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Brain Health and COVID

By Craig P. Tanio, MD, FACP, IFMCP

Coronavirus COVID-19, Bannière illustration virus 3D

Loss of smell. Loss of taste. These are some of the many neurologic symptoms that are becoming linked to COVID-19.

However, COVID is not the only virus that has been linked to neurologic symptoms. Over the past decade, there has been increasing scientific evidence outlining the strong links between viral infections and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.

The key connection between the two is the brain’s immune response which is more complicated than initially thought. Here are three new observations that have emerged over the last 10 years of brain research:

  • The blood-brain barrier is not as impermeable as we originally thought. Patients can have a “leaky” blood-brain barrier which can let in infections and is often connected to intestinal permeability.
  • The brain has its own lymphatic system which performs “housekeeping” activities to remove bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that should not be in the brain.
  • The brain has its own immune system, known as microglial cells. These cells act as “first responders” in a coordinated response to outside infections and are also involved in “synaptic pruning” that help the brain to create the right connections between neurons.

Multiple types of viruses, such as herpes virus have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders prior to COVID-19. There are different types of biologic mechanisms that could account for these links including

  • Direct viral invasion into the central nervous system
  • The virus remains dormant in the CNS until it is reactivated – this is called neurotropism
  • Immune dysregulation and high amounts of neuroinflammation. In this mechanism the microglial cells release cytokines and other inflammatory mediators, which can lead to dying neurons that then release additional stimulatory factors. This creates a vicious cycle known as immune dysregulation. It is hypothesized that other factors such as mold, chemicals and other toxins may contribute to this immune dysregulation.
  • Alteration of the gut by viral infection that contributes to immune dysregulation from the gut-brain axis as a result of virus interaction with gut microbiome.

In the last month, there was an excellent peer-reviewed article from the University of California, San Diego authors entitled: “Are we facing a crashing wave of neuropsychiatric sequelae of COVID 19? Neuropsychiatric symptoms and potential immunologic mechanisms.” In this article, the authors discuss that prior pandemics have shown that there can be a diverse number of neuropsychiatric symptoms from viral infections such as mood changes, encephalopathy, neuromuscular dysfunction or demyelinating disease. These symptoms can occur during the acute viral infection or after the infection. The time period after the infection can range from days, to weeks or months.

Due to the large number of COVID cases, the authors warn that the medical community should keep a close watch on neuropsychiatric sequelae from the virus as the full effects will not be known for years.

What can we do about this?

First is to stay healthy! Having a good foundation of health including diet, sleep, exercise, low toxin load, low stress are all critical parts of staying well and are an integral part of the Rezilir program

Second is to control our fear response. The media has created an enormous amount of fear, panic and anxiety about COVID. All of this can negatively affect our immune system.

Third is to remain educated. Conventional medicine can learn a great deal from integrative medicine in creating a comprehensive set of options for patients who may experience these symptoms as a result of COVID.

Yours in health,

Dr. Craig Tanio

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