Life After a Viral Infection
Vector borne (from mozzies), Epstein barr (the kissing disease) & Influenza (what you pick up from the Ekka)...
These are 3 types of viruses I hear about the most in practice. They all present differently and have varied symptoms, but what they do have in common is that they can be incredibly disrupting.
How are viral infections different from the common cold?
Living in the Covid-19 era means that people are becoming more aware about the difference between a cold and a viral infection. In the past, the expression “had the flu” was thrown around freely when it wasn’t necessarily the case.
A virus is a type of infection that acts like an invading entity. Like some sort of alien creature, a virus needs a host to cling to in order to survive and multiply. In the human body, the best host for a virus are immune cells. These invaded immune cells can’t provide their normal function to keep us healthy and become collateral damage. Once a host cell is infected, its energy production capability is disrupted and the cell dies. Virus cells are then free to replicate as required. Due to the immune system not being at full capacity, additional infections have the opportunity to pop up and thrive.
Symptoms such as severe coughs can be virus-specific as we have seen with Covid-19’s ability to be aggressive against the respiratory system. Respiratory symptoms often occur from the body’s inflammatory responses to a virus and not the virus itself. This can explain why symptoms linger after a pathogen is long gone - with some cases reported to have lasting effects over 4 years later.
It’s not just inflammation that is responsible for post-viral symptoms. Once a virus has run its course, the immune system is impaired due to cellular destruction. Important immune cells such as NK, T & B cells have an altered memory (which in some cases can last a lifetime) and resistance to infections isn’t what it once was. NK cells are required for virus removal and allow our immune systems to adapt to what it has been exposed to, therefore it is important to provide support during the viral and post-viral stages.
Fatigue is a common complaint in the post-viral phase, often termed post-viral syndrome or post-infectious fatigue syndrome (PIFS), which for some can turn into long term malaise and non-specific pain. Chikungunya for example is a severe but short-lived virus, unfortunately symptoms can linger for months or years afterwards.
Common post-pathogen symptoms include frequent colds, low energy, sleep disturbances, cognitive impairment, inability to sustain physical activity, impaired liver function and poor circulation. Sometimes it might be just a cough that doesn’t seem to go away. Viruses that initiate a respiratory infection can leave you with a cough lasting up to 8 weeks. Damage to epithelial cells and hypersensitivity in the respiratory tract caused by a previous infection can increase coughing susceptibility. Having a virus means that you need to put yourself and your health first, not just for the period that you are ill, but for the months following.
The factors that impact your recovery from an infection are vast. Besides your pre-viral health, nutrition, fitness, stress, exposure to toxins, gut health, subsequent infections, inflammatory status, and oxidative stress all play a part. Additional dietary factors such as food allergies and intolerances that weren’t a previous concern may come into the forefront.
Support from health professionals can make or break recovery in some instances where pathogens have had chronic and debilitating effects on individuals. Delaying treatment and ignoring symptoms after an infection can also mean longer-lasting and more serious health consequences.
Immune System Support
A viral infection means the immune system needs to be built back up even after the pathogen has gone. Get those immune cells healthy and responsive again. In a previous blog, I detailed how to support your immune system naturally. The process here is very similar but there are protocols specific to the post-viral state. Regardless of whether you feel symptoms or not, health support is required at this time as viruses don’t discriminate.
#1 Dietary Changes
If you haven’t already, get to know more about an anti-inflammatory diet which, along with Mediterranean eating have demonstrated improvement for painful and debilitating conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which is sometimes linked to previous viral infections). Other specific approaches include sufficient fatty acids (Omega 3’s from Fish, chia and flax seeds), Polyphenols (from Turmeric and brightly coloured herbs and foods) and a variety of vegetables. The Immune system relies on Vit A, Vit B2, Vit B5, Vit B6, Vit C, Vit D, Vit E, Choline, Essential Fatty Acids, Iron, Zinc, some Amino Acids (protein). So you can see how important a nutrient dense diet is to recovery.
#2 Herbal Help
Echinacea is a herb synonymous with cold and flu attenuation. That is because this herb not only disrupts various stages of a viral infection, but deals with the resulting inflammation. It’s multi-anti-viral action has demonstrated efficacy against Influenza, herpes simplex and coronaviruses (prior to the eruption of Covid-19. The efficacy of Echinacea has not YET been demonstrated against this new strain). The herb, Andrographis directly improves the status of NK and T cells, which as previously mentioned are immune cells that become impaired during and after a viral infection.
Certain herbs can also reduce coughing and prevent further infections. Approaching the respiratory system with herbals that soothe and renew the cells in this area may help to prevent a persistent post-viral cough. Herbal treatment is also available for sleep disturbances and to restore energy where it may be lacking in the post-viral patient.
#3 Gut Health
Everything comes back to gut health these days. It is certainly for a good reason. Post-viral syndromes are linked to dysbiosis & SIBO (non-helpful gut bacteria) and decreased gut permeability (leaky gut). Probiotics and gut healing over a 12 month period following a virus is essential. This will require additional nutrients that help the gut lining to heal and ensure proper bowel function. Since toxin levels may be higher than usual in these cases, assessing the body’s tissues for non-nutrient metals will provide a clear picture of health status and give insight to any extra detoxification help required.
Life changes and support
Time can be a crucial factor in your recovery process so be sure to get help if you need it. Seeking out a supportive health professional to manage your treatment saves time, money and distress for the sufferer. Sometimes a diagnosis from a GP is essential for one to acknowledge ill health, but you don’t need to rely on a diagnosis to admit there’s something wrong.
Your body might feel different so it is important to adjust accordingly. Make sure that your social support (friends and family) and your workplace are aware of how you are feeling and what’s happening. Trying to carry out normal work and social functioning when all you can’t keep your eyes open is hard and you need put yourself first. Following a infection, often physical activity may exacerbate symptoms such as fatigue or pain. Find out what your new limits are.
Key points *Don’t ignore symptoms. *Get help *Eat anti-inflammatory *Take supporting herbs *Heal your gut *Rest as often as you can. *Take it easy on the activity. *Assess your work situation. *Self-care is a must.
Jo Knight – Naturopath @ Purple Tree Therapies
BHlthSc(ComplMed), Adv Dip Nat., Adv Dip Nut., Adv Dip. WestHerbMed
Purple Tree can provide Hair Mineral Testing, Gut healing programs, Nutripath Pathology Testing, Dietary Advice and support through the viral and post-viral recovery stage. Get in touch today - firstname.lastname@example.org
Brown, B. (2014). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Personalized Integrative Medicine Approach. Alternative Therapies 20(1), 29-40.
Finton, K. A. & Strong, R. K. (2012). Structural insights into activation of antiviral NK cell responses. Immunological Reviews, 250, 239-257
Gupta, S., Mishra, K. P & Ganju, L. (2017). Broad-spectrum antiviral properties of andrographolide. Arch Virol, 162, 611–623. doi: 10.1007/s00705-016-3166-3
Hu, J., Zhao, H., Danfeng, L., Gao, H., Meifang, Y., Zhang, X. Jia, H., & Li, Lanjuan. (2018). Human cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus infections, risk factors, and their influence on the liver function of patients with acute-on-chronic liver failure. BMC Infectious Diseases 18(577), 1-8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-018-3488-8
Hudson JB. (2012). Applications of the phytomedicine Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) in infectious diseases. J Biomed Biotechnol. 1-16. doi:10.1155/2012/769896.
Kok, Y., Chu, W., Phang, S., Mohamed, S., Naid, R., Lai, P., Ling, S., Mak, J., Lim, P., Balraj, P., & Khoo, A. (2011). Inhibitory activities of microalgal extracts against Epstein-Barr virus DNA release from lymphoblastoid cells. Biomed & Biotechnol, 12(5), 335-345. doi:10.1631/jzus.B1000336
Kulkarni, S. P., Ganu, M., Jayawant, P., Thanapati, S., Ganu, A., & Tripathy, A.S. (2017).Regulatory T cells and IL-10 as modulators of chikungunya disease outcome: a preliminary study. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 36, 2475–2481. doi: 10.1007/s10096-017-3087-4
Miletic, A., Krmpotic, A., & Jonji, S. (2013). The evolutionary arms race between NK cells ans viruses: Who gets the short end of the stick? Eur. J. Immunol, 43, 867–877. doi: 10.1002/eji.201243101
Silberman, A & Handwerger, B. (2016). Post-Viral Cough – Clinical Considerations. NDNR, 12(10), 1-4
Stormorken, E., Jason, L. A., & Kirkevold, M. (2017). Factors impacting the illness trajectory of post-infectious fatigue syndrome: a qualitative study of adults’ experiences. BMC Public Health, 17(952), 1-18. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4968-2