WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Of the more than 32 million people infected with COVID-19 in the U.S., researchers estimate about 10 percent of them suffer from long-term symptoms.
These patients are referred to as long-haulers and getting back to their old selves is proving to be a struggle.
Many of these long-haulers often lose their sense of smell and taste. But can the brain be retrained to recoup those lost senses? A chronic illness researcher says yes.
“So it’s so intermittent which is kind of really weird,” said Ted Wampole who is coping with COVID’s long-term symptoms.
Nearly five months after recovering from COVID-19, Wampole still struggles to fully regain his ability to taste and smell.
“I was out with some friends and I had a sip of beer and it tasted great and by the time I had the second sip it was gone,” Wampole said.
Although he says the tastes and smells seem to be coming back stronger lately, he’d like to accelerate that.
“People talk about therapy that you can try and, you know, teach your olfactory sense how to work again,” Wampole said.
After one man says he “just wanted to cry out ‘why can’t someone just fix this for me’?”, the chronic illness researcher and director of The Gupta Program claims he can.
“These systems in the brain can be reduced, can be switched off through various specialized brain retraining and neuroplasticity techniques,” said Ashok Gupta, a chronic illness researcher.
Gupta says his program has helped patients cope with such conditions as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and food sensitivities. He believes it can do the same for COVID long-haulers.
“We found some very unique techniques that are able to train the brain to no longer believe that the virus is present or that we are in imminent danger and through those processes we are able to reset the nervous system and immune system and get somebody back to health,” he said.
“I think we have to be cautious about things like that,” said Dr. Gerald Maloney, Chief Medical Officer of Geisinger System Hospitals.
Maloney fears without a proper clinical trial, neuroplasticity to treat COVID long-haulers could too easily create false hope.
“So if you said that to me right now and I said ‘well you know what here take this home and smell it three times a day and you’ll get better’ and you do get better, did that really do it or were you going to get better anyway?” he said.
For now, Wampole hopes time proves to be the fix for his ability to taste and smell.
“At that point I think that’s all unless somebody has a better idea that’s a proven method,” Wampole said.
Gupta says he’s treated about 100 COVID long-haul patients with his neuroplasticity techniques and, while claiming very good results, admits a proper clinical trial is needed to back up the evidence.