Something I’ve become very aware of over the last few months, is that many people are suffering ongoing aftereffects from the virus.
It tends to happen in usually healthy individuals who have had an unconfirmed case, self-isolated at home, but not completely recovered. These relapses reoccur for weeks to months after the illness has passed. Just when you think you’re okay, you experience another set back.
This post viral fatigue – as it is called, is not an unfamiliar story. In fact, the news papers reported it just last week.
What is Post Viral Fatigue?
The term post-viral fatigue refers to lingering feelings of extreme tiredness after a viral illness.
Although almost any virus can trigger post viral fatigue, it’s a complex condition that experts don’t yet fully understand.
It is suspected it may be related to an unusual response to a virus that then remains latent in the body. This produces an increased level of proinflammatory cytokines which increase inflammation in the body and nervous system.
This excessive inflammation is thought to be responsible for the common symptoms which vary from person to person, but generally include:
- Unrefreshing sleep / insomnia
- Fatigue/extreme tiredness
- Unexplained muscle and joint pain
- Concentration and memory problems
- Depression/low mood
- Swollen lymph nodes
There is no medical treatment for post viral fatigue. It’s generally a case of resting and waiting for symptoms to improve on their own. Recovery can take a while, sometimes weeks to months.
There are, however, many ways you can assist your body naturally in its healing journey.
Break the cycle
The key is to break the cycle and treat the underlying infection while simultaneously using natural therapies to support the underlying immune, inflammatory and stress response systems.
As with any viral infection, it’s important to listen to your body and take time to recover and rest as much as needed.
Over doing it, on the other hand, can lead to post viral fatigue developing into a long-term condition such as ME or Chronic Fatigue.
Give your body the tools to heal itself.
The body has an amazing capacity to heal itself. But, you must first provide it with adequate vitamins and minerals in the form of a healthy diet.
Focus on eating whole foods: including a rainbow of coloured fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, moderate amounts of vegetable and/or animal protein, and plenty of good fats from raw nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, olive oil, oily fish which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Include an immune boosting smoothie everyday.
Avoid processed foods which offer very little nutritional value, and usually contain high levels of preservatives, additives, sugar, bad fats and salt.
BREAK THE BOOM AND BANG CYCLE
Sugar and caffeine may make you feel good in the short time, by temporarily increasing your energy. However, the crash afterwards can compound your tiredness.
Remember its not just obvious sugar but also refined flour products such as white bread, rice and baked goods that have this impact.
Instead choose low glycaemic load carbs such as brown rice, oats and quinoa and pair them with protein (meat, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds) to minimise a sugar high and avoid the boom and bang.
Keep well hydrated
Hydration is a key element in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Our immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in our blood stream, and our blood stream is made predominantly of water. Without enough water, our blood can’t properly transport nutrients to each organ system.
Staying well hydrated is also very important for helping clear out any foreign invaders. See fighting infections with the three F’s here.
Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, lack of energy, depression, confusion and muscle tension and digestive problems (very similar to post viral fatigue in fact).
If you struggle to drink enough water, consider choosing an calming herbal tea instead.
Do I need vitamins?
It’s a scientific fact that the body needs extra nutrients when fighting and recovering from a virus. More on the importance of key nutrients here.
Consider a good Multivitamin and Mineral supplement as a baseline.
Look out for adequate levels of zinc (15mg), selenium (100ug) and D3 (25ug). Take extra vitamin C on top 1-2g a day.
Read more here on why Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA’s) aren’t often enough for optimal health.
Get some sunshine and some sleep.
Good sleep is such a fundamental part of your health. It’s well known that lack of sleep can dramatically impact your mental and physical health.
Most importantly, it can affect your immune system.
Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus. This then signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones (in particular melatonin) that make a person feel sleepy.
Getting some direct sunlight in the morning and middle of the day is an essential way to get the hormonal pathways functioning. More details on natural ways to improve sleep here.
This will also provide valuable vitamin D, needed by the immune system (more on that here).
Symptoms of post viral fatigue have been linked to ongoing inflammation. One of the most well researched herbs is turmeric.
All the major properties of turmeric are due to the polyphenolic component of turmeric known as Curcumin.
A number of research studies suggest that turmeric also has good anti-viral activity meaning it’s the perfect herb for helping support the body through and post infection.
We all know that exercise is good for us. But, how much should you be doing when suffering with post viral fatigue?
The key is to take it easy. Start by taking gentle walks in the fresh air and build up slowly. If you feel tired and achy the next day cut back and rest.
It can be frustrating, especially if you’re used to heavy duty cardio, but listen to your body, don’t over do it.
If you’re really struggling to get up to speed again, or you keep experiencing set backs, get some professional help.
Physiotherapists the unsung heroes of this pandemic
Physiotherapist have been working hard in hospitals on the frontline, helping rehabilitate the most severely affected patients. They know what they’re doing.
They can offer breathing exercises to heal lungs and increase capacity and physical exercise to build up stamina and muscle strength again.
Have you had or know anyone experiencing an unexplained Post Viral Fatigue? What did you find helped?