Chronic fatigue commonly follows in the wake of influenza, herpes, COVID-19, and other infections. The immune system does not function optimally, and the tiredness is caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. The condition is often accompanied by poor concentration, depression, and sleep disturbances. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between pro-inflammatory free radicals and protective antioxidants. Vitamin C happens to be one of the most potent antioxidants, and intravenous vitamin C therapy has been shown to reduce tiredness that follows after different types of virus infections, according to a review article in the scientific journal Nutrients. Here, the scientists also write about intravenous vitamin C therapy in connection with chronic fatigue syndrome following COVID-19 infections.
Chronic fatigue is a common symptom in connection with different serious conditions like cancer or autoimmune diseases. There may also be other reasons for chronic fatigue, and chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as an independent clinical condition that is also seen in combination with other symptoms such as pain, poor concentration, and poor sleep.
Chronic fatigue syndrome typically follows in the wake of a host of different virus infections such as influenza, herpes, Ebola, Epstein-Barr (that causes mononucleosis), and bacterial infections such as Borrelia burgdorferi, and parasites like Giardia lamblia.
Post-viral fatigue syndrome bears a great resemblance to normal chronic fatigue syndrome. However, it is worth making a note of the fact that chronic fatigue syndrome often begins after an infection during a period with increased physical or psychological stress. As a result of this, the immune system fails to function optimally and is unable to fight infections normally. According to the scientists behind the new review article, this may explain why patients with COVID-19, who have suffered from mental or physical stress during periods of lockdown, end up with chronic fatigue syndrome.
|Chronic fatigue syndrome often starts after an infection in connection with a period of physical or mental stress|
COVID-19 can result in chronic fatigue and numerous other symptoms
People react very differently to COVID-19, also over a prolonged period. According to a study from Wuhan in China, where scientists had registered 1,733 COVID-19-infected patients after they had been admitted to the hospital, 63 percent suffered from chronic fatigue or muscle weakness six months after the acute infection. Twenty-six percent of patients suffered from sleep disturbances and 23 percent of the patients had anxiety of depression. An American review article has revealed that mild cases of COVID-19 are a frequent cause of chronic fatigue, and 50 other long-term consequences such ad headaches, poor concentration, hair loss, and breathing difficulty are mentioned.
Complicated COVID-19 infections are caused by oxidative stress and hyperinflammation
Under normal conditions, humans should be able to reject a COVID-19 infection or at least get away with a mild course of the disease. When the immune system attacks it sets off an inflammatory response that helps destroy the virus swiftly and effectively. The inflammatory response should be curtailed immediately after, but if the immune system does not function optimally, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress may arise. This causes the infection to linger on, eventually resulting in chronic fatigue and related symptoms.
In severe cases, hyperinflammation, cytokine storm, and overwhelming oxidative stress may occur and cause acute respiratory distress syndrome – also known as ARDS. It can also result in circulatory failure and impaired circulation in other organs, which is why the most compromised patients succumb.
As mentioned, oxidative stress is one of the reasons why COVID-19 infections become complicated. Oxidative stress is when there is an unfavorable ratio between harmful free radicals and protective antioxidants. Free radicals are actually an inherent part of our immune response. But if they go awry, they can attack healthy cells and tissues.
Vitamin C for the immune defense and as protection against oxidative stress
During acute infections, the immune system consumes quite a lot of vitamin C to help it direct swift attacks at its enemies. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that protects cells and tissues against free radicals and oxidative stress. Quite as expected, the body’s need for vitamin C is increased in cases of acute infection. Vitamin C is involved in over 150 metabolic reactions, including collagen synthesis and the formation of carnitine and neurotransmitters such as noradrenalin, serotonin, and dopamine. It is commonly known that lack of vitamin C can cause tiredness, pain, cognitive dysfunction, and depression-like symptoms.
It is therefore likely that vitamin C therapy can reduce the symptoms linked to chronic fatigue syndrome by strengthening the immune defense and helping the body synthesize collagen and connective tissue. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that can help protect the nervous system against oxidative damage.
Treating chronic fatigue syndrome with large doses of intravenous vitamin C
The purpose of the review article was to see if intravenous vitamin C could improve the symptoms of chronic fatigue following a virus infection. The authors focused on intravenous vitamin C because it is the only way to optimize levels of this nutrient for different therapeutic purposes. Studies based on oral ingestion of vitamin C are not very useful because it does not allow as much of the nutrient to enter the bloodstream. Also, ingesting large quantities of oral vitamin C can cause diarrhea.
The scientists gathered data from nine clinical studies with 720 patients who got intravenous vitamin C in large doses. To date, this type of therapy has mainly been studied in cancer patients and in patients with herpes zoster and allergies.
Although these are entirely different diseases, large doses of intravenous vitamin C turned out to reduce chronic fatigue in nearly all studies. There were also improvements in other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, pain, and cognitive impairment. The doses that were used were above 50 gram per day or three grams per kilo of body weight, which means that a person weighing 75 kilos go 225 grams with each infusion. In other studies, lower doses have delivered the same effect.
A COVID-19 infection is characterized by oxidative stress, hyperinflammation and circulatory disorders. Because vitamin C deficiencies have been detected in COVID-19 patients, the scientists find it relevant to conduct new clinical studies to see how large doses of intravenous vitamin C work in chronic fatigue syndrome caused by COVID-19. The new review article is published in Nutrients.
Remember vitamin C for regular prevention of virus infections
In collaboration with the Swiss Society of Nutrition, a panel of doctors and professors has reviewed the scientific literature concerning nutrients and their role in a well-functioning immune defence with special focus on COVID-19. They recommend taking 200 mg of vitamin C daily to be properly protected against infections. When choosing high-dosed supplements, it is a good idea to choose non-acidic sources such as calcium ascorbate that are gentle towards the stomach lining.
Claudia Vollbracht and Karin Kraft. Feasibility of Vitamin C in the treatment of Post-Viral Fatigue with Focus on Long COVID, Based on a Systematic Review of IV vitamin C on Fatigue. Nutrients 2021
Nikki Hancocks. Diet and supplements: Swiss panel publishes COVID-19 recommendations. 2020
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