Do you feel as though your thinking is less sharp and your memory muddier today than it was before getting Covid or the flu? That’s because covid and flu brain are a thing!
What Is Brain Fog
You can think of brain fog as a networking problem, with communication between the various parts of the brain becoming compromised by either direct injury from the virus itself or from the immune system over-activation that leaves a simmering but gradually fading inflammation behind in the brain. A bad viral infection and its inflammatory aftermath jolt the intricately coordinated neural networks in the brain and disrupt the flow of information. Imagine a fleet of delivery trucks suddenly losing their central dispatch – the packages will probably still be delivered but perhaps not in the most efficient way.
In real life situations, it might take you more repetitions to remember a person’s name or a new phone number than it did before, or you forget about assignments and appointments more now than before the infection. The information probably gets there eventually, but not as reliably as before the virus disrupted the network.
It comes down to the immune response to viruses. All of those symptoms like runny nose, fever, headaches, and even brain fog are a result of our body fighting off the pathogen. Every day, you have an army of white blood cells who are always looking for foreign invaders and when they find them they send a signal to your fighters, the cytokines. These proteins, released by your immune system, cause an inflammatory response to get the pathogen out of your body.
Your immune system is going to care less about making sure you can think clearly and care more about making an inhospitable environment for that foreign invader. If your body is working overtime, you’re going to have decreased energy, not feel very well, and not think straight because your body is working on that primary insult, which is that virus circulating through your bloodstream.
The cytokines are also going to impact the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, noradrenaline, and choline. These neurotransmitters are messengers that impact mood, motivation, alertness, cognition, memory, and learning. If their production is slowed, you can see why you might have a bit of brain fog.
So, it’s not all in your head. Brain fog, along with all the other symptoms, is your body’s normal immune response to the cold and flu. Usually, the quicker you get the virus out of your body, the faster your cognitive capabilities return. So boosting your immune system is key. You can read about more ways to boost your immune system here.
But some people experience what is being called “long Covid” “long flu” or even “long pneumonia” and it takes 6-9 months to recover. But, there is much a person can do to maximize the chances of fuller recovery. This involves analyzing your lifestyle habits and discarding the ones hindering recovery and implementing ones that promote brain and nerve healing.
Things you can do to minimize your post-viral brain fog:
- Quit tobacco use – smokers will never recover as fully as they might if they were to quit.
- Minimize alcohol use – very light or occasional use is probably harmless but anything more will hinder recovery.
- Exercise – Activity of any sort, including walking for 20 minutes per day, will increase blood flow and encourage maximal brain healing.
- Improve your diet – fast food, processed foods, and sugary sweets and drinks all foster an inflammatory state and work against healing. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help guide you.
- Take Vitamin D supplementation of 1000 or 2000 IU once daily to support brain and nerve function.
- Exercising the mind and memory – Exercise it just as you would your biceps. Do crossword puzzles or play card games or Sudoku or Wordle; read newspapers, magazines, novels or technical manuals. Anything and everything helps.
At Tennessee Hydration we offer several therapies that support brain health and your brain operate at its peak capacity. Click here to read more about our brain health therapies.
If you’re still not feeling your best after recovering from a virus, give us a call or walk in. We can put together a therapy to help you get back to feeling your best!