It was exactly 2 months to the day that I first left for the UK, and finally I was home. Home to my love, my warm clothes and comfortable shoes, my bath and my things. The tide felt as though it was finally on the turn.
But was it?
After a few days of being back, having wanted my space, I realised I felt extremely alone. Amit’s work had taken a very different turn since I left and I wasn’t used to him being so busy. Plus I was alone for the first time in two months. Being in London may have been hard but spending time with my tribe regardless felt good. And we had gone through so much together. I was going to need time to adjust.
My system had a lot of detoxing to do.
I spent most of those two weeks on the couch watching all the seasons of Downtown Abbey. I had allowed myself that time, like a two week break. But by the end of those two weeks it was time to get back to work. I had workshops and courses to deliver, and preparation to do.
I was determined to get back to my old routine; exercise and yoga in the morning, my diet, and 10k steps a day. I soon realised though, it wasn’t to be…
On the days when I tried do my usual workout, yoga and a walk, it would take me 3 days to recover. That meant not being able to leave the apartment, sleeping 10-12 hours a day and feeling exhausted from cooking just a small meal. The realisation suddenly hit me, I didn’t have the same energy levels as I had before.
Night times were terrible. It would take me hours to fall asleep. When I did finally nod off, I’d wake up a few hours later hot and sweaty and needing to pee, and then not able to fall asleep again. Some nights I was totalling just 4 or 5 hours sleep.
The poor sleep and zero energy were my lowest point. I was starting to feel terrible. What was happening to me? I wondered…
Here is a list of the symptoms I was experiencing:
- Severe fatigue
- Severe memory loss – like wading through treacle to find information I knew I had. You know, those things you will always know?!
- Brain fog – not being able to join the dots, remember the simplest things, concentrate for more than a few minutes
- Gastrointestinal issues/stomach issues – constant nausea, flatulence, sore belly, extreme heat after going to the bathroom, heartburn,
- A lot of bodily heat, especially at night
- Moving itch in the body
- Erratic and sometimes painful bowel movements
- Muscle spasms – every time I tried to practice yoga I would pull a muscle. Later I would pull muscles just yawning or pulling my trousers up. This felt heavily toxic to me
- Later on, anxiety and nervousness
- Mild depression
- A feeling of being constantly stressed
At this point, I think it might be helpful to let you know a bit about me and my medical history before Covid. I am a yoga and meditation teacher and a qualified Naturopath.
In my twenties I struggled a lot with gut issues. Over the last 10 years, my health and wellbeing had improved considerably and I generally only had symptoms when I was stressed. I developed lower back issues a few years ago, which I was able to contain. I don’t generally get sick and maintain a very active and positive lifestyle.
Here are some of the changes I was able to make myself in those first few weeks after I got home.
- Environmental Toxins
One of the first things I noticed was I was itchy all the time. And the itch was a moving itch. A moving itch in naturopathy is a classical symptom of a toxic liver. Amit had bought Tide washing powder whilst I was away, so I quickly switched to a non-chemical alternative. The itching immediately stopped. (N.B. I would have done this regardless of the washing powder, but the reason I mention Tide is because I had read somewhere once that it’s a hugely toxic brand.)
The second thing I noticed was that every time I cleaned the bath, I felt intoxicated by the fumes of the bleach bath cleaner. Again, I don’t usually use chemical cleaners in the house, but I have done, and have never been so acutely sensitive. Again, but this time taking longer to join the dots (the word sluggish comes to mind) I went to buy non chemicals cleaners and put all the chemical ones away.
I always recommend to everyone to remove all toxins from their environment. Whether it is from cleaning products, make-up and cosmetics, artificial scents, candles etc… all these are toxic and place a heavy burden on the liver.
When we have an infection, the body produces a lot of toxins. The livers job is to break down all these toxins and expel them from the body, either through our bowels, urine from the skin. We need all three of these to be working properly.
2.Epsom Salt Baths
I love a sauna, but of course that’s not possible at the moment
So now I do the next best thing, Epsom salt baths.
There are two very good reasons for doing these right now. Firstly, Epsom salts restore the magnesium in our bodies. Magnesium is needed to regulate stress in our systems and to protect the body against it. So, along with a supplement Epsom salts are a great way to get your levels up.
Secondly, a hot Epsom Salt bath is a great way to get sweating and release some toxins through the skin. They are said to also balance hormone levels in the system. And it’s just an extremely relaxing thing to do. And that’s essential right now!
I was starting to get confused. Were my sleep symptoms premenopausal or Covid related? Did it matter? Fix the cause in any scenario and the symptoms will go away.
- The first thing I did was buy myself a long overdue pair of blue light blocking glasses.
- Blue light is the light that comes from our lightbulbs, laptops, mobiles and TV screens. By the time dusk falls, our bodies should be preparing melatonin, the hormones produced by the body for sleep. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin and prevents good sleep.
- I bought a pair that you start wearing a few hours before bed time.
- I switch of all the lights except for very low level lamp lighting once it gets dark, again or the same reasons as above. I slept alone in our bed for a few nights. I am a very light sleeper and this gave me the chance to get a few straight nights with minimum interruptions.
- I stopped eating chilli in my food as chilli can cause hot flushes. Hot flushes and night sweats are also a sign of toxic overload in the liver.
- My sleep hygiene has been pretty poor since I was in my teens. I used to be in bed and asleep by 10pm, but once I got a social life all that changed. I think everything went down the pan health wise since then too. I still remember how I felt before that big change happened in my life. It’s taken this long, and for me to be struggling with Long Covid to actually do anything about it. Up until this point I did not give sleep the credit it deserved. Yet I always knew, somewhere deep down, that I was a much happier person when I had a good sleep. So now, I regularly go to sleep at 10.30, or even earlier if I can, and get as close to 8 hours as I can.
- Another thing I try really hard to do is not eat late at night. Going to bed on a full or partially full stomach is terrible for our system. We have clocks in our bodies called the Circadian Rhythm. This is the clock that tells every system, function and organ what it has to do, and when. Each one has its own circadian rhythm. And when these rhythms function optimally, and do what they are meant to when they are meant to, optimum health is achieved.
Eating late at night plays havoc with our circadian rhythm because it’s the time that healing and repair is supposed to happen, and digestion get switched off. Once the sun goes down and we start producing melatonin, the body readies itself to sleep, not eat. I have quite a long way still to go with this, but the night I went to bed hungry was the best night’s sleep I ever had. SO it’s definitely worth it. I will update you as things change with this.
- On the subject of circadian rhythm, just as it needs to switch off at night, it needs to switch on in the morning. We need to send signals to our body that it needs to release the right hormones and get processes going for daytime activity, like eating and digestion. The way to do this is to spend some time outdoors before 10am. At least 5 minutes, ideally half an hour. No sunglasses, just allowing the blue light to get in.
After midday you can put your sunglasses back on.
Even if the sun isn’t obviously shining, the natural light will send signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up and start the processes for the day.
Doing this will have a profound effect on your sleep also, as the circadian rhythm is now set up and working and getting all the right signalling to do its job properly.
The last thing I have to mention is supplements. I believe these have been key in aiding my sleep. I take Ashwaghanda 1-2 capsules, magnesium (magnesium aspartate is really good for energy, but any magnesium of a high quality will do) 300mg and Solgar 5 HTP Complex x 2, before bed.
Ashwaghanda is an adaptogen and adapts to your bodies stress levels. It also helps you to ‘switch off’. Magnesium is good for regulating stress levels and is a muscle relaxant, 5HTP contains Tryptophan which is the precursor to Serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to Melatonin.
The benefits of good sleep cannot be emphasised enough. As a society we really do need to change our attitude towards the importance of this, but for that to happen we need to be educated on why. I will be doing a separate blog on this very soon.
I generally eat very well; by well I mean healthy, unprocessed foods. Lots of plant based foods, no ‘bad’ fats and lots of vegetables.
However, my gut symptoms were bad post Covid and I had put on a lot of weight. Hence I started to get very confused about what I was eating and drinking.
I will go in to more details about this later, but for now I just want to say that if you are suffering with some or all of the same symptoms as me, you may want to consider cutting out processed foods, eating more easily digestible fibre and drinking lots of water.
These initial changes helped me a lot. I now have more energy, can walk and cook every day, no exercise just yet though. I’m not quite there.
My interest has always been in health. Having trained in naturopathy, I can be quite resourceful with my own and have always been very good at dealing with any setbacks that I have. Only, this time, it felt different. It dawned on me that in order to recover from this, I was going to need to do something more profound and get some help from another practitioner. My self-help wasn’t cutting it.
What became glaringly obvious is that I was overlooking one key aspect, a big piece of the puzzle, my gut.
All ill health starts in the gut. And all healing starts with the gut too. The gut also houses our immune system and affects our mental health as this is where serotonin is produced. Any abnormalities in the gut will inhibit serotonin production. Low serotonin can cause depression and anxiety. Serotonin is also needed for digestion, sleep, bowel movements, blood clotting, bone health, sexual function and more.
When your serotonin levels are normal you feel happier, calmer, more focused, less anxious and more emotionally stable. I definitely think I was a candidate for low serotonin levels post Covid!
Working with an Ayurvedic Doctor and a Naturopath
So I enlisted the help of an Ayurvedic doctor. He has put me on an ayurvedic deep tissue cleanse because the gut symptoms I was experiencing were indicative of metabolic toxicity (Ama in Ayurveda). My long standing gut issues, high stress plus various infections I’ve picked up on my travels, namely parasitic, have left me with quite poor gut health and a weak digestive system. The opposite of strong digestion is metabolic toxicity. When the food can’t be digested it produces toxins. These toxins then travel around the body through the blood stream and cause other symptoms and disease. The symptoms – gas, bloating, nausea, acidity, brain fog and fatigue were indicative of this.
I also await further test results that I have done to look at my gut health more closely, as there could be bacterial overgrowth or imbalance. My Naturopath put me on a FODMAP diet and asked me to eliminate all gluten, wheat and dairy, which I do anyway so this wasn’t such a big shift for me. I’m not entirely convinced that FODMAP is necessary, however I did notice that stopping eating onions was really helpful to me. I’d only taken up eating onion and garlic since the pandemic started, however, after having Covid I noticed I was unable to digest onions very well.
The other thing that really aggravated me was sugar alcohols like Erythrytol.
Nevertheless, these are symptom fixing remedies and it is essential in my case to find the underlying cause.
The above is not intended to replace medical advice. Please do your own research and consult with a practitioner where necessary.