Long Covid patients in UAE look to therapy and alternative remedies to beat symptoms

People are seeking acupuncture, reflexology and meditation to tackle chronic fatigue, loss of smell and breathing difficulties

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 8, 2021 – Mohammed Faizuddin Ahmed Sameer  from Meraki Wellbeing Center at his office in Nassima Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online. Story by Nick Webster
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Long-term sufferers of Covid-19 are increasingly turning to holistic and natural remedies to ease chronic symptoms of fatigue.

Although not widely accepted as a proven coronavirus treatment, alternative medicines like acupuncture, reflexology, meditation and homeopathy are in demand.

Some recovering patients have been left fatigued or without a sense of taste or smell after contracting the virus.

During the pandemic we have seen a lot of people looking at new ways to stay healthy through their nutrition

Ilse Onderweegs, a nutritionist at ICO Healthy Living in Dubai, advocates the strengthening of immune systems to aid recovery and ward off new infections.

“People are now realising they need to take matters into their own hands to avoid getting the virus and being hospitalised,” she said.

“If you do get sick, there is not much you can do other than manage the symptoms.

“So during the pandemic we have seen a lot of people looking at new ways to stay healthy through their nutrition.”

Managing stress through better sleep management and reducing intake of sugar and processed foods can boost immunity.

Protecting the body’s energy-producing cells, or mitochondria, by taking supplements like l-carnitine and α-lipoic acid is also an effective treatment.

Maintaining good gut health with probiotics, a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables has also proven effective in those struck down by the virus, Ms Onderweegs said.

“Some of our clients have been struggling with long-hauler’s covid, where people have prolonged symptoms of fatigue, breathing difficulties and chest complaints,” she said.

“In the long run, we do not know the full impact of the virus and it could lead to some auto-immune deficiencies, but people do recover.

“Blood sugar instability and insulin resistance are being seen to make people more vulnerable to Covid alongside obesity, but this can all be managed via diet and lifestyle.”

Dubai resident Tanu Arora became her husband Vishesh's carer when he contracted the virus and began suffering from aches and pains along with a fever. After a few days, his sense of smell was gone and the feeling of fatigue lingered.

"Unless you have extremely severe symptoms, you are not taken to a hospital," Ms Arora said.

"There was really no other direction for us, we had to turn to Pranic Healing"

Ilse Onderweegs, functional nutritionist, is helping clients understand the link between their lifestyle and the lingering symptoms of Covid-19. Courtesy ICO Healthy Living

Pranic healing is a 'no touch, no drug' therapy used to complement the more traditional work of doctors. It is based on the fundamental principle that the body is a self-repairing entity that possesses the ability to heal itself.

"It was a very fast recovery, and with not many lingering symptoms afterwards, his sense of smell came back very fast" she said.

Meanwhile, Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow was rebuked by the NHS in the UK for suggesting Covid-19 long-haulers could find relief with herbal cocktails, infrared saunas and intuitive fasting, despite no scientific evidence supporting the claims.

Scientists remain unsure why some people suffer with prolonged symptoms after recovering from Covid-19, yet others do not.

One theory is non-contagious strands of the virus remain in the body and continue to irritate the immune system.

Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) is tightly regulated by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Department of Health Abu Dhabi and Dubai Health Authority.

Qualified professionals must follow strict criteria to deliver treatment.

Although plant-based alternative medicines are widely used across Africa in coronavirus treatment programmes, they have not been adopted elsewhere.

The World Health Organisation called for more research into the trend after medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua were considered as possible treatments for the virus.

Mohammed Sameer, a holistic psychotherapist and healer at the Meraki Wellbeing Centre in Dubai, reported an increase in those turning to alternative therapies to aid their recovery.

“When we are going through Covid, many people are under-resourced and only stick to the usual treatment of Panadol or antibiotics, but they do not always work," he said.

“There are safe, effective alternatives, and attitudes towards holistic therapy are changing."

Alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle, alternative therapies such as mediation and mental exercises are proven to speed-up recovery, Mr Sameer said.