Overcoming long Covid by fasting
Michel Falck fought his post-Covid symptoms by fasting at Buchinger Wilhelmi
Michel Falck (60) from Strasbourg, France, knows what it means to suddenly not be able to work or pursue your passions, to be constantly tired and listless. He and many other Covid-19 patients suffer from severe symptoms, even months after recovering from the acute infection.
Long COVID – the long-term effects of the virus – left him unable to concentrate, without a sense of smell and taste, and with other impairments to his health. They were so bad that he was no longer able to play his beloved piano and had to temporarily stop working as a wine dealer. As a result, Michel Falck decided to try fasting at Buchinger Wilhelmi in Überlingen on Lake Constance.
In an interview with Leonard Wilhelmi, Managing Director of the Buchinger Wilhelmi fasting clinic in Überlingen, Michel Falck talked frankly about the difficult times following his infection with the coronavirus and how he managed to live a normal life again.
Leonard Wilhelmi: Today we’re talking about post-Covid or long Covid: You have quite an impressive story to tell us on this topic. Many people ask themselves whether fasting can make a difference with long Covid.
Michel Falck: I came to Buchinger Wilhelmi for the first time in summer 2015 and I’ve been coming back ever since. Sometimes I fast properly, and sometimes intermittently. Friends who work in haute cuisine told me about the clinic. I have been a wine dealer for over 25 years now. I have two boutiques in Strasbourg, an online shop and a team of eight employees, all former sommeliers, some of whom have worked in Michelin starred restaurants. My staff are masters in the art of picking out wines that go perfectly with different dishes.
Leonard Wilhelmi: So I guess if you lost your sense of smell or taste, that would be terrible …
Michel Falck: Exactly – and I did lose both! But I have almost completely regained them.
I had a particularly bad year in 2015. I had gained a lot of weight and put almost 100 kilogrammes on the scales. I tried out self-medication. I stopped doing sport as well. I had the feeling I needed a boost.
The first time I came here to fast was for ten days in summer 2015. It did me a lot of good and I lost several kilos. The next time I came back to fast was in February 2017, again for ten days. In between I stayed here twice, but just for four to five days, to visit friends to whom I had recommended the clinic – especially a friend with arthritis, who is now free of symptoms and thanks me every day for giving him your address.
I came here for the sixth time in September 2021 and I have managed to keep my weight stable at around 82 kilos. This ten-day fast is particularly important for me, by the way, because I want my health to return to normal after falling ill with Covid.
I was in a serious condition, and couldn’t even read any more. That was the worst thing!
— Michel Falck
A regular guest at Buchinger Wilhelmi
Leonard Wilhelmi: How did you catch the virus?
Michel Falck: I caught the British variant of Covid-19 at the end of April 2021. I tested positive on 4 May. The next six weeks were very tough. I didn’t have any respiratory problems and didn’t have to go to hospital, so it wasn’t a really severe case. But I had everything else: headaches, chills, and even if I didn’t have a fever, it felt as if my temperature was 41 degrees. I shivered and always felt cold, even after a hot bath. Then, all of a sudden, I was feverish, lost my sense of taste, my sense of smell and started coughing. I was in a serious condition, and couldn’t even read any more. That was the worst thing!
Leonard Wilhelmi: Was that due to a lack of concentration or did you have difficulties understanding?
Michel Falck: I had problems concentrating. I was practically at home until the end of June, I kept dropping things, got names mixed up and even called a very close friend by her father’s name. That alone wasn’t so worrying, after all, everyone gets stressed and tired. But there were so many little things. I had problems expressing myself in English and German, two languages I normally speak fluently. And just imagine, I couldn’t play the piano at all, I couldn’t read the notes, I couldn’t even read a book or a newspaper!
I started feeling better from June onwards. I regularly went to a sports instructor who worked with physiotherapists in Strasbourg. I had hardly been able to exercise at all for the past six weeks, so I started with a few stretching exercises for half an hour. The next day I was so exhausted I slept for three hours in the middle of the day! I even fell asleep in my armchair, which I never do otherwise. The fatigue steamrolls you. You can’t do anything; you have no willpower – it’s unbelievable. Even though I was pretty fit at the time, I did sport and made sure I lived a healthy lifestyle. I am 60 years old and have no known risk factors, none at all.
At the beginning of July, I decided to do something about it. So I came here. And now I feel so good that, if everything goes well, I can start working again gradually in October. My doctor here also told me to take things slowly at first. Because on some days, I feel better, then I exert myself a bit more, and the next day I’m tired again. That’s just the way it is.
It may be a bit of an exaggeration to call it a miracle, but that’s what it felt like.
— Michel Falck
Leonard Wilhelmi: Why did you decide to choose us as a fasting clinic for treating long Covid?
Michel Falck: I wanted to either try thalassotherapy in Brittany – a treatment using iodine, seawater, fish and shellfish – or come to your clinic to fast. I talked to my GP and my acupuncturist and nutritionist in Strasbourg about it, both outstanding specialists in their field, and they said I should not fast in my condition, that I was too weak.
On the other hand, your doctor here in the clinic gave me the go-ahead. But I didn’t feel up to it. I was too tired. That was in the middle of July, when I arrived, exhausted, at the clinic.
So I started with 1200 kcal on the first day. The next day, we reduced that to 800 kcal without breakfast. Over the following days, I carried on with 16:8 interval fasting.
And what happened next was really astonishing. It may be a bit of an exaggeration to call it a miracle, but that’s what it felt like. One morning I went into the lounge. I hadn’t had any breakfast, which is important and something I want to emphasize. It was ten o’clock in the morning and nobody was there. If there had been someone, I wouldn’t have done it because I wouldn’t have had the courage. But there wasn’t anybody there. And with those wonderful views you have here, they open the mind. It’s simply unbelievable.
There was a piano in the room, a Steinway & Sons. I opened the lid. And then I started to play the piano, and I don’t know how, but I was able to play two pieces that I know very well and had not been able to play for two-and-a-half months. I played them almost perfectly. It was a small miracle for me and very moving. One was a sonata by Scarlatti and the other a long movement from a sonata by Mozart. I had to cry, that’s how moving it was. Luckily, nobody was there. I cried for three, four or five minutes.
After that, I came here to play the piano every day. I played whenever there was nobody around. Then one time I played for a little longer, and the staff from reception and a few other people came to tell me how wonderful it sounded. A very nice lady from Paris even said to me, “I heard so much emotion in your playing!” And she was right: On Friday, I played and a torrent of emotions flooded out of me.
And another great thing is that I have started reading books again.
Leonard Wilhelmi: We have asked you if you would be prepared to work with us as part of a post-Covid study in our clinic. What do you think?
Michel Falck: Yes, I’d like that. It’s enlightening for me, too. I’m happy to share my experience with others and tell them something about my case. When I had Covid, I felt so tired that I wasn’t even able to help two close friends who were suffering from burn-out. It wasn’t even a matter of helping them, just listening to them, being there for them. I felt very sad about that. I found it hard to accept it and also to accept that I needed help myself.
Good friends and relatives came and brought me food because I could hardly leave the house. I managed ok alone at home, but I had to do everything very slowly. And at the beginning I felt almost … well, not guilty, but I was very unhappy about my situation. The whole time, from June to mid-July, I worked on accepting that I, too, have the right to ask for help. That also has to do with self-love, with being tender and kind to yourself. Today, I have completely accepted it. In retrospect, I even firmly believe that Covid came at just the right time to save me from another health issue in connection with my extremely busy lifestyle!
Leonard Wilhelmi: Thank you for talking so frankly with us. We wish you all the best and good health!
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