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Life After a Viral Infection - 2023 Covid Update

Vector borne (from mozzies)

Epstein barr (the kissing disease)

Influenza (what you pick up from the Ekka)

These are 3 types of viruses I used to hear about the most in practice. They have now been superseded by the prevalence of Covid-19 and its subsequent variations. These days, the people I see request preventative strategies, acute treatment advice and post-viral care for SARS-CoV-2. Taking action for viral infections is important and is likely to prevent future health complications. Complications that include chronic fatigue or Long-Covid.

Previous research pointed the finger at oxidative stress and inflammation created during pathogen removal as a major culprit for residual symptoms. Recent Covid-19 investigations support this theory, linking severe cases and Long-Covid to the uncontrolled “cytokine storm” that occurs during the pathogen’s advanced progression which can continue past the infection period. Basically, the inflammation deemed typical during a viral infection becomes severe and uncontrolled.




Viral Activity

A virus is a type of infection that acts like an invading entity. Like some sort of alien creature, it needs a host to cling to in order to survive and multiply. In the human body, often the best host for a virus are immune cells. These poor immune cells often have little chance when under attack which means they can’t provide their normal function of keeping us healthy, eventually becoming 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.


With Covid-19, it’s a similar process. This virus is partial to Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE-2) receptors, targeting the cells where these are present. Guess where these receptors are highly populated? That’s right – The lungs. Hence all the respiratory activity Covid is known for. The kidneys, intestines, fat tissue and liver are also potential targets.


After a Virus

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. 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.

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. In cases of long-Covid it is the most common persevering symptom along with aches and pains.


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. Viruses that initiate a respiratory infection can damage epithelial cells and cause hypersensitivity in the respiratory tract, increasing susceptibility to frequent coughing.


Oxidative stress and Inflammation are a normal part of the immune response and create viral symptoms during and after infection. Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) created during the pathogen’s removal is responsible Oxidative stress often linked to brain fog and fatigue. Cytokines released as part of the inflammatory response led to the aforementioned “storm” which is associated with Long-Covid. Long-Covid is considered when symptoms persist for 4 weeks, or longer once acute symptoms have resolved. It has also been revealed that asymptomatic cases that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 can also develop long Covid, meaning that the infection severity does not correspond with post-viral issues. In viruses such as Ross River and Epstein bar however, post-viral fatigue and illness severity are positively correlated.


Depleted Soldiers


Subsequent infections are a major concern in the months following a viral infection. The army of innate and adaptive immune cells such as NK, T & B cells have hopefully learnt how to fight off another similar attack, but unfortunately their depleted numbers mean that defenses are weakened. New and opportunistic invaders might take advantage and storm the castle. Repopulating and building strength in the immune system can prevent this from happening.


Post-Viral support


The factors that impact your recovery from an infection are vast. 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 due to immune disturbance and increased inflammation.

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 after the pathogen has gone.

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 nutrient dense diets are ideal.

Although dietary interventions are highly advised, this is a time when supplementation is also necessary to support a struggling system to bring about a faster recovery.


Addressing the inflammation and Oxidative stress to manage symptoms

  • Support the body’s antioxidant production and reduce antioxidant depletion

  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) and Glutathione improve antioxidant status in the body and supplementation is beneficial

  • Increase vitamin C foods to assist Glutathione concentrations

  • Onion & Garlic and high protein foods for N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)

  • Limit alcohol, high sugar and processed foods

  • Eat anti-inflammatory. Mediterranean eating has demonstrated improvement for painful and debilitating conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) due to its anti-inflammatory capability.

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. Its multi-anti-viral action has demonstrated efficacy against Influenza, herpes simplex and coronaviruses (Not Covid-19 as yet). Echinacea is able to reduce inflammatory cytokines and is recommended during the early stages of an infection indicating a potential role in preventing lung complications in Long-Covid.


Andrographis is an antiviral herb with documented actions against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in lung epithelial cells. Andrographolides showed efficacy in interrupting the virus’s progression more so in its later stages.


There are herbs that can also reduce coughing, soothe the respiratory tract and prevent further infections. Herbal treatment is also available for sleep disturbances and to restore energy where it may be lacking in the post-viral patient.


Gut Support

A majority of the immune system is found in gut microbiota. 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.


Sleep

Without restful sleep, an effective immune system does not exist. Poor sleep drives inflammation and leads to poor antibody production. Eight to nine hours of refreshing sleep each night with minimal interruption will assist immune repair. In some cases, such as chronic fatigue, extra rest and sleep may be required and waking up refreshed may take some time.


Life changes and support

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. Following an infection, often physical activity may exacerbate symptoms such as fatigue or pain. Find out what your new limits are. 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.


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 - enquiries@purpletreetherapies.com.au

Research:

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