What breaks your body down is inflammation. Covid drives inflammation.
Medical News Today published two reviews of research studies this week regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I’m not going to repeat what they found in detail. The articles are quite readable and shown in the Sources list below.
The first review concerns damage to the brain.(1)
- There is little evidence of a direct attack by the virus on brain cells.
- There is substantial evidence regarding viral attack on the linings of blood vessels and that the immune system response to this attack may trigger damage to neurons resulting is loss of brain function.
- The researchers hypothesize that if the body is already dealing with inflammation when the virus arrives, the combination may overstimulate the immune system causing more severe damage. They cite diabetes as an example of an inflammatory disease.
The neurologic damage that the coronavirus cases can include:
- loss of smell (anosmia)
- delirium — a mental state characterized by an inability to rest, illusions, and incoherent thought and speech patterns
- encephalopathy — a temporary or permanent state of altered brain function
- psychiatric symptoms
- peripheral neuropathy — a condition where nerve damage alters the communication between the central nervous system and the rest of the body(1)
The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, the fluid in the spinal column and surrounding the brain) of people suffering from Long Covid shows the presence of cells that fight infections, but without evidence of the virus itself. Blood vessels show evidence of inflammation and clotting. The CSF also contains protein fragments from nerve damage. These findings are changing how some in the medical community view inflammation.
“My philosophy in medicine has completely changed. For example, inflammation is probably 90% of aging. Cancer, dementia, all are due to immune function. COVID-19 is making all these things worse because it is driving inflammation.”
– Dr. Santosh Kesari. chair, and professor of translational neurosciences and neurotherapeutics at St. Johns’ Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA
The second study is a review of research on Covid damage to the gastrointentinal (GI) tract. There are in fact several routes the virus could take to get to the intestines, which contain a large population of ACE receptors making a welcoming environment for the virus.
The most common GI symptoms of the virus include:
- lack of appetite (19.9%)
- distortion or lack of taste (15.4%)
- diarrhea (13.2%)
- nausea (10.3%)
- vomiting up blood or GI bleeding (9.1%) (2)
Some patients with the virus only have these symptoms. Others may develop GI symptoms before the more commonly associated effects of Covid-19 show up (e.g., breathing issues, loss of sense of taste or smell, etc.).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus enters intestinal cells and respiratory cells using the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) protein as a receptor. Once attached, the virus uses the reproductive mechanism of the receptor cell to replicate. When the new virus particles leave the receptor cell, they trigger the release of cytokines resulting in inflammation of the infected area.
The coronavirus may also exit the body in fecal matter, and the content of feces may be infectious weeks after the person tests negative for the virus. The explains the presence of active virus particles in waste water treatment plants.
It also explains how a food preparer who tests negative for the virus can still transmit it if careless about hand washing.
Persons with severe GI symptoms are more likely to have severe cases of Covid and to suffer long term or permanent damage from the infection. The risks are higher when the patient has pre-existing damage to the GI tract, including but not limited to Barrett’s Syndrome and Irritable Bowel Disorder.
Finally, and curiously, internet searches on GI symptoms show a pattern of surging three to four weeks before each major Covid wave. The pattern is consistent and could serve as a predictor of when a wave is on the way.