still a need for effective treatments. The existing evidence suggests that dietary interventions may be beneficial in managing long COVID symptoms. A balanced diet with a variety of nutritious foods is likely to help with symptoms. While diet alone cannot cure post-viral conditions like long COVID, it can play a crucial role in symptom management and overall well-being.
Experts recommend lifestyle changes such as getting plenty of rest, engaging in gentle exercise, and following a healthy diet to manage long COVID symptoms. Various diets, including vegetarian, vegan, and anti-inflammatory diets, have been considered as potential treatments. Evidence suggests that anti-inflammatory diets may have the most beneficial effect on long COVID symptoms. These diets, rich in fruits, vegetables, and bioactive compounds, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help reduce the symptoms associated with long COVID.
The Mediterranean diet, known for its health benefits, is also recommended for individuals with long COVID. This diet, rich in monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities that combat diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
To further explore the potential of dietary interventions, researchers from Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California are conducting the first controlled trial of an anti-inflammatory diet for long COVID treatment. The trial involves a low-carbohydrate diet combined with a medical food that raises blood ketone levels. This intervention aims to lower high-glucose fluctuations, reduce inflammation, enhance antioxidant defenses, and improve DNA repair mechanisms. The researchers will assess inflammatory markers, monitor the safety and tolerability of the diet, and evaluate long COVID symptoms in both the intervention and control groups.
While dietary interventions show promise in managing long COVID symptoms, it is important to note that individual management strategies may vary due to the diverse nature of symptoms. Working with a dietitian to develop personalized dietary strategies is highly recommended. In addition to dietary changes, adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep, is crucial for managing long COVID symptoms and reducing the risk of other conditions.