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Post Viral Fatigue – What’s Going On and What Can You Do About It?

With the recent pandemic it is estimated that up to one-third of people who test positive for the spicy cough will experience ongoing symptoms for months and sometimes years after their acute infection. Unrelenting fatigue is by far the most common.

Chronic fatigue can occur after any infection however there are some viruses that have earned a reputation for this. Glandular fever (Epstein Barr Virus), Ross River virus, influenza viruses and of course our new favourite SARS-CoV19 are all common culprits. The biological impact of viruses on our human health is complex and there is still much to learn however there are few things we do know about why we might feel such extreme ongoing fatigue after infection.

Mitochondrial Damage

Viruses can alter the internal workings of the mitochondria to allow them to replicate more efficiently. This can cause damage to the mitochondria resulting in a reduction of ATP (energy) production, increased oxidative stress (free radicals) and increased cell death. When mitochondria are impaired by viral damage our capacity to produce energy is significantly reduced.

Chronic Low Grade Inflammation

The invasion of a virus triggers the release of several pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals that promote inflammation). This response can continue some time past infection and higher levels of certain inflammatory chemicals have been observed in patients with post-infectious chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and long COVID. When the inflammatory process doesn’t resolve the way it should, ongoing chronic inflammation can result and this is thought to play a role in ongoing post-viral symptoms.

Alterations to Immune Function

Some viruses have been shown to alter the function of some immune cells, particularly natural killer cells and T cells which may then lead to a weakened immune response. An altered immune response may contribute to failed clearance of the virus leaving people vulnerable to ongoing reactivation of the virus, or reactivation of other viruses such as Epstein Barr virus as has been observed in some cases of Long COVID. Failure to clear the virus may also mean that viruses can ‘hide out’ in body tissues, avoiding detection in the blood. This is often referred to as viral reservoirs. A naturopathic approach to treatment for post-viral fatigue addresses the above mechanisms by targeting following areas…

· Ensuring optimal supply of nutrients required for ATP (energy) production in the mitochondria.

· Herbal medicines to assist the clearance of viruses and improve immune cell function.

· Dietary and lifestyle recommendations to reduce inflammation.

· Increasing dietary and supplemental intake of antioxidants to protect the mitochondrial from viral damage.

· Strategies to reduce stress to limit viral reactivation. Being stressed out physically or emotionally enables viruses to replicate much more easily.

· Addressing any other contributing factors that are unique to the individual. This might include promoting a healthy microbiome, improving detoxification pathways, or correcting nutrient deficiencies.

What Can You Do?

Do not underestimate the basics! This stuff is the foundation of our health and being intentional about following the guidelines below does make a difference.

Top Tips For Aiding Recovery

Here are my top tips for things you can start doing straight away to aid recovery. It can be a long road, but persistent yet cautious strategies can go a long way in helping your body heal.

· Rest and resist the urge to push through! Be strategic about scheduling rest between activities.

· Manage stress by partaking in activities that relax and reset your nervous system.

· Eat a nourishing, anti-inflammatory diet and avoid processed/sugar laden foods.

· Avoid alcohol and excessive caffeine to reduce inflammation and support the nervous system.

· Ease into movement – Stretching and gentle walking are great.

· Eat foods that nourish the gut and help you build a robust and balanced microbiome.

· Talk to your Naturopath about nutrients and herbal medicines to support recovery.

Ongoing fatigue and other symptoms after a virus can be highly distressing however there are things you can do to help promote recovery and improve your quality of life. To discuss how nutrition or naturopathic strategies apply to your individual situation don’t hesitate to book a free no obligation phone appointment. I’d love to help you get back to doing the things you love.

About the Author

Kelli Kieselbach BHSc (NutDMed), Adv Dip (Nat), Adv Dip (WHM)

Kelli Kieselbach is an Adelaide-based Naturopath and Clinical Nutritionist who works with clients of all ages to restore health and prevent disease using nutrition and herbal medicine. Kelli has a special interest in pain and fatigue management working closely with Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome patients to empower them to live life with more energy and less pain. Kelli sees patients one on one both in clinic and online as well as educating businesses and community groups on various health related topics through workshops and guest speaking roles.

For more information about Kelli head to her website https://kellik.com.au/

You can contact her at info@kellik.com.au

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