Long Covid healing crash

I have a friend with Long Covid. Eight months now.

My friend describes blood sugar crashes. She does not have diabetes and was tested before Covid. She has not been tested again.

“Sometimes I eat dinner, feel better, and then an hour later I feel terrible again. I have to eat again. And I ate extra in November and all that happened is I gained ten pounds. So eating extra doesn’t work.”

I suspect that as the clue: the feeling terrible an hour after she eats.

I call her the next day: “Spread the carbohydrates out. It could be that your body is producing too much insulin, storing the glucose and carbohydrates, and then your blood sugar gets too low. That can happen early in type 2 diabetes, but this could also be a healing mode.”

I write about carbohydrates to her. Anything that is not a fat or a protein is a carbohydrate. So all the grains and all the vegetables and fruits have carbohydrates, sugars. Glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose. Milk products contain lactose, but also fat and protein. Avocados are weird fruit and mostly fat. Sugar beets and peas are high sugar vegetables. A small apple is 15 grams of carbohydrate and a large one is 30. A tablespoon of sugar is also 15 grams of carbohydrate. A coke had 32 grams and a Starbuck’s mocha has over 60 grams. I quit drinking them when I looked that up. Empty calories.

A cup of kale has only 7 grams of carbohydrate for our bodies. The rest is fiber that we can’t break down into sugars. Fiber doesn’t raise our blood sugar. I wonder about cows with their four stomachs: they can break grass down into food and we can’t.

At any rate, my friend is going to try 3-4 meals a day with only 30-45 grams of carbohydrate and three snacks, at 15-30. This is an athlete and young. Most of my patients were closer to 70, so would need to do the lower end of those numbers.

I had crashes after my second and third pneumonias in 2012 and 2014. Strep A pneumonia and strep throat of the muscles. It hurt, like all over Strep A. After the 2014 one, it was six months before I could go back to work. When I did, it was exhausting. I was only seeing 3-5 patients a day at first and could barely do that. I ate one meal a day because food crashed me. As soon as I ate I went to sleep. My MD did not believe me. I saw a naturopath too. She claimed it was a food allergy and I said, “I don’t think so. I think it is a healing crash. I think my body is doing a ton of repair work and wants me asleep and not moving much.” Over the next six months it slowly improved. I went to 2 meals a day. Since then I really do not eat until I have been up for 4-6 hours. Expect tea with milk. And yes, I am getting a little nutrition through the milk, fat and protein and lactose.

I had one patient who said eating made her faint. I didn’t know what to do, but she was in the ICU, ate lunch and then fainted into her tray. The nurse was standing right there and immediately did a blood sugar and called me. Her blood sugar was in the low normal range. We transferred her to Virginia Mason in Seattle. She came back with a diagnosis that seemed pretty much like hand waving. Idiopathic (meaning the doctors dunno why) central (ok, brain) something syndrome, which meant yeah, she faints after she eats and doesn’t have diabetes and that is weird.

I am reading about similar neurological symptoms with Long Covid and also POTS: postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. This translates to heart rate goes faster than it should when the person stands up. Again, the cause is not clear and it’s not clear how to fix it.

Once an older patient went to the neurologist to discuss getting dizzy when she stood up. She returned grumpy. “He said that I just have to stand up slowly because I am 80. I don’t feel like I’m 80. I want to hop out of bed like I always have. But if I do, I nearly faint.” Her body was taking longer to equilibrate blood pressure after she stood up. The neurologist said no medicine: stand up slower. She grumpily complied.

I told my friend that maybe the pancrease is stressed and producing too much insulin. To store food. But another possibility is that her body wants her to lie down and rest so that it can do healing work after eating. This would make any young person impatient, but sometimes we have to listen to our bodies. I have learned THAT the hard way.

Blessings.

__________________

The photograph is of a Barbie ambulance/clinic. It does have a gurney, but the back opens up to be a fairly well appointed clinic, with lots of details, including a television in the waiting room. Today the doctor has wings. Fairy? Angel? We are not really sure.

Long Covid fatigue and overdoing

I’ve been reading journal articles about Long Covid. The three primary symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath and brain symptoms. Mostly brain fog. Then there is a long long list of other symptoms.

For the fatigue, the journals are recommended graded increase in activity “without triggering a fatigue crash”.

Now, that is all well and good, except it’s a moving target. The amount of activity one can do is NOT static.

I have something that caused CFS-ME. My fast twitch muscles came back on line sometime between Christmas and New Years. GREAT! Then I was helping a sick friend until January ninth. I flew home and then there is all the unpacking and bills and catching up and sweeping up catfur dust elephants. Finally I got to exercise. I walked a couple miles on the beach one day and then around town with a friend the next.

Which crashed me. The third day I spent lying on the couch. My muscles basically were ALL hurting and saying, “We hate you.”

The fast twitch are back on line but they are weak as newborn kittens. For the first two days I felt strong and normal. The third day I felt like a steamroller had gone over me.

So did I do the wrong thing? Well, no. I won’t know what I can and can’t do it unless I do it, right? After four rounds (or more) of pneumonia with muscle weirdness, I can tell when it’s improving. Then I have to rebuild the working muscles. Also my slow twitch posture muscles are frankly pissed off and have been doing all the work and are not very interested in working with the fast twitch when they first come on line. “Where have YOU been? We’ve been doing YOUR work AND OURS.” I have to learn to walk again.

I was doing well with pulmonary rehab in the fall, building up on the treadmill twice a week, until I got my flu shot and then my Covid booster. Well, they are supposed to raise antibodies. Unfortunately they raised the ones that make my fast twitch muscles not work. Muscle blocker antibodies. I am just glad that my slow twitch work, because I sympathize hugely with the people who end up lying in bed. It’s still inconvenient, difficult to explain and annoying.

At any rate, gentle graded increase in activity is all very well as advice. But do you control everything that happens in your life? I don’t. Someone gets sick, the mail goes awry, a billing company changed their address and I didn’t get the memo. It all takes energy. Some days I am going to overdo, especially when I feel better. And it rather sucks to lie around the next day, but it is ok.

Over the last week I had a friend up from Portland. We walked three days running. On the third day we walked paths from my house to the lighthouse and back. About 5-6 miles. I was not quite limping when I got home, but I knew I could rest the next day. My muscles got HUNGRY and are continuing to improve.

So when your doctor tells you “graded activity to avoid fatigue crashes”, remember that it is not wholly controllable because life is not wholly controllable. Some days you will do great and others, well, hmmm. That was too much.

Blessings.

https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2022/1100/long-covid.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html