What is long covid?
More than three years after the initial report of COVID-19, an unexpected health condition known as long covid affects up to 50% of people who had covid (1). These covid long haulers experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of or distorted sense of smell
- Muscle weakness
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Brain fog
Since it’s still so new and every patient seems to experience it differently, long covid doesn’t have a specific definition. (2)
However, the WHO (World Health Organization) provided a description in late 2021. This is what they had to say:
Post-COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset, with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include, but are not limited to, fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction, and generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms might be new onset following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms might also fluctuate or relapse over time. (3)
Long covid has the potential to affect nearly every part of your body including (but not limited to) (4):
- Respiratory system
- Nervous system and neurocognition
- Mental health
- Cardiovascular system
- Gastrointestinal system
- Blood (Anemia)
Long covid and CIRS
As a certified Shoemaker Protocol practitioner that treats CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome), a number of symptoms of long covid jumped out at me.
These symptoms are:
- Unusual pain(s)
- Ice-pick pain
- Light sensitivity
- Joint pain
- Memory issues
- Challenges focusing or concentrating
- Mood swings
- Appetite swings
- Sweats (especially at night)
- Static shocks
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sinus issues
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Skin sensitivity
- Challenges regulating body temperature
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Metallic taste in the mouth
Like long covid, CIRS is a complicated illness that appears in many different forms, often at the same time. It is triggered by an exposure to biotoxins. Start with this blog to learn more about CIRS. Fortunately, CIRS has a scientifically proven method of treatment – the Shoemaker Protocol.
As a certified Shoemaker Protocol practitioner, the similarities between the two illnesses made me wonder if they are somehow connected.
A Primer on CIRS and its eerie connection to covid
Take another look at the list of symptoms above. If you’re covid long hauler, how many apply to you? If you can check off at least eight, you might want to look more closely at CIRS.
Here are some more similarities between CIRS and long covid that I find interesting: (5)
- CIRS and long covid have obvious measurable inflammatory and metabolic complications;
- Both illnesses are progressive – meaning they get worse over time;
- Long covid and CIRS get worse when the patient is re-exposed
- There are very few examples of patients who were able to heal on their own.
Given all of these similarities between CIRS and long covid, are you also starting to wonder if they are somehow related? Maybe covid long haulers would also respond favourably to the same or similar treatment to those with CIRS?
Fortunately, there’s a study that explored these questions…
Comparing long covid and CIRS
After reading the last section, you can see how strikingly similar the cluster of symptoms is between covid and CIRS. A recent study done with 21 participants showed even more similarities between the two illnesses:
Patients with long covid and CIRS fail the eye contrast sensitivity testWhen I suspect a patient may be suffering from CIRS, I have them complete a Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test. CIRS affects the nerve responsible for seeing contrast, and this online test is an affordable way to find out if the nerve has been affected. If the patient fails, I am able to decide whether the patient should pursue further testing for CIRS.
About 95% of people with CIRS will fail the VCS test. (6)
In the long COVID study, 75% of people failed the VCS test. (7)
The study also used people who were not suffering from long COVID as controls. Between 0-2% of these people failed.
Both CIRS and long covid have a decreased rate of molecular metabolic activityMHM or molecular hypometabolism is a term coined by Dr. James Ryan – a leading CIRS researcher. It refers to the activity of the messenger RNA (mRNA).
To explain what this means I’m going to quickly take you back to high school science. Every organism in the world is made up of cells, and every living cell contains DNA. DNA is what carries all the information about how that living thing will look and function.
To communicate the genetic information, the DNA attaches to RNA. RNA is a self-replicating, single strand that is responsible for carrying out the instructions of the DNA. There are different types of RNA in the cell, and each has a different task:
messenger RNA (mRNA)
The molecule that carries information from the DNA to the ribosome to make proteins
transfer RNA (tRNA)
Carries amino acids to the ribosome where they are made into proteins
When you have CIRS, it is the mRNA that is affected, specifically, the mRNA located in your mitochondria. The mitochondria are the energy producers in your cells. However, CIRS can suppress this energy production, and when your mitochondria aren’t producing enough energy, you experience fatigue. (8)
Both CIRS and long covid show a change in a cell’s energy production.Glucose, from carbohydrates, creates energy in our cells. Once the glucose enters the cell, it begins a process known as glycolysis. Glycolysis creates the molecule pyruvate which then enters your mitochondria and, using the Kreb’s cycle, creates ATP. ATP is the energy our bodies run on.
Therefore, low ATP = fatigue.
However, when your cells struggle to get pyruvate into the mitochondria, glycolysis is the only way to produce ATP. Glycolysis alone is far less efficient, only making about 2 molecules of ATP per molecule of glucose. Contrast that with the Kreb’s cycle where one molecule of pyruvate creates 26 molecules of ATP.
Compromised energy production in the cells occurred in 79% of covid long haulers.
88% of CIRS sufferers have the same issue. (11)
None of the controls experienced issues with cellular energy production.
What to make of this data
Like every study, this one comparing CIRS and long covid needs more data. As I mentioned, there were only 21 participants which is not enough to draw firm conclusions. But because the data is so compelling, I believe there is potential in treating long covid the same way we treat CIRS – especially as there are so few alternatives.
I intentionally left out other similarities between long covid and CIRS in the post for ease of reading. But if you’d like to dive in, you can read the entire paper here.
The data in this paper suggests that those dealing with long covid likely had a biotoxin exposure preceding the covid infection. This paper didn’t do environmental sampling to see what percentage of participants with long covid were also living in a water-damaged building.
A novel approach to treating long covid
The CIRS treatment protocol has a high success rate. This has been illustrated in multiple peer-reviewed studies. (12) It’s a worthy hypothesis that the CIRS treatment protocol may also work for long covid.
Read more about all 12 steps of the Shoemaker Protocol here.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have the cure for long covid. This is an incredibly complex illness. One that will require a lot more untangling before we as a medical community have a solid understanding of what exactly is going on with this virus.
But I believe this is a new way to frame or look at long covid. And when we look at it differently, we see different ways of testing as well as new approaches to treatment that you may have yet to explore.
It is my hope that this blog sheds a sliver of light on long covid and renews your hope that perhaps there is an evidence-based way to treat this illness.