What you Need to Know Now about Long COVID and Naturopathic Medicine’s Approach to Getting Well

Long COVID, How Naturopathic Medicine Can HelpLong COVID is very real and it is fast becoming a part of the future of health care in the United States and the world. A new study from UCLA showed that 30% of people treated for COVID-19 at the university hospital developed Long COVID (Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC)). Naturopathic medicine for Long COVID may be the solution you are looking for if you are suffering from the lingering and difficult symptoms of this post viral condition.

Though the study found that people with a history of hospitalization, diabetes, and higher body mass index were most likely to develop the condition, surprisingly, ethnicity, older age, and income were not associated with the syndrome. This study supports others that INM has reported on with much higher incidences (50% to 80%) of Long COVID. More importantly, as many hospitals around the country report that they are not equipped to address Long COVID, naturopathic medicine has a successful track record with treating complex conditions that involve multiple conditions and overlapping syndromes. Expect to see more research on Long COVID and naturopathic medicine in the coming year.

The UCLA research showed that of the 309 people with long COVID (from 1,038 people) who participated in the study, the most persistent symptoms were fatigue and shortness of breath (31% and 15%, respectively) in hospitalized persons, and a loss of sense of smell (16%) in outpatients. As INM reported earlier, loss of taste and smell is a common symptom caused by damage to proteins on the surfaces of nerve cells in the nose (olfactory receptors).

“This study illustrates the need to follow diverse patient populations longitudinally to understand the Long COVID disease trajectory and evaluate how individual factors such as pre-existing co-morbidities, sociodemographic factors, vaccination status and virus variant type affect type and persistence of Long COVID symptoms,” said Dr Sun Yoo, health sciences assistant clinical professor at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and medical director of the Extensivist Program.

The Institute for Natural Medicine has been following the progress on the treatment of Long COVID from our naturopathic doctors. Our experts report that naturopathic medicine is ideally suited to help address the complexity of Long COVID and the various concurrent conditions that follow the viral infection.

Heart disease is one particular outcome that need particular attention. In a recent podcast for Natural Medicine Journal, Daniel Chong, ND, a licensed naturopathic physician who has been practicing in Portland, OR, he suggests that people with a history of COVID-19 infection see their physician about heart damage. In the podcast, he says that the severity of the infection is not related to the level of heart damage and that white males are particularly at risk for heart problems. He says the first step is to “raise awareness” because symptoms may be vague and not in the forefront of patients and doctor’s minds.

He recommends a thorough panel of diagnostic tests to better screen for potential problems for anyone who has had COVID. He also suggests that all COVID survivors work with their naturopathic doctors to establish a heart healthy lifestyle and make crucial changes in diet, stress reduction, sleep and movement (see more below).

Listen to the podcast with Dr. Chong here by clicking on the image.

Long COVID’s lingering symptoms may include:

  1. Fatigue and weakness,
  2. General unwell feeling,
  3. Digestive complaints,
  4. Skin issues and hair loss,
  5. Cognitive impairment (brain fog),
  6. Headaches,
  7. Sore throat,
  8. Damage to organ systems (heart, lung, kidney, skin),
  9. Post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) characterized by ongoing extreme fatigue, physical symptoms due to side effects of treatment, and trauma from hospitalization (similar to post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD).

Licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) report positive results through naturopathic medicine, particularly from patients who have been suffering but had not found relief and had run out of treatment options. It’s important to understand that no two patients are alike in how COVID infection will affect them. This is why whole-person, individualized care from naturopathic medicine is ideal for the complexity of Long COVID.

As Michelle Simon, PhD, ND, CEO and President of INM wrote in a column to other NDs, “Our ability to understand the immune system’s interconnectedness and complex processes, give us a unique perspective that could make a significant difference in a patient’s life and long-term ability to function without the debilitating symptoms of brain fog, pain and fatigue.”

What Can You Expect for Treatment of Long COVID from a naturopathic doctor?

What might treatment for Long COVID look like if you contacted a naturopathic doctor? It’s probably nothing like you’ve ever experienced.

  1. The ND would assess your diet and help you find an anti-inflammatory diet just for you. The doctor would correct nutritional deficiencies, remove food allergens or sensitivities and may suggest dietary supplements or botanicals.
  2. Having a balanced microbiome is another important aspect of achieving wellness from Long COVID. Achieving a diverse and active microbiome includes eating fermented foods and drinks, and perhaps taking supplemental probiotics.  
  3. Ensuring the basics of adequate hydration, adequate and restful sleep and tolerable exercise are a key aspect of physical, emotional and cognitive health. Returning to exercise may be require small steps as some post-COVID patients have respiratory weakness, cardiac symptoms or musculoskeletal limitations. Physical, respiratory or cardiac therapy may be needed.
  4. Restoring mental health is a part of naturopathic measures for the treatment of anxiety and depression.  This may include body-mind methods like mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, positive imagery, and gratitude practices,
  5. Brain fog and cognitive decline are common post-infection symptoms. Naturopathic medicine addresses both of these issues.  
  6. Adding hands-on therapies like acupuncture, physical manipulation, massage, cranio-sacral work may improve circulation.
  7. You may still need medications when all other options have been exhausted. Though not a first-line tool, most NDs are able to prescribe many prescription medications; for others, appropriate referral is made.

Above all, remember that COVID-19 and Long COVID are very new to the medical community. Physicians advise that patients talk to your primary care doctor about post-COVID infections and tell them how you are feeling. No symptom is too minor. COVID will be a part of our lives forever, so this topic needs to be a part of everyday health care so don’t be embarrassed about bringing it up.

For more on Long COVID and naturopathic medicine, see this article and case study: What is Long-Haul COVID? How Naturopathic Medicine Can Help Relieve the Suffering.

This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following  initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

Source: Sun M. Yoo, Teresa C. Liu, Yash Motwani, Myung S. Sim, Nisha Viswanathan, Nathan Samras, Felicia Hsu, Neil S. Wenger. Factors Associated with Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC) After Diagnosis of Symptomatic COVID-19 in the Inpatient and Outpatient Setting in a Diverse Cohort. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.1007/s11606-022-07523-3

Stewart is an award-winning editor, food and health journalist and best-selling author of Eating Between the Lines, the supermarket shopper's guide to the truth behind food labels (St. Martin's Press).


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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

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Michelle Simon

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.