4 Things You Need To Know About Post-viral Inflammation And How To Treat It

Post-viral inflammation can cover a range of different viruses, so obviously colds, flus and Covid-19. But some people may also be suffering effects from other viruses like Epstein-Barr or glandular fever and find that this inflammation can reactivate and leave them feeling awful. In this blog we outline what post-viral inflammation is and what you can do about it.

Often, when you have been sick or unwell, you will find that you can still have symptoms post the acute infection. When you are first sick your body kicks into defensive mode and helps to fight the foreign ‘invader’ this means you start to feel sick – you get the runny nose, the sneezing, the achy joints as your body starts to produce cytokines and fight the virus (a cytokine is a general term used for a protein that modulates inflammation). This is the acute phase, when the best thing to do is rest and keep up the fluids.


What Is Post Viral Inflammation?

Your body is still mounting an immune response, and this can lead to a build-up of inflammatory cytokines in your nervous system. Some of those inflammatory cytokines may cross into your brain (via the blood brain barrier) and this can lead to the fatigue or the brain fog effect you can feel. Sometimes you can also experience pain – which may be caused by inflammatory signals that are sent through the body via cells in your nervous system that were activated by the same cytokines.

Post-viral inflammation can also change how your mitochondria (energy producing bit in our cells) work. It can reduce the amount of mitochondrial DNA replication, and as with any stress (or sickness) there is an increase in oxidative damage. While it all sounds a bit grim there are some things you can do to help if you are struggling from post-viral inflammation.

Are You Having Lingering Symptoms?

What happens when you have passed that initial acute phase and are still struggling to kick lingering symptoms? What if you are still feeling exhausted? Or achy or run down? This can indicate that you are struggling to clear the virus from your system and that you may still be feeling the effects of lingering inflammation.

Recently there has been a lot of talk of 'long COVID' and how people are still finding it hard to get back to their ‘normal’ baseline of health and vitality. Some people are finding that they are struggling with exhaustion levels 3 months post Covid-19, and others are still struggling a year later. So, what can you do to help recover more efficiently and help with any post-viral inflammation?

1. Rest Is Extremely Important

Firstly, the experts say you must rest. Please do not think you can go back to running around like you did pre virus. It is important to listen to your body and give it time to recuperate and recover. This does mean not springing back into an exercise routine or hitting the gym as hard as you did before you were unwell.

Health Navigator NZ has a great article about how to get back safely into exercise post COVID. It details the phased approach to slowly getting your body back into movement and exertion. Post-viral inflammation’s main symptom appears to be fatigue. Which makes sense – the body is still trying to clear the lingering infection, so it is still working overtime – which leads to us still feeling exhausted. Some believe that this could be the starting point for chronic conditions like chronic fatigue.


2. Some Ways To Help Post-viral Inflammation

Post-viral inflammation and chronic fatigue falls into a space similar to adrenal fatigue – not 100% recognised medically – so it is not easy to be ‘diagnosed’ or treated. However there are some things that may help with reducing the stress or impact your body is feeling. They include:

  • Sustained rest. Being very serious about your workload and the boundaries you put around yourself in this time. Go to bed earlier, sleep when you can, do not over exercise.
  • Drink more water than usual. It can help with hydrating and flushing out waste material from inflammation. It can also help with side effects like headaches etc.
  • Eat wholefoods. Basically, fresh fruit and vegetables, soups, broths the things that pack a nutritional punch.
  • Drink your plants – tonics, soups and teas. This is an easy way to get more nutrients in (Anti-Flam and Daily Boost are especially good here).
  • Conserve your energy – checking emails and computer work still takes energy so remember to have realistic expectations on what you can actually do in a day.
  • Tell people you are not feeling 100% - so they know and can work with you. Don’t hide the fact you are not well, being honest means people can plan around and work with you.
  • Vitamin B supplements might help with that extra energy you need. Consider taking one daily.
  • Zinc. Take a good quality zinc for at least a month after a meal to help replenish your stores and also help support recovery.

3. New Research 

There is some updated information from practitioners treating post-viral inflammation. This is especially relevant if you're struggling with a loss of smell and taste post covid. They have found success in recommending a mixture of nutrients to help with recovery and also to help bring back senses lost with COVID/post-viral inflammation.

For some, taste dysfunction during long covid may occur due to the taste buds being damaged from inflammation and increased apoptosis (cell death) and potentially abnormal renewal. ACE2 receptors also appear on the taste buds (which is the receptor covid targets). This paper goes into greater detail if you’re interested. 

Their current recommendations are nutrients which support the olfactory and nervous systems, which are:

  • Vitamin A - plays an important role in restoring the olfactory receptor neurons and epithelium.
  • Vitamin D - a vitamin D deficiency can impair your taste and smell. Ensuring you have enough vitamin D can also help with post-viral hair loss.
  • Zinc - a zinc deficiency impairs the perception of taste and smell. One study concluded that zinc therapy (50mg of elemental zinc twice daily) may have a role in shortening the duration of smell recovery in patients with COVID-19. This dose can also help with post-viral hair loss.
  • Omega-3 - Several studies propose that omega-3 fatty acids help the heart and immune system. Studies have demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids may help restore the olfactory nerve and could be used alongside olfactory training in patients with loss of smell.
  • PEA - palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) has also been shown to potentially improve olfactory function. There are also recommendations around ‘smell training’ to bring the sense back. You can read about that here.
  • N-acetylcysteine - NAC reduces inflammation and oxidative stress which impacts the taste buds and provides antioxidants to support in recovery.
  • Curcumin - Curcumin (found in turmeric) may protect patients with long-COVID by targeting the pro-inflammatory immune cells NF-κB which has been associated with lung injury. Curcumin may also help subdue the activity of bradykinin (a vasodilator substance) by inhibiting enzymes. This can help suppress ongoing coughs. Curcumin is also a potent overall anti-inflammatory for the whole body. This is why we use it in our Anti-Flam Tonic.

🌿 RelatedHow To Take Turmeric For Inflammation - An Easy Guide

4. There Is No Quick Fix

There is no quick fix for post-viral inflammation but supporting the body by reducing the instance of inflammation (e.g., no high stress exercise, managing stress levels, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet) can help support your body to recover.

The big take home is you need time to recover, and yes in our society it can feel weird to not be productive. However, if you don’t take the time now – you may find it harder in the future.

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