Restoring Health After a Viral Infection

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve heard a lot about “long COVID” or “long-haul COVID;” some of you may have experienced it or may still be struggling with the lingering effects of the virus. While doctors and scientists are figuring out the ins-and-outs specific to long COVID, chronic debilitating symptoms after a viral infection are surprisingly common. They have been documented after a number of viruses, including SARS and MERS, Epstein-Barr, enteroviruses, human herpesvirus-6, and even the common flu.1 2 Often referred to as post-viral syndrome, each one may look a little different depending on the specific virus, but they all tend to share common symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain fog, changes in mood, joint and muscle pain, and GI issues. If you’re struggling with post-viral syndrome and the lingering and seemingly mysterious symptoms that come with it, consider a natural approach to restoring health, one that recognizes the body as a whole. Relief may not be as easy as popping a single pill, but there is hope.

Why Does Post-Viral Syndrome Occur?

The short answer is, we don’t exactly know. In some cases, organ and tissue damage caused by the virus, or the body’s immune response to the virus, may cause lingering symptoms while the damage heals. A virus may cause immune system dysregulation, which may in turn stimulate or cause a chronic inflammatory state. In response to an infection, the immune system uses free radicals to destroy viruses and bacteria. In cases of post-viral syndrome, the body may not be adequately able to clear these free radicals, leading to a state of oxidative stress, which also causes inflammation. It is likely that the chronic symptoms felt by many after a virus are a result of several processes gone awry.   

The good news is that, with a worldwide focus on COVID-19 and potentially millions of people who will suffer from long-COVID, it is likely we will see research that improves our knowledge of post-viral syndrome from other illnesses as well—a topic that has generally been ignored or written off as psychosomatic by allopathic medicine.

Supporting whole body health after a viral infection

While managing symptoms is important for comfort and day-to-day function, it is critical to address any underlying imbalances that may have predisposed you to a post-viral syndrome in the first place and may be perpetuating it. Functional medicine doctors report that they rarely see a person with post-viral syndrome who doesn’t have some imbalance, so take a hard look at your current state of health.3 Even if you are free of any diagnosed disease, you may still have underlying imbalances that need to be addressed.

Start building your foundation of health by optimizing each of the following components, adding supplements as necessary for individualized support.


Enjoy a Healthy Diet - Bowl Of Food

Enjoy a Healthy Diet

It’s easy to let a healthy diet slip when you don’t feel well and have no energy, but how you eat plays an integral role in how you feel and how well you recover from an illness. Be sure to load up on a rainbow of organic fruits and veggies every day. They not only supply vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but also a wide array of phytonutrients that support healthy immune function and overall health. Make sure to eat healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, coconut oil, and butter or ghee from pasture-raised cows. Equally important is to ditch the fats and oils that cause inflammation like soy, corn, cottonseed, vegetable oil blends, and fried foods. Add quality protein from free-range, antibiotic-free chicken, wild caught salmon and other wild caught, cold-water fatty fish, grass-fed meats, and pasture-raised eggs. Reduce your consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners, especially drinks with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners.

The Foundational Five Nutrients to optimize health

  • A multivitamin helps to safeguard against nutritional gaps in your diet and provides essential B vitamins to support a healthy inflammatory response and energy production.
  • EPA and DHA, either from fish oil or algae, help modulate inflammation and are necessary for healthy brain and cardiovascular function.
  • Vitamin D supports healthy immune function; to ensure vitamin D functions properly take it with vitamin K, vitamin A, and magnesium.
  • Magnesium is necessary for energy production, cardiovascular function, and supports recovery from stress.
  • Supernutrients such as beet crystals support energy production, immune function, and healthy blood pressure.  

Balance Blood Sugar

It’s almost shocking how far-reaching the impact of blood sugar imbalances are on our health, especially immune function. In addition to increasing the risk of nearly every chronic disease, imbalanced blood sugar affects mood, increases inflammation, and impairs immune function. Eating a healthy diet like the one mentioned above is the absolute first step; supplements provide extra support.

Supplements to support blood sugar balance

  • Berberine supports balanced blood sugar and helps to modulate inflammation; it is most effective when taken 20 to 30 minutes prior to eating.
  • Alpha lipoic acid supports mitochondrial and liver function as well as energy production, in addition to its blood sugar balancing effects.
  • Maitake mushroom contains a unique compound called SX-fraction that supports healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.4 5 

Manage Stress

Being chronically sick is stressful; couple that with life’s everyday stresses plus things going on in the world that you have no control over, and you’ve got a recipe for some major stress. We can’t make all the stress in our lives go away, but we can change how we respond to it. Try breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, yoga, forest bathing, and allow yourself downtime to relax and do enjoyable things like play games with your kids, take a hot bath, watch your favorite show, or sit under a tree and read.  

Supplements to help manage the negative impacts of stress on health

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine), sometimes called an “anti-stress” vitamin, improves the body’s ability to cope with stress and has been used to treat people with anxiety and the symptoms that come with it, including chronic fatigue, insomnia, digestive complaints, and depression. It may also strengthen immunity.6 7 
  • Cordyceps is a type of fungus that has traditionally been used to improve energy, stamina, and to promote longevity. It is used in China to restore health after illness and to speed recovery from exhaustion. A review published in 2020 listed cordyceps as a nutraceutical that may be beneficial in recovering from COVID-19.8 9

Get Restorative Sleep

When we are sleeping, our bodies are busy repairing, detoxifying, making hormones, and much more. Sleep deprivation leads to decreased insulin function and increased inflammation. Despite how important it is, sleep can be elusive for fatigued people with post-viral syndrome, so pull out all the stops: practice good sleep hygiene; sleep in a dark, cool room; turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed; and use supplements as necessary.  

Supplements for restorative sleep

  • Melatonin is well recognized as the hormone that makes us sleepy at night, but it is also an antioxidant and supports immune function.
  • Reishi mushroom is used as a standard treatment for insomnia in China, and research shows that it significantly increases total sleep time and deep sleep. Bonus: reishi also supports healthy immune function.10 11 12

Move Your Body Appropriately

Notice I didn’t say exercise, for fear of conjuring up images of treadmills or cross-fit gyms. While exercise is great, for someone recovering from post-viral syndrome, it might not be an option. But movement that is appropriate to your body and energy level is still important, whether it is a walk, some stretching, or exercises done exclusively lying down.

The above five components are the foundation of optimal health, and together they influence every aspect of healing and recovery, including a balanced inflammatory response and immune system healing and restoration. If you’ve mastered these facets and are still struggling, consider adding additional support in the following areas:

Modulate Inflammation

A buildup of pro-inflammatory compounds from the body’s response to a virus may be contributing to post-viral symptoms.

  • Turmeric is well known as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb.
  • Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant that not only modulates inflammation, but also supports mitochondrial health.

Support Mitochondrial Health

Nearly every cell has mitochondria that produce the energy needed to run the body. Mitochondrial dysfunction is believed to be at the heart of many post-viral symptoms.13 14

  • CoQ10  is required for energy production and supports the health and function of the mitochondria, including reducing oxidative damage.15 16
  • B vitamins are also intricately involved in mitochondrial energy production and are necessary for maintaining mitochondrial structure and function.17
  • A ketogenic diet and/or intermittent fasting have been shown to improve mitochondrial function.18 19

Balance the Gut Microbiota

Having a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut supports optimal immune function as well as a healthy inflammatory response throughout the body.20

  • Probiotics help to repopulate the gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria.
  • Prebiotics can be thought of as food for the probiotics and include most high fiber foods and supplements like grape seed extract, cranberry extract, mushrooms, and aged garlic extract. Other supplemental sources include FOS (fructooligosaccharide), inulin, psyllium, and ground flax seeds.

Lingering Anosmia?

While not necessarily life-threatening, losing your sense of smell and taste can have a significant impact on quality of life. Most people will regain their senses as they recover, but if you are left with a lingering loss, you may want to try smell retraining therapy. To try it, you will need at least four essential oils from different categories. Good choices would be lavender (flowery), lemon or orange (fruity), cloves or cinnamon (spicy/aromatic), and eucalyptus (resinous). Smell each oil, one at a time, for 10-20 seconds, concentrating on your memory of each scent as you smell the oil. Do this at least twice a day, up to five times a day until your sense of smell returns, or for at least 12 weeks.17 18 Alpha lipoic acid (600 mg/daily) has also been found to be helpful in restoring sense of smell after upper respiratory tract infections.21 Both of these methods help to improve sense of smell by stimulating the re-growth and activation of olfactory receptors.

Finally, don’t go it alone.

Seek out support groups, either virtual or in your area, for mental and emotional support, and consider making an appointment for a free consultation with your local Nutritional Health Coach (NHC) for guidance on getting your health back on track. Though it may feel neverending when you’re in the thick of post-viral syndrome, there is hope for regaining your vitality!


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