The Inflammation-Infection Connection

When treating chronic infections, inflammation is a key component that must be accounted for. Inflammation is a heightened immune response, and this can be caused by both the infections and the treatment of those infections.

When we destroy pathogenic microbes with herbs or medications, their destruction releases a cascade of inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines. These cytokines activate the immune system and increase inflammation.

This can lead to feeling worse when treating chronic infections, and is commonly referred to as a “die-off” or “Jarisch-Herxheimer” reaction. Buffering the inflammatory response – that is, preventing huge spikes in inflammatory signaling – is critical when it comes to making treatment of chronic infections more tolerable and effective.

When you are suffering from chronic infectious illness and you already feel poorly, it can be discouraging to hear that targeting those infections can make you feel worse. I have seen treatment go much more smoothly when the following anti-inflammatory buffering systems are in place.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a key foundation. These are whole foods, mostly plants, with minimal antigenic activity, meaning they don’t activate the immune system. What constitutes an anti-inflammatory diet can vary from person to person based on food allergies and sensitivities, and personal preferences/tolerances. Typically these diets aim to minimize processed foods, sugar, dairy, gluten/wheat products, eggs, red meat, and corn.

Ensuring adequate vitamin D status through lab testing and appropriate dosing is also key to preventing big fluctuations in the immune response.

Providing appropriate adrenal gland and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis support through stress management and supplementation helps keeps our natural corticosteroid system working up to speed to reduce inflammation. We think of giving corticosteroids (such as prednisone or hydrocortisone) to control inflammation in acute contexts, but it is easy to forget that our body’s own cortisol activity plays a vital role in regulating inflammation as well.

Finally, supporting our regulatory T cells (also called Th3 cells) through herbal and nutrient supplementation is the icing on the cake. This branch of the immune system is responsible for preventing and reducing autoimmunity, reactivity to foods, and unruly spikes in inflammatory activity with microbial destruction.

It is not uncommon for me to support patients for 1-3 months with the above measures before initiating any aggressive antimicrobial protocol. This is especially the case if folks have not been able to tolerate antimicrobial therapies well in the past.

If you are in need of comprehensive and individually tailored support for the treatment of chronic infections, we at Revolutions Naturopathic are here to help make treatment more comfortable and sustainable at every step.