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Everything you Need to Know about Chronic Infections and Disorders
- The topic of chronic infection is so vast that it’s difficult to cover in a single article. This article will help give you the basics of what you should know about chronic infections and disorders.
- Infections are invasions of the body by any external factor that causes damage. These invasions are conducted by pathogens, which may take the form of bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or prions.
- Infections are usually fought off by the immune system. At least, this is the case with acute infections. Unfortunately, chronic infections are not removed by the immune system, and therefore can continue to cause health problems for several months, or even years.
- Chronic infections are most commonly caused by viruses – this is the case with diseases like hepatitis, herpes, and the Epstein-Barr virus, however, they can be caused by a range of different pathogens.
- Bacterial infections have caused some of the most dangerous epidemics in history, including the plague. However, examples of chronic bacterial infections are often limited to issues like urinary tract infections, and bladder infections.
- The most common form of fungal infection is Candida, however, hidden fungus within the body can lead to a range of problems, including headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue.
- Prion infections are still being researched, however they have been linked to problems like mad cow disease, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s. These pathogens work by damaging the brain – leading to chronic issues.
- The best way to deal with chronic infections is to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices. Strengthening your immune system and ensuring the proper balance of bacteria and flora within your body can help you to fight off the chances of infection.
- Crucially, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the type of infection you are suffering from before you attempt to remedy it. After all, different pathogens respond differently to medical and alternative treatments.
For some people, the natural issue that comes to mind when the term “chronic infection” is mentioned include concerns like HIV, or Hepatitis C. However, the truth is that there are a wide range of different infections in the world today that can influence your body either on an acute, or chronic level.
From a medical perspective, an infection is any invasion of the body by an external factor that causes damage. These dangerous micro-organisms can enter the body in a range of different ways, and are responsible for causing a host of symptoms – some more severe than others. The problem with chronic infections, is that the immune system is unable to fight them off. Whereas acute infections cause temporary problems that are alleviated by rest and treatment, chronic infections are insidious in their nature – and often cause potentially deadly results. For some people, chronic infections have no noticeable symptoms to begin with, but can grow to significantly degrade quality of life. That’s why it’s so important to manage infections as quickly as possible.
Whether you’re suffering from chronic bladder infections, urinary tract infections, hepatitis C, or any other chronic condition, it’s important to speak with an expert about the best plan to minimize your symptoms and reduce the extent of your discomfort. This may involve looking at both medical solutions, and dietary changes.
The Basics: What is an Infection, Anyway?
Unlike diseases that are caused by deficiencies in minerals, or genetic diseases that are carried from one person to another, infectious diseases are caused by the presence of foreign attackers in the body known as pathogens. These pathogens might be fungi, bacteria, viruses, or parasites, and can usually thrive in a range of different conditions. Let’s look at some of the different kinds of pathogens:
- Bacteria: Many types of bacteria – including the gut flora that naturally lives within your digestive system – can be either harmless or beneficial to humans. However, invasion from a harmful bacterium, or a condition that causes an imbalance within the natural bacteria in your system can easily lead to chronic discomfort or disease.
- Viruses: Viruses are even smaller than bacteria – containing nothing but a protein coating wrapped around DNA. Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot reproduce on their own, which is why antibiotics are useless against them.
- Fungi: Fungi are often multi-cellular organisms, like bacteria. The right fungi in your system – such as penicillin – may be useful, whereas the wrong kind of fungi can lead to problems like Candida overgrowth.
- Parasites: Parasites can range from helminths (worms), to protozoa (unicell organisms). There is also a parasite known as a “prion“, which is built entirely from protein.
Perhaps the biggest threat surrounding infectious agents is that they can be found almost anywhere. Even the people who take regular precautions to wash their hands after being exposed to bacteria and germs can suffer from an infection. What’s more, attempting to eradicate the world of all pathogens could be potentially harmful. Fortunately, most healthy immune systems can work to stop infections before they become a serious problem. However, some harmful pathogens can get through the body’s defenses and lead to acute or chronic infections.
The World of Difference Between Acute and Chronic Infection
Although acute and chronic infections might have similar agents, the way that they interact with the body are entirely different. While acute infections can come and go rapidly, chronic infections are known for developing slowly, and lasting even longer. For instance, the flu is an acute infection – and while someone with it may be sick for weeks, it’s usually gone within seven days. On the other hand, staph infections can be chronic, and last for several years at a time. In some cases, infections may even be latent – which means that the pathogen remains within the body for a long time without producing any symptoms. Chickenpox is a classic example of a latent infection, as it lies dormant within the body for several years, but can re-emerge as shingles.
The truth is that the average person is under constant attack from fungi, parasites, viruses, and fungi. Acute infections allow the immune system to respond properly – leading to a brief battle after which the immune system is often victorious. If you have an acute infection, you might experience some of the following symptoms:
- Swollen lymph nodes – which indicate the body is fighting infection
- Sore throat
- Skin rashes
- Sinus congestion
- Vomiting or nausea
- Sudden joint or muscle pain
- Acute diarrhea
Contrastingly, chronic infections take place in scenarios when the immune system is unable to respond to the infective agent in a pathogen. This can happen for a range of reasons. For instance, the pathogen might find a way to hide itself within the body. Some common examples of chronic infections include:
- Gulf war syndrome
- Chronic Fatigue syndrome
- Epstein Barr Virus
- Hepatitis C
While many chronic infections produce vague symptoms, or appear to have no symptoms whatsoever, it is possible to notice a few signs of potential on-going infections, such as:
- Chronic respiratory problems like bronchitis and asthma
- A persistent low-grade fever
- Chronic joint and muscle pain, or swelling
- Chronic anxiety, depression, or mood swings.
- Alternations between diarrhea and constipation
- Recurring gas, bloating, or heartburn
- Abnormal genital discharge
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Chronic fatigue
It is important to have a health practitioner on your side that understands how to treat and deal with chronic infections naturally.
The Different Types of Chronic Infection
A person with an infection is hosting another organism within them. That organism gets its nourishment from the person, and causes damage to the host. This organism is known as a “pathogen”, and as we mentioned above, it can take the form of a parasite, fungi, bacteria, or prion. While we all develop infections on a regular basis and fight them off rapidly, chronic infections can leave us suffering with a number of health problems for years. While the majority of chronic infections are caused by viruses like herpes or hepatitis, it is possible to develop a chronic infection as a result of exposure from another kind of pathogen.
Viruses and Chronic Infection
Viral infections are a type of infection caused by a virus. A person can become infected by inhaling the virus, being bitten by insects, or through sexual contact. The most common type of viral infections are respiratory infections that affect the upper airways and these problems can often be fixed by exposure to antiviral herbs. In some circumstances the genetic matter of a virus will live dormant within a cell for several years and something in the future will cause it to begin multiplying again.
Viruses are known for targeting very specific cells throughout the body – including those in the upper respiratory tract and genitals. The rabies virus, for instance, targets the cells within a host’s nervous system. Certain viruses are specifically attributed to certain age groups, such as the elderly or young children. The most common chronic viral infections include:
- Epstein-Barr Virus
Bacteria and Chronic Infection
Bacteria are a type of single-cell micro-organism that often moves together in millions. A single gram of soil is expected to contain around 40 million bacterial cells, while a milliliter of fresh water holds around a million bacterial cells.
Bacteria cells come in spherical, rod, and spiral shapes. They differ significantly to the cells you might see within a standard plant or animal. Bacterial cells have no nucleus and contain flagella, pili, and cell capsules. Many experts consider bacteria to be dangerous because they are capable of living in almost any kind of environment – regardless of whether it is extremely hot or cold. Naturally, a wealth of bacteria live within our bodies, on our skin, and throughout our digestive tracts – often without causing any harm.
The truth is that only a small number of bacteria causes illness within humans, yet some of the most dangerous epidemics in history have been caused by bacteria, such as:
- The plague
- Lyme disease (current epidemic)
Examples of chronic bacterial infections might include:
- Bladder infections
- Urinary Tract infections
Fungi and Chronic Infection
Infection caused by fungi are known as “Mycosis”. Mycosis refers to the process in which a fungal overgrowth happens in a certain part of the body. While some fungi are capable of reproducing through the use of tiny airborne spores, others are consumed. Most fungal infections begin within the lungs, or on the skin.
Though it can be difficult for some people to believe, patients who are taking long-term doses of antibiotics are often more prone to picking up fungal infections. The reason for this is that strong antibiotics can eventually limit the number of good bacteria within the body that help to provide balance to the micro-organisms within the mouth, genitals, intestines, and more. If enough good bacteria are destroyed, the fungi receive the perfect opportunity to grow and thrive – causing significant health problems for their host.
Similarly, patients with existing chronic infections like HIV/AIDS, or those with weakened immune systems also suffer from a higher risk of fungal infections. Diabetes patients – particularly those who struggle to manage their disease can be more susceptible too.
Perhaps the most commonly-cited example of a chronic fungal infection is Candida. However, a hidden fungal infection can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, malabsorption, chronic fatigue, and more.
Prion and Chronic Infection
Finally, Prion is a form of infection agent that is still being uncovered within the medical and scientific industry. This pathogen is an infectious agent that consists mostly of protein – with no underlying genetic material, and it is neither fungal, nor bacterial. Though it occurs naturally in a harmless form, prion can fold into abnormal shapes that affect the structure of the nervous system and brain.
At this time, all forms of prion infection are currently fatal, and untreatable. Prions are known for causing degenerative diseases that impact the brain – such as:
- Fatal Familial Insomnia
- CJD (Creutzfeld Jacob disease)
- Mad cow disease
Some experts have also begun to link instances of Alzheimer’s disease to prion infections. A team of scientists from both the UK and the US have discovered a recent form of prion disease in mice that can damage brain arteries, and may help researchers to better understand types of Alzheimer’s that cause similar types of damage.
Can I prevent Chronic Infections?
Since chronic infections can be incredibly dangerous, in an ideal world, people would do their best to avoid them completely. Unfortunately, many adults are already probably infected with something they aren’t aware of, and the amount of different pathogens surrounding us means that it may be impossible to avoid infections entirely.
The world health organization suggests that the prevention of chronic diseases and infections can largely be linked to careful lifestyle choices. For instance, people who are obese are generally more likely to suffer from chronic illness because of an unhealthy body environment. Their internal system may not be correctly equipped to fight off infection, but might allow for fungi overgrowth by providing a home for excess fats, sugars, and more. Similarly, people with diabetes are generally more likely to suffer from fungal infections – particularly when they cannot keep their insulin levels under control.
If you’re not currently experiencing any symptoms of chronic infection, your best bet is to begin with some damage control. Support your immune system by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress as much as possible. One of the most important ways to enhance your body’s defenses is by healing your gut with careful dietary choices – remember that healthy gut flora can help to strengthen your immune system. Healing your gut and ensuring a good gut flora balance means eating a healthy diet that is free from inflammatory substances like grains, and avoiding chronic stress. It’s crucial to make sure that you’re also getting enough nutrients in your system to support your body’s natural defenses. Vitamin D and Vitamin C are particularly beneficial for immune system.
Reducing your exposure to oxidative stress can also be useful for boosting the immune system. Combating oxidative stress might involve eating foods that are rich in antioxidants (such as green leafy vegetables and dark-colored berries). However, remember that antioxidants aren’t a magic solution. Often, a more effective strategy is to lose excess weight and stabilize any metabolic issues you might have. After all, metabolic syndrome and obesity both contribute to oxidative stress. Most of the time, anything that can work to reduce the amount of stress that your body has to cope with on a daily basis should reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, keeping your immune system in check.
Treating chronic infections, or reducing the symptoms associated with them, on the other hand, will be a process that depends on the kind of infection you are suffering with. For instance, a ketogenic diet can be useful for treating viral and bacterial infections, because viruses and bacteria have no mitochondria, which means that the ketogenic diet starves them of their ideal food source, “glucose”. Gut infections are particularly difficult to treat, because taking an antibiotic may simply wipe out all the microbes living within the gut – regardless of whether they’re healthy or unhealthy.
Speaking to your doctor about instances of chronic infection in your family might be a good place to start, or talking to an expert about dietary and lifestyle choices.
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