Post Viral Syndrome – Part 2 – How To Overcome It

In part 2 of this series, Dr Sandra Cabot and naturopath Margaret Jasinska talk about chronic fatigue and how it is a common symptom of post viral syndrome that has many different causes. They provide you with many strategies for overcoming post viral syndrome and outline common nutritional deficiencies which might put you at risk for developing it in the first place.

Listen to my podcast and leave a comment below if you have any questions.

DR CABOT: Hello. My name is Dr Sandra Cabot and today I’m joined by naturopath and author Margaret Jasinska.

MARGARET: Hi, Dr Cabot. Thank you for having me on.

DR CABOT: And we’re talking about post viral syndrome and what you can do to avoid overcome it, to speed up your recovery. Now, post viral syndrome is where you feel unwell after any viral infection. And we’re starting to see this in patients who’ve had COVID-19. But it also applies to more common viral infections, such as influenza or glandular fever, cytomegalovirus.

MARGARET: Ross River virus.

DR CABOT: Yes, true. Mosquito-borne viruses. So, a lot of people have a chronic poor health after infections. Also, Lyme disease, that’s a tickborne infection with many co-infections. And so, there’s this post infection syndrome, if you like, and people never really feel well after they get these viral infections. And they’re told, “Well, you’ve got chronic fatigue.” Well, that’s not a diagnosis.

MARGARET: Exactly. It’s a vague term. And, of course the illness exists, but it can be caused by so many different things. So chronic fatigue syndrome is not the same disease in all chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers.

DR CABOT: That’s right.

MARGARET: There’s a lot of individuality and we really need to investigate what’s causing it in each individual case.

DR CABOT: That’s right. It’s a symptom. You’re tired all the time. That’s what chronic fatigue. There can be many, many different causes. And sometimes there’s 4 or 5 different causes in the one patient and they all need to be addressed.

MARGARET: That’s right. They’re often our most highly complex patients, aren’t they?

DR CABOT: Yes, but we never give up! So, let’s look at someone who has had a viral infection or any infection, really, and they’re still struggling. What are the reasons that they are NOT improving? Well, it could be just that they’re not getting enough sleep. Many people struggle with getting sleep. And when you’re young, it’s not so bad because you’re kind of bulletproof.

MARGARET: And when you’re young, you generally don’t sleep on purpose. Whereas, we’re talking about people with health problems or older individuals that want to sleep, need to sleep. They feel tired and unwell, but they’re unable to get to sleep or stay asleep. Or they just have poor quality, unrefreshing sleep.

DR CABOT: That’s right. They don’t go into a deep sleep, where the brainwave patterns really slow down. Deep sleep is very important to detoxify your body. So, what can you do? Well, it can be difficult for people to sleep. We acknowledge that. We don’t want to be trite, but these are some of the things that can help. Try to get to bed before 10:30 because that will help your biological rhythm, or what’s known as the circadian rhythm, which will help to restore your adrenal glands. And also, if you have trouble going to sleep, take melatonin. You may need a high dose. Some people only need 2 milligrams, some people need 12 milligrams. But it’s very safe, melatonin. It’s just a natural hormone. Also try a magnesium supplement. Take it every day. You can take it at night, if you prefer. Magnesium definitely helps the brainwave patterns and will help you to have a deeper sleep. So, you could just be magnesium deficient.

MARGARET: Yeah. And so many people are and magnesium makes a huge difference to their sleep quality and just ability to handle stress throughout the day. They feel more calm and less anxious.

DR CABOT: That’s right. And for people who really don’t sleep, they have terrible, chronic sleep deprivation, there are medications that do work. The longer-acting hypnotics, like clonazepam. They can give you an 8-hour sleep. And a lot of people don’t need to take them every night. But if you haven’t slept for 3 or 4 nights, you need to sleep.

MARGARET: Yes. Also, though, having an unhealthy liver can interfere with your sleep. Having an inflamed liver or having a fatty liver can cause you to wake in the early hours of the morning.

DR CABOT: That’s right.

MARGARET: Sleep problems can be hard to resolve because so many different things can interfere with sleep. So that’s why you’ve really got to take the patient as an individual and really investigate their health as a whole. Because healthy people have good sleep. Unhealthy people are more likely to have poor sleep. So, trying to resolve all the health issues going on will usually improve sleep quality.

DR CABOT: That’s right. And the other thing, think about your adrenal glands. Those two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They’re survival glands and they’re making cortisol and adrenaline, which really help your body to cope with stress and help to reduce inflammation. So, the adrenals are helped by vitamin C. Most of the vitamin C in your body is concentrated in your adrenals and your hypothalamus. So, if you don’t have enough vitamin C, those organs are more prone to damage and they won’t produce the plentiful amounts of hormones that you need. So, I’m a great believer in a vitamin C supplement and having foods that are high in vitamin C, which we all know, like citrus and fresh fruits.

MARGARET: Vegetables, also. All vegetables do contain vitamin C. A lot of the produce that we get isn’t as fresh as it would have been if you grew it in your own garden, though. That’s why I agree that a vitamin C supplement, at least you’re knowing that you’re getting a good, potent dose. And it can make a real difference to strengthening your immune system against all types of infections.

DR CABOT: And if your adrenals are really low, you can take pregnenolone, which in Australia is on prescription. But in America, you can buy at the health food store. It’s a natural adrenal hormone. And some people find pregnenolone good. And some people find DHEA. That’s another adrenal hormone, DHEA, that can help. But you can have a blood test to check your adrenals. You have a cortisol level measured in the morning, say about 8:30 in the morning, and then late afternoon. And we hope to see that your adrenals are producing more plentiful amounts of cortisol in the mornings because that’s when you need it. So, look after your adrenals. That can make a big difference.

Margaret did mention the liver. Improve your liver, take a good liver formula and try and stay away from processed food, sugar and high-carb foods.

MARGARET: Yes. Because if you have a fatty liver, it’s usually not caused by eating fat or not natural fats, anyway. Fatty liver is generally a manifestation of insulin resistance, which occurs from eating more carbohydrate than your body can tolerate.

DR CABOT: And the other thing which is very important is look at specific nutritional supplements. Because we find in our research and in our clinic that many people are deficient in critical nutrients for their immune system.

MARGARET: Well, they almost all are. But they’re only coming to us because they’re unhappy with their health. Maybe there are people out there in the world in excellent health who aren’t nutrient deficient. But we only see people who aren’t happy with their health.

DR CABOT: We do.

MARGARET: And just about all of them have more than one nutrient deficiency.

DR CABOT: That’s right. So, let’s look at selenium, which I call the viral birth control pill. So, that definitely helps your body to reduce the amount of viruses that are living inside it, right? We call it the viral load. And we know that people who are selenium deficient have more severe viral infections and more persistent viral infections. So, to reduce the amount of virus in your body, you need plentiful amounts of selenium in your body. And generally speaking, you won’t get it in your diet because there are many parts of the world where the soils are very low in selenium. And also, people don’t always absorb it very well if they have a leaky gut.

MARGARET: Yes. Or gut inflammation or irritable bowel, any of those problems. Celiac disease.

DR CABOT: Yeah. So, it doesn’t matter what virus you’ve got. Selenium is definitely a specific tool for finding it.

So, the other mineral that’s important is zinc. And we find many people are low in zinc. So, you’d like to elaborate on that, Margaret?

MARGARET: Particularly women, because there’s a lot of zinc in red meat and a lot of women don’t eat much red meat. They don’t like the taste of it. Or they think it’ll make them fat. Or they’re trying to follow a plant-based diet.

DR CABOT: It’s the opposite! Meat helps you to lose weight.

MARGARET: Exactly.

DR CABOT: Low carb.

MARGARET: So, zinc is needed for your immune system to function and to overcome infections. And, really, zinc is found in all animal foods, so not just red meat. It’s also in poultry and seafood and eggs. On paper, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds contain zinc. But the type of fiber in those foods, mainly the phytic acid, can bind with the zinc and prevent you from absorbing it. Even if you ate the legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds with a steak, the fiber in those foods can reduce the zinc absorption from the steak. And zinc can easily be measured in a blood test. So, if your level is low, maybe try eating more animal foods, animal protein with vegetables, which won’t have those types of fibers that can inhibit zinc absorption. You can also take a zinc supplement. Our Thyroid Health capsules have got zinc in them. Those capsules really help the immune system as well, because they’ve got vitamin D, selenium, zinc, iodine. All those things help fight infections also.

DR CABOT: Yes, that’s right. The Thyroid Health capsules are very good for post viral syndrome. You might need 2 a day to give it the 200 mg of selenium, and the zinc, and the 2000 units of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic because everybody puts sunscreen on, which stops you making it. And also, they stay out of the sun.

MARGARET: And they’re staying indoors now, also, at the moment, because some parts of the world are in lockdown. People are working from home, studying from home, perhaps live in an apartment and just don’t have the space to go outside into the sunshine.

DR CABOT: Yes. So, you really won’t overcome a chronic viral infection if you’re low in vitamin D. The other thing, vitamin A, another fat soluble vitamin. You can get that in cod liver oil, or you can buy vitamin A capsules,  or you can eat foods high and beta carotene. But your body’s got to convert it to the vitamin A.

MARGARET: Yes. And some people don’t do that very well. 35% of Europeans have a genetic condition where they just don’t make vitamin A out of beta carotene well. Egg yolks have got a lot of vitamin A, oily fish, liver.

DR CABOT: Eggs are great, aren’t they, for the immune system? Like a superfood.

MARGARET: Yeah. Sensitivity to egg white is quite common in allergic or autoimmune-type patients. If you can get duck eggs or quail eggs, then that would be good. Or just eat the yolk and not the white. But there are other sources of vitamin A, that we mentioned.

DR CABOT: Yeah. And the other thing with post viral syndrome is, if you have a persistent lingering infection that may be hard to pick up in a blood test, right? You’ve just got the symptoms and the blood test shows, oh you’ve just had the infection. You’ve got the antibodies to show that you’re so-called immune. But really, you have the symptoms going on. So that means the amount of virus hanging around in your body is too high. And this means the virus is still active. So, viruses often hide in your body because they produce a biofilm, which is like a mucous layer under which they hide. So, your own immune system cannot eradicate them. And the biofilms can be broken up with a supplement called NAC, which stands for N-acetyl cysteine. And there’s a lot of studies that show that it’s very effective. Indeed, the most effective natural substance for breaking up a biofilm. And if you have a lot of mucous congestion, that’s often a sign that you’ve got biofilm. But you could have the biofilm in your lymph nodes. You could have it in your gut and it may not manifest as mucous. So, NAC is a great detoxifier and can break up unwanted accumulations of debris in your body, if you like. That’s what biofilm is.

So, we’ve got zinc, we’ve got selenium, we’ve got NAC, we’ve got vitamin D, we’ve got vitamin C. We’ve got a lot of things, but these things are safe.

MARGARET: And they work! The research that we’ve seen, the patient experience we’ve had over so many years, making sure you’re not deficient in these things will give you a stronger immune system.

DR CABOT: That’s right. And you should see an improvement within 3 or 4 months. Maybe not several weeks, because this is a chronic problem.

MARGARET: Yes. And it takes a while for the levels to build up in your body to where they should be.

DR CABOT: It does. It takes a few months for the selenium to get deep into your cells where it needs to be to help your DNA to fight viruses. So, you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to be regular with the supplementation. Some people might try for two months, “Oh! I don’t feel any better.” But we’re dealing with a chronic problem. We’re dealing with a post viral syndrome, which could go on for years, unless you do something about it to help your own immune system overcome it.

MARGARET: Yes, exactly. And living with chronic fatigue it makes life hard and awful. It significantly reduces quality of life for people. So, you’ve really got to do something to help yourself. And these strategies do work, so we hope you’ll try them.

DR CABOT: Yes. And there’s a big emphasis on vaccination, flu vaccines and maybe a new vaccine against COVID-19, shingles vaccines, things like this. Some of them are live vaccines, some of them are dead virus vaccines or protein vaccines. But that’s just priming your immune system to make antibodies. It’s not actually helping your immune system to develop better innate defences, if you like. A quiet immunity is only part of the story. You actually need strong innate immunity, which is your own killer cells, your own mucous membranes, your liver, your spleen. And this is where nutritional medicine is so effective.

MARGARET: Absolutely. And we have a flu vaccine, and still many people die from the flu every year.

DR CABOT: Well, the flu vaccine is guesstimating the viruses that are most likely to be prevalent this year, using last year’s viruses. So, it’s never 100% accurate. And of course, viruses are always mutating. They’re very clever. So, a vaccine is never going to be 100% match. All viruses are capable of mutating, but particularly the influenza virus. So, we really need to work on our own innate immunity, not just acquired immunity through vaccination.

So very interesting. And the other thing, too, just look after your diet. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Try and do a little bit of exercise, even if you’re very tired. If you do find that you have a few minutes in the day, where all of a sudden you’re feeling energetic, you could do 5 minutes of exercise because it is good to build muscle.

MARGARET: Yeah, absolutely. And exercise can energize you, as long as you don’t go overboard. So, see what your body can’t handle. Ideally, outside in the fresh air.

DR CABOT: Yes, that’s right. That’s fresh air and some sunshine. And this is an integrative or holistic approach and it will help you a lot if you’re patient. And look out for the results after 3 or 4 months. And please let us know how you go. We love to get emails from you and get your feedback. So, thanks for listening!

MARGARET: Thank you, everybody. Bye bye!