What does recovering from an infection have to do with my mood and brain health?
When we are recovering from viral infections we tend to think about infection purely in terms of its affect on our body and the physical manifestations from experiencing symptoms such as a cough, chill, fever, joint aches and pains, nasal congestion etc. Once these symptoms have died down / gone we may however be surprised that we have “lost our mojo”, that we are experiencing low mood, anxiety, ongoing fatigue and a lack of motivation.
This can actually be explained by the fact that when we are fighting an infection viruses have a significant impact on our gut microbiome. The balance of our gut bacteria is disturbed when an infection is detected. This results in an inflammatory response when inflammatory molecules called cytokines are produced and a cytokine storm ensues.
Research has shown that when our gut microbiome is disturbed due to infection, this causes dysbiosis and due to the nature of the gut brain axis, this can impact our mood and cognition causing cytokine induced symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, apathy, anxiety and depression.
This can further be explained by the following…
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay messages between billions of nerve cells in our brain and affect amongst other things our mood, motivation, memory and learning ability.
While all neurotransmitters are essential, the big 4 are Serotonin, Dopamine, Acetylcholine and GABA. Synthesis of these 4 requires key nutrients which can be depleted during and after infection especially B vitamins and Vitamin C.
Methylation is a process that occurs in every cell in our bodies affecting how we feel and function, most notably in relation to our mood and cognitive health and our ability to deal with stress.
Methylation is a B vitamin dependent process (which we know are depleted during infection as many of them are synthesized in the gut by healthy gut bacteria) and when methylation is compromised, we produce less dopamine and serotonin which can impact our mood and cognitive health especially in regard to anxiety and disturbed sleep.
It is important not to ignore these symptoms of post viral fatigue as we put ourselves at risk of driving further functional imbalances in our body. Our immune system is connected to all our other body systems including our nervous system, so when recovering from an infection we should focus on nourishing it by:
- Eating a whole food non processed diet. “If it looks like a plant eat it, if it looks like it was made in a plant don’t eat it!”.
- Eating a wide variety of seasonal vegetables and fruit and up to 50 different foods a week to support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Optimise your sleep, -reducing blue light in the evenings, yoga or meditation, practicing gratitude, establishing regular sleep pattern, wearing eye mask etc.
- Getting outdoors daily, walking in nature, woodlands etc.
- Talk to a health professional about short term focused supplements for post viral fatigue including probiotics, fish oil, B vitamins.
- Get your Vitamin D levels tested as optimal levels to support immunity and help prevent further infection are around 80 n/mol.
Clinical note: November 2020
Excerpt from discussion with client recovering from post COVID viral symptoms especially fatigue and anxiety:
In recent consultation with client who came to see me seeking help with ongoing fatigue and anxiety following a COVID infection earlier in the year, we talked about the need to nourish your body after it has been subject to a cytokine storm and an assault on all of the body’s systems.
One key recommendation that we agreed on was a rest day which may mean different things to different people. The important thing is that it is just that – a break from the usual demands on our daily lives, something you enjoy, find relaxing and enables you to switch off e.g. cooking, reading a book, going on a long walk, catching up with family and friends.
Rest days have many health benefits including:
- Helping the body repair
- Avoiding adrenal fatigue/mental burn out
- Helps with recovery to minimise fatigue
- Builds strength and resilience
In essence, I was asking my client to listen to her body and in the words adapted from an Indian proverb.
“If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream”.
Together with a few key dietary recommendations and supplements my client reported improved energy and mental wellbeing within a few weeks.
If you are interested in working together, book in a FREE discovery call using the form below.
Book a FREE discovery call
If you suspect that you may have an under active thyroid and would like help in diagnosing and improving your situation, don’t hesitate to book in for a FREE discovery call using the form below.