It seems like everywhere you turn there’s breaking news regarding COVID-19. And one of these recent discoveries is that this virus may impact a whole lot more than just the respiratory system – and there’s a growing mountain of evidence to prove it.
In this article, we’re going to dive into COVID-19’s speculated effects on the brain and nervous system. And more importantly, we’re going to cover some ways you can protect yourself from coronavirus amidst this pandemic.
What Exactly Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the coronavirus which is officially known as SARS-COV-2.1 The “SARS” in SARS-COV-2 stands for “sudden acute respiratory syndrome” due to coronaviruses’ ability to send patients with severe cases into sudden respiratory failure.
While researchers are still trying to pinpoint exactly how coronavirus exerts its potentially deadly effects on the human body, we do know that some of the damage is caused by what is known as a cytokine storm.
If your body becomes infected with the coronavirus, the virus attaches itself to the cells that line your lungs and begins replicating itself. Once your body is alerted to this intruder, it deploys an army of immune cells and a cascade of chemical messengers known as cytokines. The problem is, in severe cases of COVID-19, your immune system has an exaggerated response and this cascade of immune cells and cytokines doesn’t stop. This causes:2
- Massive and uncontrolled inflammation
- Oxidative injury to your tissues
- Damage to your alveolar-capillary barrier – the membrane where gas is exchanged in your lungs
Because the primary symptoms of the coronavirus seem to impact the respiratory system, it’s been classified as a respiratory disease. But as we learn more about this emerging virus, we’re finding that COVID-19’s impact on the body may extend further than we originally thought. Case in point, recent evidence is suggesting that COVID-19 may be capable of causing another dangerous condition – encephalitis.
What Is Encephalitis?
Encephalitis is acute inflammation and swelling of the tissues in your brain. While in rare cases encephalitis may be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, cancer, or even exposure to toxins, the vast majority of encephalitis cases are caused by a viral infection.3
There are two types of encephalitis:
- Primary encephalitis is caused by direct infection of the brain and spinal cord
- Secondary encephalitis occurs when an infection stems elsewhere in the body and then travels to the brain.
Regardless of whether the infection is primary or secondary, the effects of encephalitis can range from mild to life-threatening and include:4
- Drowsiness and lethargy
- Possible hallucinations
- Irritability, outbursts, and personality changes
So how exactly might coronavirus cause encephalitis?
Mounting Evidence That COVID-19 Might Cause Encephalitis
While the coronavirus’ detrimental effects on the respiratory system have been in the spotlight, more and more evidence is coming to light indicating that COVID-19 has a serious impact on the nervous system as well.
Current research is finding a direct link between coronavirus and neurological symptoms such as:5
- Acute cerebrovascular incident (stroke)
- Impaired consciousness
- Skeletal muscle injury
While the exact characteristics of how COVID-19 may impact the brain and nervous system are not fully understood, it’s likely similar to how COVID-19 affects the respiratory system. As the body launches an immune response against the virus, inflammation levels rapidly rise. This inflammation spreads throughout the body and causes the tissues in the brain to become inflamed – resulting in subsequent encephalitis and neurological side effects.
More time and research is needed to truly understand COVID-19’s effects on the body. But as we learn more about its overall impact, it can better direct how we can treat and beat this virus.
So, What Is the Treatment for COVID-19?
Currently, there’s no single standard treatment for COVID-19. In mild cases, the primary focus of treatment is aimed at supportive measures such as:
- Bed rest
- Ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition
- Monitoring oxygen saturation and vital signs
- Analyzing blood panels and biochemistry labs
- Oxygen administration, if needed
But when it comes to treating more severe cases of COVID-19, researchers are still racing to find answers and treatment options. Fortunately, there are some emerging treatment options that are showing promising results. Unfortunately due to FTC regulations, I am unable to tell you what they are here.
To learn more about emerging treatments for COVID-19, I suggest heading over and reading my article Is There a Cure for Coronavirus? The scoop on Chloroquine and Other Emerging Treatments. While there may not be a cure for coronavirus yet, the good news is there are some steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe.
How Can I Protect Myself Against COVID-19?
When it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones against COVID-19, one of the most powerful lines of defense is also the most simple – avoid potential contact.
Taking basic precautions to prevent germs from entering your home or your body can go a long way in keeping you safe. The standards of basic precautions are pretty straightforward:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, scrubbing all surfaces for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands when you’re unable to wash them.
- Regularly disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
- Avoid close contact with others who have been sick.
- Minimize touching your face and always ensure your hands are clean before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
While preventing contact with germs is huge, the truth is, coming into contact with some germs is unavoidable. That’s why keeping your immune system functioning at full capacity is hands down your most powerful weapon in fighting off COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Prioritize Rest and Relaxation
Your immune system requires massive amounts of energy – especially if it’s fighting off any microorganisms. So things that tank your energy like stress and sleep deprivation are like kryptonite to your immune system.
To ensure your body has plenty of energy to support your immune system I recommend aiming for 7-8 hours of quality restful sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep, a gentle and natural supplement like Lipocalm can help ease you into a restorative sleep without any of the nasty side effects that come with some sleep aids.
We all know some level of stress is unavoidable. But finding ways to manage stress levels is a big deal if you want your immune system in tip-top shape. A few simple but powerful ways to combat the negative effects of stress include meditation, exercise, and incorporating more fun and connection in your life.
Other Important Nutrients:
- Vitamin D3: A fat-soluble vitamin important for your overall health
- SPM Active: A combination of pro-resolving mediators
- Virastat: A combination of natural ingredients and botanical extracts
- N-Acetyl Cysteine: NAC is a key ingredient needed to make antioxidants like glutathione.
For a deeper dive, head over and read my article Concerned About Your Health? Here Are the Best Immune-Boosting Supplements.
Focus on Antioxidants
One of the side effects of inflammation is oxidative stress – an imbalance between antioxidants and harmful free radicals. When left unchecked, these free radicals can cause damage to your cells. To inhibit any oxidative damage from these free radicals you need plenty of antioxidants, so here’s what I suggest:
- Fill up on antioxidant-rich foods: Foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and high-quality meat are full of healthy antioxidants.
- Incorporate antioxidant supplements: Flood your body with some of the most potent antioxidants like Buffered C Powder and Liposomal Glutathione.
- Reduce your toxic burden: The accumulation of toxins in your body can send your immune system into overdrive – eventually causing it to burn out and become weaker. Reducing your toxic burden will help your body detox so your immune system has all the resources it needs to function at full capacity. Click here to learn more about How to Boost Your Immune System by Reducing Your Toxic Burden.
I recommend incorporating all three of these strategies to prevent the negative effects of any potential oxidative stress.
Remember, You Are Your Own Best Advocate
There’s mounting evidence that suggests that COVID-19 may in fact impact the nervous system and cause dangerous encephalitis. But the truth is, when it comes to this virus, we still have more questions than answers.
Our bodies are complicated and interconnected – it’s impossible for any virus or disease to impact only one system in our bodies. So chances are, we’ll continue to discover new ways COVID-19 exerts its effects on the human body.
While this can seem like a scary and overwhelming thought, I am here to remind you that you are your own best advocate, and you hold immense power over your own health. There has never been a better or more important time to start prioritizing your health and well-being. And as always, I’ll be here to provide my patients and readers with the best resources and support to stay healthy and safe.
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Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn that COVID-19 might be able to impact your brain? What steps are you taking to keep your immune system running on all cylinders during this time? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.