Is a hidden infection compromising your health?
By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
Have you felt tired and run down for some time? Do you have restless, unrefreshing sleep? Acute infections usually produce intense and obvious symptoms. You know you’ve caught a bug; you feel dreadful for a while, but then you recover and get back to normal. This is not the case with low grade chronic infections. They can simmer away in the background, compromising your health and energy level, leaving you unaware you actually have an infection.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disease and any inflammatory condition that causes pain often have a chronic infection in their body. The infection aggravates their symptoms. Hidden infections in the body place a major stress on the immune system and detox pathways.
The infection could be viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic. Common sites of infections are the teeth, gums, sinuses, the nails, ears, lymph glands, genitourinary system or intestines. If you eat too much sugar and processed foods while suffering from nutrient deficiencies, you will be feeding these organisms and promoting their growth. Unfortunately some micro-organisms are resistant to antibiotics, or are in a location with poor blood supply, where the antibiotics cannot reach.
Bacteria can also form a biofilm. This is where bacteria adhere to surfaces such as the gut lining or the sinuses and begin to secrete a slimy, glue-like substance. This keeps them firmly imbedded on your body and the biofilm forms a shield from antibiotics; leaving them unable to penetrate deep enough to kill the bacteria. Dental plaque is a typical example. It is a yellowish biofilm that builds up on the teeth. Biofilms in the gut lining are common.
Bacteria, yeast and fungi all release toxins into your body, which are just their metabolic waste products. These substances can give you a hangover type feeling, making you feel drained of energy, groggy on waking and feel achy and bloated. Your body will be constantly trying to fight these infections and your immune cells release inflammatory chemicals and antibodies. These inflammatory chemicals can give you flu-like symptoms and make you feel generally dreadful. If you have an autoimmune condition, the chronic over-stimulation of your immune system can fuel the production of auto-antibodies and give you an autoimmune flare up.
There is a blood test you can have to check your serum globulin levels. A normal range for globulin is 25-35g/L. If your globulin level is raised, it may indicate your immune system is fighting an infection. You can also have a blood test checking your white blood cells, and tests for inflammation, which may be coming from an infection.
Ways to overcome chronic infections
It will take time. These infections have often been present for a long time. Also, in a person with a weak immune system, there is usually more than one infection. There could be an overgrowth of bad bacteria and fungi in the intestines, a gum infection and sinus infection at the same time. As the immune system becomes weaker, a person tends to pick up more and more infections.
- Adequate rest, relaxation and sleep are vital. This is when your body repairs itself. Burning the candle at both ends will not help you restore your health. If you have difficulties sleeping, see the book Tired of Not Sleeping for helpful remedies.
- Trying to minimise stress is important, as this is the single worst thing for your immune system.
- Avoiding sugar is critically important. Your white blood cells are heavily dependent on vitamin C. It protects them from harm while they are destroying invading microorganisms by a process called phagocytosis (basically gobbling up pathogens like Pac Man). Therefore consuming lots of vegetables and fruit and making raw vegetable juices is enormously beneficial while trying to fight an infection. Glucose is very structurally similar to vitamin C, and if there is a lot of sugar present in your body, your white blood cells will take it up and absorb less vitamin C. This will leave you with weakened white blood cells that aren’t able to fight infections. Sugar also feeds all the wrong bugs in your gut. If you have an overgrowth of bad gut bugs, this will lead to fermentation in your gut. Bacterial and yeast metabolic waste products will get released into your bloodstream, impairing mitochondrial function and leaving you very tired. The bad bugs can also steal your nutrients from you, so that the healthy food and supplements you are taking get used for their own growth and metabolism, and you end up nutrient deficient.
- Make sure your home is not poisoning you! Mould, dust and chemicals can significantly weaken your immune system leaving you unable to overcome infections. Here is some interesting information.
- Try to base your diet on fresh, simple, unprocessed foods. What you eat each day has the greatest impact on your health.
- You may need specific nutritional supplements, herbal remedies or IV infusions of nutrients. The right ones for you can make a huge difference to your health. For more information or to make an appointment with a naturopath, call us on 02 4655 8855.
Jariwalla RJ, Harakeh S. Mechanisms underlying the action of vitamin C in viral and immunodeficiency disease. In: Packer L, Fuchs J, eds. Vitamin C in Health and Disease. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.; 1997:309-322
Jariwalla RJ, Harakeh S. Antiviral and immunomodulatory activities of ascorbic acid. In: Harris JR (ed). Subcellular Biochemistry. Vol. 25. Ascorbic Acid: Biochemistry and Biomedical Cell Biology. New York: Plenum Press; 1996:215-231.