Tired All The Time? It Might Be A Hidden Infection

Family Medicine Doctor By Evan Hirsch, M.D.
Family Medicine Doctor
Evan Hirsch, M.D., is a family medicine doctor who specializes in healing chronic fatigue. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine.
Tired All The Time? It Might Be A Hidden Infection

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My 39-year-old patient Jennifer arrived about a year ago complaining about fatigue, joint pain, depression, and brain fog. Despite being incredibly healthy (Jennifer was a former competitive athlete who ate well and still exercised regularly), her primary physician had diagnosed her with lupus—an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. She came to me convinced something more was going on, and indeed, a blood test revealed that Jennifer also had Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) and the gut-centered Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

It takes a lot of energy to fight an infection.

That fact that Jennifer arrived at my office with multiple infections didn't surprise me. Once your immune system uses its resources to combat an infection or two, other opportunistic pathogens can take hold. And because they demand copious immune system and energy resources, fatigue becomes a common symptom of an underlying infection.

Jennifer's doctor had prescribed antibiotics for these infections, but they had become increasingly ineffective for Jennifer against forever-adapting superbugs. And she's not alone. One study found that antibiotic-resistant organisms contribute to half of all post-surgical infections and more than one-quarter of post-chemotherapy infections. Most of these dangerous bacteria are extremely resistant to the immune response. Some superbugs even exhibit "pan-resistance," becoming untouchable by every antibiotic drug we have.

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It's time to start exploring natural options.

These and other problems with antibiotics make the natural interventions I use increasingly relevant. In fact, many organisms impervious to antibiotics remain susceptible to natural treatments. In my practice, I look for ways to outsmart stubborn infections, even reversing autoimmune disease like eczema, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. I've been successful even with patients who had multiple infections when they walked through my door.

That doesn't mean diagnosing and treating chronic infections is easy. They often create diverse and overlapping symptoms, and patients with chronic fatigue often have multiple infections that demand detective work and a lot of connecting the dots. Finding a functional practitioner to diagnose and treat them can do wonders for fatigue and other symptoms. Here are seven foundational strategies to treat infections that you should be aware of:

1. Ask for a blood test.

Diagnostic blood testing has become the best way to diagnose infections. You typically don't need to fast to do one, and results come back in about four weeks.

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2. Treat other issues first.

Before I eliminate infections, I address things that suppress your immune system like food sensitivities and heavy metals. After all, you need your immune system's full support to zap these bugs, and the best medications could fail if your body battles toxins or food allergies daily.

3. Be prepared for die-off.

Die-off occurs when pathogens die and your immune system reacts with flu-like symptoms, fevers, chills, night sweats, body aches, and joint pain. It can be awful, and the best way to mitigate die-off is to proceed slowly and remember this is actually a sign your treatment is working. Communicate with your doctor about any side effects. I find Sarsaparilla, Epsom salt baths, and electrolyte drinks make the process easier!

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4. Go for the easiest kill first.

The order in which you treat infections matters. For patients like Jennifer, I focus on the easiest-to-kill infections first so her body can devote more of its resources to tough invaders like Lyme.

5. Give it time.

Patients typically require a minimum of three months to recover. For Jennifer, it took longer because she had more infections. The adage "patience is a virtue" becomes vital here.

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6. Try this kill-all.

Treatment depends on the infection type, but I've found colloidal silver makes a great kill-all. Talk to your doctor about this and other infection-fighting nutrients.

7. Consider the GAPS diet.

The Gut and Physiology Syndrome or Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet helps treat severe digestive issues, food sensitivities, and other health issues. The GAPS protocol was specifically designed to "heal and seal" your digestive tract, and oftentimes I suggest it for my patients' issues like dysbiosis and leaky gut.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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