Over the last 3 years, COVID-19 has tested our resilience in countless ways.
Many people are discovering they are suffering from “long COVID.” This is the continuation of fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, myalgia, brain fog, and a laundry list of other symptoms which may last 5 weeks or longer. Persistent brain fog is a common long COVID symptom which is referred to as “COVID brain.”
If you are struggling with COVID brain post-COVID infection, you are not alone!
In this blog, I’ll discuss COVID brain and how the health of your gut microbiome is the key to overcoming it. I’m also sharing my top 6 ways to re-diversify your gut microbiome to clear brain fog. Stay tuned for info on how to receive one-on-one gut health guidance from yours truly!
Anyone can suffer from long COVID and COVID brain, even if you did not have any symptoms at the time of the initial infection.
A study of 250,000 people found that one-third suffered from persistent neurological and psychiatric symptoms over the 6 months following COVID infection. (1,2)
The most prevalent cognitive long COVID complaint seems to be brain fog, which can be experienced as:
COVID brain symptoms vary widely from person to person and can feel similar to the effects of sleep deprivation or stress. (3) Talk to your doctor if you feel your symptoms may fit the COVID brain criteria.
While COVID brain is devastating and discouraging, there is hope! I believe the key to recovery lies in the microbiome, here’s why…
In your gut, you have a “microbiome,” an internal ecosystem hosting trillions of microorganisms. There are over 400 different species of microorganisms in the human GI tract. Your gut microbiome is as unique to you as your DNA or your fingerprints. (4)
Gut bacteria work together to keep the microbiome balanced. A balanced gut is essential to your overall wellbeing and directly impacts how your body functions and feels.
Here are just a few bodily processes your gut microbiome is involved in:
When an imbalance happens, you may suffer from:
Cognitive processes and mood are connected to your microbiome by way of the “brain-gut axis” (BGA). When the BGA communication system is compromised because of viral intruders like COVID, you are more susceptible to inflammation, stress, fatigue, and disease. (5,6).
A preliminary study highlighted that some patients with COVID-19 had decreased beneficial bacteria in their gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Vaccination causes a similar microbiome disruption. People who are vaccinated with mRNA have no Bifidobacterium. (7,8) Check out this illuminating interview with Dr. Sabine Hazan for an expert opinion on how Bifidobacterium is essential to our survival:
The good news is, even if you have had multiple COVID infections and/or are vaccinated, there are many simple ways to begin rebuilding and supporting your gut’s biodiversity.
Here are a few things I recommend adding to your lifestyle to help you alleviate brain fog!
1. Mushrooms - Cordyceps and Lions Mane: Mushrooms are consumed around the world as food and medicine. They are a superfood full of vital nutrients. Certain species, like cordyceps and lion's mane, are anti-inflammatory, anti-pathogenic, and antioxidant. Research has shown that consuming mushrooms can reduce disease risk factors, boost immune function, control inflammation, and improve recovery for those with COVID-19 infections. (9) Consuming two or more servings of mushrooms per week is linked with a 57% lower risk of cognitive impairment. (10)
2. Probiotics: Probiotics protect the gut against unwanted pathogens. One study found that patients given probiotics during their hospitalization for COVID-19 reported significantly less fatigue and increased levels of key energy metabolites six months after their hospital stay. (11) Eating a variety of foods rich in pre- and probiotics on a daily basis will boost the beneficial bacteria in the gut. A spore-based, broad-spectrum probiotic is the ideal choice if you go the supplement route.
3. CoQ10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid: CoQ10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid are mitochondrial nutrients and antioxidants. These compounds can help protect your brain from free radicals, improve stress response, and protect your heart. The Requpero study found that COVID-19 patients who received supplementary coenzyme Q10 + alpha lipoic acid had a 53.5% complete result on the Fatigue Severity Scale. (12)
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Studies have found that Omega-3s may help treat mood and cognitive disorders. Supplementing with Omega-3 can support heart and brain health by cleansing inflammation and restoring tissues. Studies have shown that Omega-3 supports the long-term health of the brain, behavior, and immunity. (13)
5. Adrenal Support: Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and serve as key players in your endocrine system. They produce over 50 hormones in the body, including epinephrine, cortisol, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. The stress of COVID has caused many people to struggle with adrenal fatigue. You can support your adrenals by creating a healthy daily routine, avoiding caffeine, walking for gentle exercise, and getting plenty of sleep.
6. The Vagus Nerve and Breathwork: The lungs and gut are connected through the gut-lung axis, also known as the vagus nerve. (14) Breathwork is an excellent way to stimulate the vagus nerve, release stress, boost immune function, and detoxify your body. It’s a powerful way to activate different areas of your brain that haven’t been getting enough oxygen. Check out this video to practice the Wim Hof method breathing exercise I do every day to feel my best.
I hope this information has reawakened a desire to learn how to better care for and support your amazing body. If you have been suffering from COVID brain or would like more personalized expert insights and advice to optimize your health, I’d like to invite you to a one-hour wellness session with me! With the right guidance, vibrant wellness can become your norm!
During this 60-minute Zoom video call, I will help you discover a diet and supplement regimen that supports your unique needs.
This service is perfect for you if...
During our time together, I will tap into your energy field to intuitively test what diet and supplements are right for you. You’ll leave the call with a concrete plan for transforming the way you nourish your body!
Dedicating this hour to optimizing your wellness can result in:
1. Berg, Sara. “What Doctors Wish Patients Knew about Long Covid.” American Medical Association, March 11, 2022. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-long-covid
2. Callan, Caitriona, Emma Ladds, Laiba Husain, Kyle Pattinson, and Trisha Greenhalgh. “'I Can't Cope with Multiple Inputs': A Qualitative Study of the Lived Experience of 'Brain Fog' after Covid-19.” BMJ open. U.S. National Library of Medicine, February 11, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8844964/
3. “Long COVID: Brain fog.” NHS Inform, November 23, 2022. https://www.nhsinform.scot/long-term-effects-of-covid-19-long-covid/signs-and-symptoms/long-covid-brain-fog
4. “The Microbiome.” The Nutrition Source, July 25, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/microbiome/
5. MD; Jones MP;Dilley JB;Drossman D;Crowell. “Brain-Gut Connections in Functional GI Disorders: Anatomic and Physiologic Relationships.” Neurogastroenterology and motility : the official journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16420287/
6. MA; Fichna J;Storr. “Brain-Gut Interactions in IBS.” Frontiers in pharmacology. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22783191/
7. Xu K;Cai H;Shen Y;Ni Q;Chen Y;Hu S;Li J;Wang H;Yu L;Huang H;Qiu Y;Wei G;Fang Q;Zhou J;Sheng J;Liang T;Li L; “[Management of COVID-19: The Zhejiang Experience].” Zhejiang da xue xue bao. Yi xue ban = Journal of Zhejiang University. Medical sciences. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32391658/
8. ProgenaBiome. “About Us.” ProgenaBiome. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://progenabiome.com/publications
9. Phillips, Jennifer Mary, Soo Liang Ooi, and Sok Cheon Pak. “Health-Promoting Properties of Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Bioactive Compounds for the COVID-19 ERA-an Appraisal: Do the Pro-Health Claims Measure up?” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). U.S. National Library of Medicine, April 1, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9000601/
10. Feng, Lei, Irwin Kee-Mun Cheah, Maisie Mei-Xi Ng, Jialiang Li, Sue Mei Chan, Su Lin Lim, Rathi Mahendran, Ee-Heok Kua, and Barry Halliwell. “The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore.” Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. IOS Press, January 1, 2019. https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad180959
11. Santinelli L;Laghi L;Innocenti GP;Pinacchio C;Vassalini P;Celani L;Lazzaro A;Borrazzo C;Marazzato M;Tarsitani L;Koukopoulos AE;Mastroianni CM;d'Ettorre G;Ceccarelli G; “Oral Bacteriotherapy Reduces the Occurrence of Chronic Fatigue in COVID-19 Patients.” Frontiers in nutrition. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35096923/
12. Barletta, Maria Angela, Gerardo Marino, Barbara Spagnolo, Francesco Paolo Bianchi, Paola Chiara Francesca Falappone, Luca Spagnolo, and Pietro Gatti. “Coenzyme Q10 + Alpha Lipoic Acid for Chronic COVID Syndrome.” Clinical and experimental medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, August 22, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9395797/
13. Yang CP;Chang CM;Yang CC;Pariante CM;Su KP; “Long Covid and Long Chain Fatty Acids (Lcfas): Psychoneuroimmunity Implication of Omega-3 Lcfas in Delayed Consequences of Covid-19.” Brain, behavior, and immunity. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35390469/
14. Sarubbo F;El Haji K;Vidal-Balle A;Bargay Lleonart J; “Neurological Consequences of Covid-19 and Brain Related Pathogenic Mechanisms: A New Challenge for Neuroscience.” Brain, behavior, & immunity - health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed December 19, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34870247/