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Those Dealing With Long COVID May Have Brain Inflammation To Blame, Study Says

Sarah Regan
June 10, 2023
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Plastic Model of a Brain Repeated on a Minimal Background
Image by Audrey Shtecinjo / Stocksy
June 10, 2023

From brain fog to depression, long COVID seems to come with a range of symptoms for those suffering. And according to new research published in JAMA Psychiatry1, those symptoms may tie back to one larger problem in the brain. Here's what they found.

The persistent effects of long COVID on the brain and more

For this study, researchers wanted to look at the brains of people who had previously been infected by COVID-19 and reported long COVID symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and brain fog.

The participants underwent brain imagining, and when compared to healthy controls, their brains showed higher levels of translocator protein (TSPO), which indicates inflammation in the brain.

As study co-author and neuroscience expert, Jeffrey H. Meyer, M.D., Ph.D., explains in a news release, "[The] regions of the brain that had the most inflammation are the ones involved in the capacity to enjoy things, motivational energy, and the ability to think and move quickly."

Meyer has previously conducted pioneering research on the connection between depression and brain inflammation2, finding that depression is linked with 30% more brain inflammation in depressed people on average, compared to brains of people who weren't depressed.

"Inflammation in the brain was suspected of being the critical step in causing neurological and psychiatric symptoms of long COVID," Meyer adds, "so confirming this is vital to develop treatments for people experiencing symptoms."

Going forward, the team hopes their research can help in the development of new treatments for long COVID and brain inflammation, but in the meantime, here's how to keep inflammatory levels at healthy level.

3 ways to promote a healthy inflammatory response


Try turmeric

Turmeric is well known to be a powerhouse when it comes to helping the body maintain a healthy inflammatory response, but the caveat is it can be really hard to absorb.

To that end, incorporating a quality turmeric supplement into your routine can work wonders for mood support, healthy digestion, joint health, and more. Between its antioxidant actions and its ability to promote a healthy inflammatory response, this is a spice you don't want to miss out on.


Reduce stress

Stress can be one of the worst inflammatory3 factors in your life, even if you're diligent about your diet and fitness routine. When the fight-or-flight response kicks on routinely, it can lead to elevated blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the intestines, and more, which is why board-certified internist Vincent M. Pedre, M.D. previously wrote for mindbodygreen that stress is a major and underestimated factor that affects inflammation.

And even when stressful life events are out of your control, stress-busting tools like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can all help with your ability to regulate emotions.


Mind your diet and exercise

As Pedre previously wrote for mindbodygreen, one of the best ways to combat inflammation is to eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods. (Think wild-caught fish, non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruit, fermented foods, etc.) And further, he adds, getting enough movement has also been shown to help protect against chronic low-grade systemic inflammation4.

The takeaway

Managing inflammation in the body is one of the best ways to promote your physical and mental health, and according to this research, is of particular pertinence to those looking for relief from the impact of long COVID.

Sarah Regan author page.
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.