Stress, Chronic Inflammation, and Long COVID

A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that there’s a link between psychological distress—things like depression, anxiety, and loneliness—and long COVID. 

From a naturopathic perspective, there’s a pretty solid argument for why this makes sense (and why long COVID isn’t “all in your head”).

The reasoning looks like this:

  • Depression, anxiety, worry, and loneliness create stress
  • Prolonged stress can cause imbalances in your stress hormones—what we call adrenal dysregulation
  • This imbalance can lead to chronic immune dysregulation
  • This, in turn, can lead to chronic inflammation
  • Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for long COVID

This matters because it changes how we might prevent long-COVID. We can focus on stress, inflammation, and hormones, which is something NDs understand very well.

 Adrenal dysregulation and chronic inflammation are at the root of many symptoms we see in our patients.  It’s no surprise that this could be a root cause of long COVID as well.  

What can you do? Reduce your inflammation in the best ways we know of:

  • Eat right. Plenty of high-quality whole foods, like fiber, protein, fruits, and veggies.  These foods are anti-inflammatory in nature and help balance blood sugar, which is very good for our stress response.   
  • Exercise daily, especially outside in nature. Connection to nature is an instant stress reliever. Couple that with moving the body and the blood, and you have a panacea for the immune system and hormones 
  • Connect to others. Humans are pack animals. We do better when we are meaningfully connected to others.  Grab a green smoothie and go for a walk with a friend, and you’ve got a trifecta of movement, whole food, and connection!
  • Rest. No, for real, rest. Turn off the screens, put down the phone, go to bed early. Almost all of us need more sleep than we get—sleep helps recharge the hormones and resolve inflammation.

Long COVID may be relatively new, but inflammation isn’t. And after 20 years and more than 10,000 patients, we know inflammation! Connect with your ND to find out if your stress hormones and/or inflammatory markers are out of balance—we have tools that work.