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Chronic Infections: Identifying Underlying Causes and Finding Relief

Have you been living with chronic pain? Are you sick of dealing with the ups and downs, not feeling like your full self? Would you like to find a completely different approach to medicine and try something new? Discover how Dr. Radawi of Tri-Cities Functional Medicine takes a holistic approach to the treatment of chronic infections.

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For most people, it’s usually easy to tell when you’re sick or if you’re about to come down with an illness. But when symptoms persist for weeks on end, there may be an underlying reason why. Chronic infections can be difficult to diagnose and treat as these infections can have a wide range of symptoms and underlying causes. And while any persistent infection can be challenging to treat, these infections can significantly impact your quality of life.

Traditional medicine approaches often rely on antibiotics or other medications to manage symptoms in an attempt to eliminate chronic or persistent infections. However, a functional medicine approach offers a more comprehensive and holistic approach to identifying infected cells, tissue, and organs and treating chronic infections.

In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the common causes of chronic infections, including bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. We’ll also explore the functional medicine approach to chronic infections as functional medicine seeks to understand the root causes of disease, rather than simply treating your symptoms.

What causes chronic infections?

Chronic infections are caused by the persistent presence of infectious agents, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites in your body for an extended period of time. These infections can develop when your immune system is unable to fully eliminate the invading microorganisms, allowing them to establish a long-term presence in the body.

Several factors can contribute to the development of chronic infections, including:

  • Impaired Immune System Function: Chronic infections are more common in individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV infection, cancer, or other autoimmune diseases.
  • Poor Nutrition: A diet lacking essential nutrients can weaken the immune system and make it more difficult to fight off infections.
  • Antibiotic Resistance: Overuse (or misuse) of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria which can cause chronic infections that are difficult to treat.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to environmental toxins or pollution can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of chronic infections.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can increase the risk of chronic infections.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have a chronic infection, as prompt treatment can help prevent complications and be beneficial in improving outcomes.

What are the signs of a chronic infection?

7 common signs of chronic infections infographic

The signs and symptoms of common chronic infections (and chronic viral infections) can vary depending on the type of infection and the area of the body affected. However, some common signs of chronic infection may include:

  • Fatigue: Chronic infections can cause persistent fatigue that does not improve with rest or sleep.
  • Recurrent Infections: Patients may experience frequent or recurrent infections, such as urinary tract infections, sinus infections, or skin infections.
  • Inflammation: Chronic infections and persistent viral infections can cause ongoing inflammation, which can lead to pain, swelling, and redness.
  • Fever: Some chronic infections can cause low-grade or intermittent fever.
  • Weight Loss: Some people may experience unintentional weight loss due to loss of appetite and increased metabolic demands.
  • Skin Changes: Chronic infections can also cause changes in the skin, such as rashes, ulcers, or persistent itching.
  • Joint Pain: Some chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, can cause joint pain and stiffness.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a functional medicine provider for an evaluation. This can help identify any underlying causes and determine the appropriate treatment.

7 Types of Chronic Infections

The truth is, there are many types of chronic infections. Even a cold that lasts longer than expected can be thought of as “chronic” or persistent. However, most chronic infections have tell-tale signs that require medical expertise to diagnose and properly treat. Common chronic infections include:

  1. Hepatitis B and C

The HBV and HCV viruses can cause inflammation and damage to the liver, leading to chronic liver disease and an increased risk of liver cancer — usually transmitted through bodily fluids, though Hepatitis C is typically only transmitted through blood. It’s also important to note that the Hepatitis B virus is 5-10 times more contagious than the Hepatitis C virus.

  1. HIV Infection

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight off infections. However, with antiretroviral therapy, many people with HIV can manage the infection and live long, healthy lives.

  1. Lyme disease

This bacterial infection, transmitted through tick bites, can cause a range of symptoms including joint pain, fatigue, and neurological problems. In some cases, Lyme disease can become chronic and persist for months or even years.

  1. Tuberculosis

This bacterial infection can cause damage to the lungs, bones, and other parts of the body. If left untreated, tuberculosis can become chronic and lead to serious complications.

  1. Candidiasis

A fungal infection is caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast in the body — Candidiasis — can affect the skin, mouth, and genital area, and can become chronic if not treated.

  1. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a common condition that can result from a bacterial or viral infection. It can also cause persistent nasal congestion, facial pain, and headaches.

  1. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

UTIs are caused by bacteria and can affect the bladder, kidneys, and other parts of the urinary system. If left untreated, UTIs can become chronic and lead to kidney damage and other complications.

It’s important to note that not all infections become chronic, and not all chronic infections present with the same symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms that you suspect may be related to a chronic infection, seek out a functional medicine expert to receive accurate and appropriate treatment.

How Are Chronic Infections Treated in Conventional Medicine?

As mentioned, chronic infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal. And the treatment of chronic infections depends on the type of infection and the underlying cause. Some common approaches to treating chronic infections include:

  • Antibiotics: If the chronic infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be prescribed to help eliminate the bacteria. It is important to follow the prescribed treatment regimen and complete the full course of antibiotics, even if symptoms improve.  When antibiotics are necessary, a functional approach would be to replenish the good bacteria to help decrease the negative effects on gut integrity.
  • Antifungal or Antiviral: If the chronic infection is caused by a fungus or virus, antifungal or antiviral medication may be prescribed to help eliminate the infectious agent.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Lifestyle changes such as improving diet, exercise, and reducing stress thus improving immune system function and also help fight off chronic infections may be suggested.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove infected tissue or drain abscesses.
  • Regular Monitoring: People with chronic infections may require regular monitoring to ensure that the infection is under control and to monitor for any potential complications.

Above all, it’s important to work closely with a functional medicine provider to determine the best course of treatment for chronic infections.  

The Functional Medicine Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Infections

Functional medicine is a patient-centered, science-based approach that considers you — the whole person — and seeks to identify and address the underlying causes of illness rather than just treating your symptoms. When it comes to chronic infections, functional medicine practitioners take a multi-faceted approach to treatment, which includes:

  • Identifying the Root Cause: Functional medicine practitioners work to identify the underlying cause of chronic infection, and this can vary from person to person. Causes may include nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, chronic stress, hormonal imbalances, weakened immune function, or a combination of many several factors.
  • Immune System Support: In some cases, chronic infections may be caused by a weakened immune system. In these cases, a functional medicine provider may recommend immune system support, such as vitamin supplements or changes to the gut microbiome.
  • Nutritional Support: Nutrition is a crucial factor in supporting your immune system and combating chronic infections. Functional medicine practitioners may recommend dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies to support immune function and help the body fight off infections.
  • Addressing Gut Health: The gut plays a critical role in immune system function, and poor gut health can contribute to chronic infections. If the gut is thought to be imbalanced, gut-healing protocols such as probiotics, prebiotics, and other gut-supporting supplements may be recommended.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Functional medicine practitioners may also recommend lifestyle modifications to support immune function, reduce stress, and improve overall health. These modifications may include exercise, stress reduction techniques, and sleep hygiene.
  • Identifying and Addressing Co-infections: Co-infections, or infections that occur simultaneously, can complicate the treatment of chronic infections. This may require specialized testing to identify co-infections and to help tailor your treatment plan accordingly.
  • Collaboration with Other Healthcare Providers: Functional medicine practitioners often collaborate with other healthcare providers, such as infectious disease specialists or naturopathic doctors, to develop comprehensive treatment plans that address the unique needs of each patient.

At the end of the day, a functional medicine approach to treating chronic infections involves identifying and addressing the root cause of the infection while supporting your body’s immune system through lifestyle modifications, nutritional support, and other natural therapies.

By focusing on the whole person, a functional medicine approach can help you improve your overall health and well-being. This is why if you are struggling with a chronic infection, you should consider consulting with a functional medicine practitioner to explore a holistic approach to treatment.

Want to know more about the long-term effects of chronic infections? Read the blog: Functional Medicine Treatment for Chronic Disease: When A Doctor Says There Is Nothing Else They Can Do

Treating Chronic Infections at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine

Do you have signs or symptoms of chronic or persistent infections? Would you like to get to the source of the problem and get back to a healthier life? If so, we invite you to come to Tri-Cities Functional Medicine for evaluation and treatment. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine we provide a science-based approach to care as well as providing patient-centered programs.

At Tri-Cities, Dr. Radawi finds the root cause of your chronic diseases and, together with our Tri-Cities team, provides expert care and a path forward to healing.

If you are constantly feeling sick or unwell, we welcome you to Tri-Cities Functional Medicine to find holistic, personalized care you can trust. You can get started by watching our free webinar. Then, if we feel like a good fit, schedule a free discovery call with us.

Here’s how you can take the first step:

  • Watch our free webinar to learn about our approach to the health concerns you are facing.
  • Schedule a free discovery call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
  • After your discovery call if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA