Following a viral infection it is relatively common to experience a period of low energy when you don’t feel quite your usual self. Part of the body’s immune response results in inflammation which takes time to settle down.
For some, however, the fatigue experienced can be extreme; even completing simple daily tasks becomes a real challenge. In addition, there may be muscle and joint pain, shortness of breath, brain fog, dizziness and poor concentration. This may last a few weeks, or in some cases longer, going on for months and becoming a chronic condition known as ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The earlier the condition is tackled the better, so be informed and take the slow but sure steps to aid recovery.
Each of us is unique, with individual strengths and weaknesses. Symptoms of post-viral fatigue tend to be noticed most in the places where we are most vulnerable.
Perhaps you’ve been overdoing things for some time, burning the candle at both ends, or living in a state of hypervigilance. The adrenals have been working hard and infection was the last straw; now extreme fatigue makes getting out of bed in the morning an exhausting prospect.
Perhaps your lungs were always a little under par, with frequent respiratory infections. A more significant infection may leave you with a continuous sensation of tightness and a dry cough that won’t quite clear, alongside fatigue.
The path of recovery will need to focus on the individual aspects of each case and the reasons why those areas were under strain in the first place.
However, there are some common routes that will provide benefit in the majority of cases.
Guidelines for Post-Viral Recovery
Resetting your self-expectations during your recovery period is essential; an ongoing battle between what you want to achieve and what you can actually achieve creates a state of stress – something that depletes, rather than restoring the body. Give yourself the time you need, whatever that may be. Your body is giving you a clear message, your job is to take notice. It is also important to inform those around you that you will need extra support for a period of time. Work should be kept to an absolute minimum – this includes both paid work and unpaid work (such as a caring role). Delegate as much as possible.
REST and RESTORATION: Rest allows the body to direct the energy it does have towards healing. Find a selection of deeply relaxing and restful activities that you enjoy – taking a bath, very gentle yin yoga or yoga nidra, tai chi, guided relaxation meditations or breathing exercises are all good choices. Television, internet and mobile phones do not allow your mind to disengage so do not count as resting. The brain is an energy hungry organ.
ACTIVITY: Activating the mind and body regularly is still important, but needs to be adapted to a slower pace. Take a daily gentle stroll in nature. Choose something that keeps your mind occupied such as adult colouring books, a jigsaw puzzle or a quiet hobby that you enjoy. Pace yourself – take frequent breaks to rest between any form of activity whether it be physical, mental or social. It can be tempting to do as much as you can on days you are feeling stronger but continue to be cautious on these days, allowing the additional energy to be put towards healing and repair.
POSITIVE MINDSET: Mindset is a key factor in wellness, and you can choose which setting you’re on! Firmly establishing a positive mindset increases your resilience and encourages a quicker and more enjoyable recovery.
It is a discipline that can be learned through repetition; there are lots of techniques to help, including EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and meditation. Choose one that suits you and stick at it, you will see the benefits.
Reboost your Biome
It is known that infection caused by a respiratory virus creates changes in the gut microbiota. In humans, both the influenza vaccine and human rhinovirus have been shown to disrupt the resident bacterial community causing a relative abundance of potential pathogenic bacterial species1.
Some recent studies have found changes in the gut of people with chronic fatigue syndrome2. These changes cause inflammation in the body and affect the ability to assimilate nutrients, having numerous repercussions, including fatigue and low mood.
Research has shown a reduction in the white matter in the brains of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome3. White matter is responsible for transporting information throughout the brain, thus explaining the ‘brain fog’ and cognitive difficulties some experience. Chronic inflammation is known to be linked to this effect.
A strong focus on re-establishing a healthy microbiome using diet and herbs is a vital step for recovery from post-viral fatigue, we’ll be looking at ways you can do this in next month’s article.
Food for Thought
Covid 19, like many infections, affects certain vulnerable members of our society more severely; the elderly in particular but also those who suffer with obesity, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Many of these groups have also been found to have significant changes in the microbiome of the gut. Coincidence? Not in our experience. Research has not concluded whether it is ‘the chicken or the egg’; ie. Which comes first – the disease or the change in microbiome? However, we have found consistently that re-establishing a healthy gut makes significant changes in most chronic health conditions. In some chronic conditions this can take some persistence – our gut becomes quite stuck in its ways and it takes a combination of herbal medicines, dietary changes, and a shift to a positive mentality to see the significant results we want.
The Herbal Clinic, 32 King Edward Rd, Swansea SA1 4LL.
MEILYR JAMES BSc(Hons) DBTh DAcu AcuC Dir MGNI Registered Medical Herbalist, Iridologist & Acupuncturist
T: 01792 474356 W: herbalclinic-swansea.co.uk E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hanada S, et al. Respiratory Viral Infection-Induced Microbiome Alterations and Secondary Bacterial Pneumonia. Front Immunol. 2018 Nov. FIG 3 2. Nagy-Szakal, D., Williams, B.L., Mishra, N. et al. Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome 5, 44 (2017). 3. Michael M Zeineh et al. Right arcuate fasciculus abnormality in chronic fatigue syndrome. Radiology. 2015 Feb;274(2):517-26.