COVID19 Long Haulers

I recently posted a link to a study showing over 200 symptoms associated with COVID19 long haulers.  These symptoms affect every system of the body.   COVID19 19 Long haulers may experience:

Brain fog                                 Sleep problems

Fatigue                                    Persistent fevers

Shortness of breath               Cough

Palpitation                              Loss of smell and taste

Joint/muscle pains                 Neurological Symptoms

Obviously not a complete list, but you can see the multiple systems involved.

How does this happen? To figure that out we need to walk through some terminology and concepts that may seem a little odd.

Latent Pathogens and Biofilms

In Chinese medicine, conditions like Long Haul COVID19 are labeled as Latent Pathogens.   

A Pathogen is something that makes you ill- (bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold etc)..

Latent means lying in wait.

A latent pathogen is literally lying in wait for its chance to come out again.

These latent pathogens will often wrap themselves in up in little balls of snot called Biofilms to evade and prevent detection from our immune system. They are sneaky little bastards.

When we get weak- stress, poor sleep, diet etc.. these viruses come back out to play and wreak havoc again.  (think recurring sinus infections or herpes outbreaks, Lyme).

Although COVID1919 is a new pathogen, the concept of treating latent pathogens in Chinese Medicine has been around for centuries.

In order to treat this, we have to first identify what Covid 19 is in Chinese Medicine.


COVID19 As a Damp Plague

In the view of Chinese Medicine COVID19-19 as a Damp Plague.  What the heck does that mean? Glad you asked.   It’s time for an overly simplified lesson in Chinese Medical theory- here goes.

Damp diseases tend to be chronic, and difficult to treat and dampness tends to combine with other pathogens.  Think of Dampness as mucous.  We need mucous to survive and maintain health.  Too much or too little mucous is a bad thing. As with most processes in the body, balance is key- homeostasis.

Think about the mucous that lines your nose.  The right amount protects you.  A sinus infection feels like someone is drilling a hole from inside your skull and trying to get out.  That’s Dampness- too much mucous not moving and not functioning properly. Now imagine this on a grand scale throughout your body. That’s whats happening with Covid-19.

COVID19  and Multi-System Problems

How was COVID1919 able to create so many problems for patients?

We can break this down to problems with Fluid movement and the distribution of QI (chee) in the body.  Before you think I’ve lost it- QI is not an imaginary life force. Everything you’ve heard about qi is wrong.  Moving on.

Qi means gas- as in Gasotransmitters, which are powerful signaling molecules in the form of gases.  One of the main Gasotransmitters is Nitric Oxide, which plays a key role in fluid movement in the body.  It also plays a role in Cardiovascular Diseases, Endocrine disorders, Strokes, Migraines, Neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation and infection.

If you’re really curious about Gasotransmitters and Nitric Oxide in particular: Nitric Oxide

From the viewpoint of Chinese medicine, damp pathogens cause problems via several mechanisms:

  1. Damp Pathogen enters the body- triggers an immune response
  2. Causes dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad bacteria)
  3. Dysbiosis causes water and dampness to accumulate in the wrong places and amounts
  4. Circulation of gasotransmitters (qi) is slowed, low grade systemic inflammation occurs
  5. Systemic circulation problems occur

(thanks to Tim Nicosia of Comal Springs Acupuncture for the breakdown)

It makes sense how COVID19 is causing widespread damage in the body.  In the above scenario we’ve got issues in the Respiratory, GI and Urogenital systems.  The pathogen enters through the Respiratory system, causes GI dysbiosis and the overwhelming damp and water accumulation results in problems in the urogenital microbiome.

I’m not sure if what I am going to say is a metaphor, anaology or a simile.  Damn you grade school English!!

Think of your body like* a body of water.  If the water flows freely, it can support a healthy ecosystem- fish, plants etc can live and thrive.  Now throw a damn up.  Stop the movement of water.  Add some pollution.  Algea starts to develop.  Light can’t penetrate the water and so on. You get the idea. The water becomes unlivable.

How can Chinese Medicine help?

During our initial examination we are looking to identify problems in your microbiomes- the 3 main ones we look at are Respiratory, GI and Urogenital. We are looking for indications of dysbiosis and problems with fluid distribution in the body. We ask targeted questions to get answers about this. We also look at pictures of your tongue to identify the presence of biofilms and where they may be causing problems.


We take at least a 3 prong approach to treatment:

  1. Acupuncture
  • Acupuncture helps regulate Nitric Oxide signaling. Most acupuncture points have higher levels of nitric oxide than surrounding areas that aren’t acupuncture points.
  • Acupuncture lowers the stress response
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces inflammation
  1. Herbs
  • We use herbal medicines that are anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
  • Use formulas that break down biofilms (By breaking down the biofilms, our immune system can start to attack and deal with these latent pathogens).
  • We also use approaches to open up the water pathways and drain the dampness. This happens through the sweat, the pee and the poo.

In essence we are working backwards and reversing the process of the water pathways getting blocked.  We wouldn’t treat the algea but keep the damn in place right?  Same here- we remove the damn to open up the water pathways, and drain out the dampness and water accumulation.

  1. Gasotransmitter Therapy

Specific breathing exercises help promote the movement of Gasotransmitters in the body.  Exercises are prescribed based on where a patient is in the process and what areas they need help with.

By taking this approach, we are allowing the systems to come back on line and regain their normal functions.

This approach is not limited to COVID19 Long Haulers. We take similar approaches to work with many chronic diseases including Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, Epstein Barr, Auto-immune conditions and more.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a chronic health condition, please share this article.  You can contact us at 781-944-3000, email [email protected] or fill out the contact form on our page.

This article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any medical conditions.  If you are concerned about your health, please contact a medical provider. 

Mark Whalen is a licensed acupuncturist, a board certified herbalist His office, Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness LLC is located at 20 Pondmeadow Drive Suite 107 Reading, MA.  He can be reached at 781-944-3000 or via email @[email protected].