Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Post-COVID patients Turn to Alternative Treatments for Lingering Symptoms
Phil Rainey stands outside the new eight-person chamber at Hyperbarics of Sun Valley. PHOTO: Patrick Boudwin
Friday, November 6, 2020



More than seven months after testing positive for the coronavirus, Gordon Gammell of Ketchum says, “I continue on my merry way, I’m just a little slower on my mountain bike, but I still go; I’m just not on the A team right now.”

 Grammell has always been healthy, but now in his early sixties and post-COVID he feels his lungs are still “scarred.”

Joan Scheingraber says acupuncture has addressed some of the residual problems post-COVID patients have faced. COURTESY: Joan Scheingraber

 “There’s tightness as a background, and then I get a little drained,” he said.

Doctors ordered medical tests on his heart and lungs and they came back negative. So, he sought additional help to address his lingering symptoms.

 The office dispensed olive leaf extract, zinc, Omega-3 and a lung mixture powder. Gammell thinks the dietary supplement containing vitamins and other ingredients, #34-G Lung+, didn’t work. As for the rest, “I can’t really say. If I wasn’t taking any of these, I might not be better. But I can’t say there’s a magic bullet.”

 With the novel coronavirus attacking so many parts of the body, many of those who have been infected end up trying anything they can to get better, from acupuncture to hyperbaric oxygen treatment. The National Institutes of Health’s website says there’s no scientific evidence that alternative remedies like herbal therapies, teas, essential oils, tinctures and silver products can prevent or cure COVID-19. But that hasn’t stopped people from hoping alternative treatments can help with problems they’re having weeks and months after being sick.

The oxygen therapy used by Hyperbarics of Sun Valley had its genesis in the Navy’s efforts to treat scuba divers with life-threatening bends. PHOTO: Patrick Boudwin

 John Campbell of Hailey gives sunshine credit for healing him so quickly. Illness swept through his family in March. His wife, adult son, daughter and her fiancé all got sick, with one of them testing positive for the coronavirus. Campbell is convinced his case was the lightest because “I was spending a phenomenal amount of time outside.”

 He’d read UV radiation could help with COVID-19 and heard vitamin D boosts the immune system and that led to his self-prescription.

 “My solution is wicked boring--be outside and catch some rays,” he said.

 A woman in her thirties, who was also stricken in March, wishes she had the energy to enjoy the outdoors every day. But her experience as a long hauler has been a frustrating road to recovery she describes as “one step forward, three steps back.”

Idaho hit a record high for the third consecutive day with 1,265 new cases of coronaviruss taking the state to 69,579 cases. At least 671 Idahoans have died from COVID—24 in the past two days. Blaine County has gained 33 new cases in the past two days for a total of 963.

 She turned to acupuncture after exhausting traditional Western medical solutions for her headaches, chest tightness, fatigue and sleeplessness. She saw Joan Scheingraber in Ketchum several times and felt better initially, but ended up moving out of town and stopping treatment.

 Scheingraber has been practicing for 20 years and is noticing re-occurring post-COVID problems in the high-end athletes she treats. Those who used to run or bike can do it “at a lower end” and now complain of new body and joint aches.

Quite a few of her clients still haven’t recovered their taste or smell, but she has seen acupuncture help with the tightness in their lungs and headaches.

Beyond using needles, she also offers cupping, which she says, “can really be good for the lungs.”

 Chinese medicine has treated viruses for many, many years, Scheingraber points out. She has Chinese herbs that target the lungs, heart, and immune system.

Each session lasts 45 minutes to an hour and costs $95. Treatments are as individualistic as the results.

 “I am seeing marked improvement in some patients, and in others I am seeing marked improvement and then they come back in a few weeks,” she says.

Another alternative some local post-COVID patients are trying out is hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

 Phil Rainey has owned Hyperbarics of Sun Valley in Hailey for eight years. These days about 20 percent of his patient load is made up of post-COVID people coming from as far away as Twin Falls.

 “They’re doing an average of about five treatments. Their energy levels go up, brain fog goes away, sleep patterns are better, and their sense of taste and smell comes back,” he says.

 He is certain he had the coronavirus last spring, and realized right away that his business could be helpful.

 “When COVID hit and they were talking about the science of the virus and what it’s doing to the body, for us it was a no-brainer… oxygen is what we do,” he says.

 Patients sit in a pressurized chamber where 100 percent medical grade oxygen is pumped in at 10 to 15 times the usual rate. The oxygen then dissolves into the body, where it can help generate more stem cells and fight inflammation.

 A treatment lasts about an hour and 20 minutes and costs $200 to $220 per treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy goes back to the 1930s when the Navy used it for decompression sickness. Applying the therapy for post-COVID symptoms is considered “off-label,” but Rainey says, more and more physicians are referring patients to him.

Sun Valley Natural Medicine’s Cory Szybala said his practice does not offer treatments specifically for COVID-19 or lingering symptoms due to FDA regulations.

But, he said, some of his clients say they have been helped by some of the supplements available.

Among them Vitamin D and Cordyceps sinensis, a mushroom that increases hypoxia tolerance, exercise performance, heart health. It is also an anti-inflammatory.

Szybala says studies are also currently being done to determine whether prebiotics and probiotics can help nurture a healthy microbiota to help reduce the risk of COVID-19.

“There appears to be an antiviral/anti-inflammatory response in the lungs to the use of pre- and probiotics,” he said.


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