Mamas Uncut recently sat down with Dr. Emily Splichal, Functional Podiatrist, Human Movement Specialist, and author, to discuss her personal recovery from Covid-19 and her lingering symptoms including “brain fog.” IMPORTANT: Always check with your doctor before taking any medications, supplements or medical advice.
What is Brain Fog?
MU: Brain fog has been listed as one of the most common ongoing symptoms of Covid-19 “long-haulers.” Can you describe to us what brain fog is exactly?
Dr. Splichal: By definition brain fog is a state of diminished mental capacity marked by inability to concentrate or to think or reason clearly. Brain fog in itself is not a medical diagnosis but rather a symptom of a bigger medical condition whether that is pregnancy, Multiple Sclerosis, post-chemotherapy treatment, gut dysbiosis or an auto-immune condition.
MU: Can you describe what does brain fog feel like?
Dr. Splichal: Brain fog symptoms can be slightly different for each person for some of the most common features of brain fog include memory problems, difficulty focusing, slowed processing, poor spatial skills, trouble finding words or a disoriented feeling. For example, for me my brain fog is characterized by a disconnected fuzzy feeling that makes it hard for me to focus, be creative and come up with certain words. Because of this I get fatigued very quickly which starts to create a clumsiness with typing and visual acuity.
MU: What steps have you taken for relieving your brain fog?
Dr. Splichal: For the past couple months I was focusing on finding ways to reduce my brain inflammation and leaky blood brain barrier. This included supplements such as quercetin, tumeric, resveretrol and Omega’s. Then I started to introduce nootropics such as choline, phosphatidylserine and uridine. I now have since seen a Functional Medicine Doctor who did a GI map and a toxin screen which showed that COVID had completely wiped out my gut biome (bacteria) and leaky gut (inflammation) as well as various toxins that could be stressing my liver. So I am now on a strict regime of probiotics, a liver detox, Infrared sauna 3x a week, plus juicing and no gluten or dairy in my diet.
Advice For Covid-19 Long-Haulers?
MU: What would you recommend to Covid-19 long-haulers, such as yourself, experiencing ongoing brain fog symptoms?
Dr. Splichal: Today as I write this I’m having a very bad brain fog day, but despite that I need to hold onto hope that I will get past this and feel like my old self again. It can take months to rebuild a gut biome, reduce brain inflammation and detox the body so it’s a matter a patience and understanding that some days are going to be good and others not so good. I also find that talking to others about it so you don’t feel alone or are harnessing onto any emotions such as fear or anxiety.
MU: Can you describe your experience with Covid-19?
Dr. Splichal: I first presented with symptoms March 23rd when I was living in NYC. My first symptoms were GI related (diarrhea, nausea) but then progressed to weakness in my arms and eventually chest tightness and shortness of breath. Day 8 of my symptoms I had to call 911 due to shortness of breath but the ambulance said my O2 saturation wasn’t low enough to take me to hospital for services. Day 9 I started a steroid inhaler often used for asthma which helped tremendously as it relates to chest pain and shortness of breath. My brain fog started during the 2nd week of symptoms and has continued ever since. Other post-COVID symptoms I present with are reduced patience, anxiety, mood shifts and restless leg syndrome. So primarily all neurological.
MU: When did you first experience a relapse of symptoms after you initially felt like you had beaten it?
Dr. Splichal: The neurological symptoms continued since the 2nd week of my symptoms and have been present for 18 weeks. I did have a small relapse of shortness of breath and chest pain at 3 weeks but that quickly resolved and I have not had an issue since then.
MU: How would you describe your recovery thus far?
Dr. Splichal: Frustrating. Some people don’t believe it’s due to COVID or that post-COVID symptoms are not real. This is sad for people to have opinions when you are not feeling well and your quality of life is greatly compromised. A lot of the post-COVID symptoms are low grade, hard to “prove”, are subjective and may not be life threatening however that doesn’t devalue the impact they have on my or anyone else’s reality. I personally have sought out alternative treatment options and will do so until I feel like myself again.
MU: Many Covid-19 survivors have reported neurological issues due to their infection. What kind of physical therapy is available for repairing this type of damage?
Dr. Splichal: Research is now demonstrating that COVID can affect the entire nervous system from the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and muscles. Depending on how the symptoms present physical therapy may or may not be appropriate. Brain fog, agitation, anxiety, fatigue and mood changes can all be balanced by mindfulness and meditation. Movement is also very important for all these conditions. Getting increased cerebral blood flow through cardiovascular training can help reduce some of the symptoms. For those with peripheral symptoms such as muscle weakness or a neuropathy then balance work and body awareness exercises are important. Integrating sensory stimulation to guide the nervous system and to create a sense of “safety” can be important here. This is where I’d recommend my Naboso Mind Body Mat.
Back To School?
MU: Have you had any experience with children who have contracted Covid-19?
Dr. Splichal: I have not seen any children in my practice with COVID and thankfully any of the friends or colleagues who had children that were sick all recovered quickly. My concern though is can this virus lay dormant in our system similar to EBV (Epstein-Barr virus) or Chickpox (varicella-zoster virus).
MU: Do you have any advice for parents who are considering sending their children back to school this Fall?
Dr. Splichal: This is a tricky one as we have been in this state of COVID for 5 months now and are hungry for normalcy – even if it is a new normal. Can the schools ensure that children are protected from the spread of COVID, I don’t know. To say “children do not have as severe of symptoms” is not a reason to feel comfortable to allow children to go back to school.
CDC Update on Covid-19 Long-Haulers
The CDC has recently recognized that 35% of patients who “recovered” from even “mild” Covid-19 continue to have lingering symptoms weeks and months after their infection.
Disclaimer: The views, medications, supplements and advice expressed by Dr. Emily Splichal are her own and do not reflect the opinions of Mamas Uncut. The above is general information relating to a medical condition and its treatment. It is not medical advice. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice provided by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for advice or information about diagnosis and treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read here or elsewhere. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.