Digestive Disorders

Treating chronic infections holistically

Chronic infections

Recognizing when you’re sick or on the brink of illness is usually straightforward for most people. However, when symptoms persist for weeks, there may be an underlying cause at play. Chronic infections present a diagnostic challenge due to their varied symptoms and underlying triggers. Dealing with these infections can significantly impact your daily life.

What are the causes of chronic infection?

Chronic infections result from the persistent presence of infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites in the body for an extended duration. These infections typically arise when the immune system fails to completely eradicate the invading microorganisms, allowing them to establish long-term residency.

Several factors contribute to their development:

  1. Impaired Immune System Function: Chronic infections are more prevalent in individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV infection, cancer, or autoimmune diseases.
  2. Poor Nutrition: Inadequate intake of essential nutrients can weaken the immune system, making it harder to combat infections.
  3. Antibiotic Resistance: Excessive or inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of resistant bacteria strains, which may cause chronic infections that are challenging to treat.
  4. Environmental Factors: Exposure to environmental pollutants or toxins can suppress the immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to infections.
  5. Underlying Medical Conditions: Certain health conditions like diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) heighten the risk of chronic infections.

Prompt medical attention is crucial if a chronic infection is suspected. Early treatment can mitigate complications and improve overall outcomes.

What are the signs and symptoms of a chronic infection?

The signs and symptoms of persistent infections ecan vary depending on the specific type of infection and the affected area of the body.

Some typical indications include:

  • Fatigue: Persistent tiredness that does not improve with rest or sleep.

  • Recurrent Infections: Frequent occurrences of infections such as urinary tract infections, sinus infections, or skin infections.

  • Inflammation: Persistent inflammation resulting in pain, swelling, and redness, often associated with chronic infections and ongoing viral infections.

  • Fever: Low-grade or intermittent fever may be present with certain chronic infections.

  • Weight Loss: Unintentional weight loss due to decreased appetite and increased metabolic demands.

  • Skin Changes: Alterations in the skin such as rashes, ulcers, or persistent itching.

  • Joint Pain: Joint pain and stiffness, which can occur with certain chronic infections like Lyme disease.

Here are 5 types of chronic infection.

There are numerous types of persistent infections. Even an extended cold can be considered chronic. However, most persistent infections exhibit distinct symptoms that necessitate medical expertise for diagnosis and treatment. Common infections include:

  1. Lyme disease: This bacterial infection, transmitted via tick bites, can cause various symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, and neurological issues. In some cases, Lyme disease persists chronically for months or years.
  2. Epstein Barr Virus: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), also referred to as human herpesvirus 4, ranks among the most prevalent human viruses globally. It belongs to the herpesvirus family. The majority of individuals will contract EBV at some point in their lives, typically during childhood, often without experiencing any symptoms. In children, EBV infections generally either do not manifest symptoms or present with mild, transient illness similar to other common childhood infections.
  3. Candidiasis: Caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast, this fungal infection (Candidiasis) can impact the skin, mouth, and genital areas, potentially becoming chronic if untreated.
  4. Sinusitis: A common condition resulting from bacterial or viral infections, sinusitis can lead to persistent nasal congestion, facial pain, and headaches.
  5. Urinary tract infections (UTIs): UTIs, caused by bacteria, can affect the bladder, kidneys, and other parts of the urinary system. Untreated UTIs can become chronic, potentially causing kidney damage and other complications.

It’s crucial to recognize that not all infections progress to become chronic, and chronic infections can manifest with varying symptoms. If you’re experiencing symptoms that you suspect could be linked to a chronic infection, seeking the guidance of a functional medicine specialist is recommended to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

The functional medicine approach to the treatment of chronic infections.

Functional medicine is a patient-centered, evidence-based approach that focuses on the individual as a whole, aiming to uncover and treat the root causes of illness rather than merely alleviating symptoms. In the realm of chronic infections, functional medicine practitioners adopt a comprehensive treatment approach that includes:

  • Identifying the Root Cause: Practitioners of functional medicine aim to pinpoint the underlying reason behind chronic infections, which can vary greatly from person to person. These causes may encompass nutritional deficiencies, exposure to environmental toxins, prolonged stress, hormonal imbalances, weakened immune response, or a combination of multiple factors.
  • Supporting the Immune System: In instances where chronic infections stem from a compromised immune system, functional medicine providers may suggest bolstering immune function. This can involve recommendations such as vitamin supplements or adjustments to enhance the gut microbiome.
  • Nutritional Assistance: Nutrition plays a pivotal role in fortifying the immune system and combating chronic infections. Functional medicine practitioners might advise dietary alterations, supplements, and herbal remedies to bolster immune function and aid the body in fighting infections.
  • Addressing Gut Health: The gut significantly influences immune system performance, and poor gut health can exacerbate chronic infections. If an imbalance is suspected, practitioners may propose gut-healing protocols like probiotics, prebiotics, and other supportive supplements.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Functional medicine embraces lifestyle modifications to enhance immune function, diminish stress, and elevate overall health. These adjustments may incorporate physical activity, stress management techniques, and strategies for improving sleep quality.
  • Identifying and Treating Co-infections: Co-infections, which occur concurrently with primary infections, can complicate treatment. Specialized testing may be necessary to identify co-infections and tailor treatment plans accordingly.
  • Collaboration with Healthcare Specialists: Functional medicine practitioners often collaborate with other healthcare experts such as infectious disease specialists or naturopathic doctors. This collaborative approach ensures comprehensive treatment plans that cater to the unique needs of each patient.

Resolving the root cause of infections.

Ultimately, treating chronic infections using a functional medicine approach entails pinpointing and resolving the underlying cause of the infection. This approach also involves bolstering your body’s immune system through lifestyle adjustments, nutritional support, and other natural therapies.

By prioritizing the entirety of an individual, a functional medicine approach aims to enhance overall health and well-being. Therefore, if you’re contending with a chronic infection, seeking guidance from a functional medicine practitioner could provide you with a holistic path to treatment.

Annamarie Salyer FNP-C

Founder – bionwoRx

Request a personal consultation.