Today, we are going to discuss infections by looking at viruses, our body and our health.
We currently know there are about 37 trillion cells and over 100 trillion bacteria in our bodies. Viruses that cause chronic infection constitute a stable but little-recognized part of our metagenome: our virome. We’ve just learned about the human virome, which consists of an unknown amount of viruses. There is also the fungome which is the compilation of fungi that live in our body. These all work together to help modulate our immune system. If we have a healthy meal, you eat the bacteria, viruses, fungi associated with what you ate.
Balance is key to this concept. The balance between the vigor of the antiviral immune response, immunopathology, and viral strategies for maintaining chronic infection without killing the host is still very poorly understood. More importantly, even when the host and virus are in equilibrium, chronic infection can change, with host and viral processes balanced on a knife’s edge such that small adjustments can disrupt the equilibrium with quite unfortunate consequences.
For example, this recent study from ScienceDirect states that all of us, at any given time, harbor about 10 chronic viral infections and at least one herpes virus. This could be Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), and many more.
The herpes viruses can actually be helpful to modulate our immune system, but if overactive in an unhealthy immune system, other chronic infections can result in diseases, autoimmune issues, encephalitis and a whole host of other problems.
So what’s there to do about this? We need to realize that using sanitizers all the time, cleaning everything as best we can, sterilizing the environment, and dosing everything and everyone with chemicals is likely not the best thing for us.
We want to have a clean environment. Sure. But, we don’t want things to be so clean that any old “Tom, Dick and Harry” virus or bacteria can slide in and grow uncontrolled because there is no competition. This is exactly what happens when you take an antibiotic and get diarrhea or a yeast infection from it. You’ve wiped out the competition, and the bad bacteria get the chance to take over.
We need balance in our bacteria, viruses and fungi in our body. One of the best ways to do this is by lifestyle medicine: sleep, stress reduction, real food consumption, exercise. These all affect cortisol levels, which affect our immune system and the ability of viruses and bacteria to take hold and populate our bodies. The types of foods we eat – whether they’re processed or unprocessed – play a huge role in this, as well.
Does this intrigue you like it does us? We invite you to visit our website to learn more! Check out our educational resources, as well as our reading list of books on topics that will help expand your knowledge in this field of integrative and translational medicine, commonly referred to as Functional Medicine.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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