An infection occurs when a disease-causing agent attacks the body. There are four main types of infection:
- Bacterial (Tuberculosis, Salmonella, E.coli)
- Viral (Covid-19, HIV, Flu)
- Fungal ( Yeast infections, Athlete’s Foot)
- Parasitic (Malaria, Toxoplasmosis)
Common bacterial infections include strep throat, urinary tract infection (UTI), pneumonia, food poisoning, and bacterial meningitis. Sometimes these infections persist and become chronic infections, which means the bacteria is either antibiotic-resistant or manages to survive antibiotic treatment by switching into ‘sleep’ mode.
The most common viral infection is influenza, which affects between 9 and 49 million people in the US each year. Covid 19 is known as a novel coronavirus, as it’s a new strain from the corona family of viruses, not previously seen in humans. Other common viral infections include chickenpox, HIV, herpes, viral hepatitis, and viral meningitis.
Fungal infections occur when harmful fungi attack a part of the body, and it becomes too much for the immune system to fight. Common fungal infections include yeast infections and athlete’s foot.
Malaria is one of the most common parasitic infections globally, and even in the US, there are about 2000 cases diagnosed each year. Transmission is through a parasite carried by a particular species of mosquito. Symptoms include high fever and shaking chills. Other common parasitic infections include Giardia from contaminated water and toxoplasmosis, which is spread by cats.
Acute vs Chronic Infection – what is the difference?
An acute infection happens rapidly, typically affects one part of the body, and responds well to treatment. With chronic infection, symptoms develop gradually and can affect many parts of the body. The infection can last longer and be harder to eliminate. Chronic Infection symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, or nausea.
The Microbiome and the Virome
Our bodies have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. We’re exposed to bacteria in our environment and in our GI tract—the microbiome. These bacteria assist our body with many essential functions, including digestion and fighting off pathogens (harmful bacteria). We’re also inhabited by an estimated 380 trillion viruses – known as the virome. These viruses are different from the common ones that cause the flu or the cold. They’re known as bacteriophages, and they attack bacterial cells. Researchers are trying to identify bacteriophages that attack bad bacteria; to use as an alternative treatment to antibiotics in the future.
Persistent Viral Infections
Some viruses remain in the body even after the patient has recovered from the illness. Chicken Pox is a good example; the virus varicella zoster, which causes chickenpox, remains in the nerve cells and can re-emerge as shingles later in life. These persistent viruses become ‘latent’ in the body, managing to avoid detection by the body’s immune system.
What are the most common chronic infections?
Chronic infections are caused by a virus or bacterial infection. In some cases, the infectious agent has been eliminated, but the body still suffers from ongoing symptoms.
Chronic Yeast Infection
Candida is naturally present in our body, but an overgrowth can lead to chronic yeast infection. This overgrowth can be triggered by a course of antibiotics or lack of regular hygiene. Chronic infection can also be a sign of a weakened immune system. Alongside anti-fungal treatments, I help my patients with nutritional therapies to restore the body’s healthy microorganisms.
Chronic Sinus Infection
Chronic sinus infection, or Sinusitis, often begins with a common cold before developing into a recurrent sinus infection. Symptoms of a severe infection can include fever, headaches, pain, and congestion. Chronic sinus infection can be due to physical irregularities in the sinuses or allergies. There is a strong link between Sinusitis and allergies/asthma. A functional medicine approach includes strategies to boost the patient’s immune system and reduce the reliance on antibiotics and steroids, which can cause long-term damage.
Herpes Simplex (HSV) is a virus that can cause recurring viral infections. Type 1 causes cold sores around the mouth, and Type 2 causes genital herpes. The virus can remain latent and flare-up in moments of stress. Functional medicine can offer many treatments to support HSV, including diet modification, nutraceutical supplements, and herbal medicine.
Shingles outbreaks can occur when the person is under stress, resulting in an attack of rash-like skin eruptions that can be itchy and painful. Like many chronic viral infections, the virus can remain latent for many years, only emerging when the person’s immunity is compromised through stress, poor diet, or undiagnosed food sensitivities. Lab testing usually reveals deficiencies in Zinc, vitamin A & D.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that is passed to humans through a tick bite. The symptoms are very flu-like: fever, headache, joint pain, and skin rash. Treatment involves antibiotics, but a significant portion of patients do not respond to this medication and go on to develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.
Functional Medicine and Chronic Infection
The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of overall health when dealing with a virus that can affect patients in so many different ways. Conditions such as diabetes and obesity can increase your risk of severe Covid 19 reaction. I can help lower these risks with a treatment program based on the principles of functional medicine. Rather than just treating the symptoms, functional medicine seeks to heal the body as a whole. I help my patients to restore their overall health and build their physical and mental resilience.
If you are dealing with a chronic infection and traditional medical treatments have not worked, you need to ask, “what is the underlying cause of my illness?”. The Caregiver Clarity Call can help you find the reasons behind your illness and, more importantly, the solutions.