Bugs, Behavior, And Biochemistry: Health Effects Of Stealth Infections

This guest blog post by Dr. Tim Jackson talks about stealth infections - such as viruses - and how to counter them. Dr. Jackson talks about:

  1. How unexplained health symptoms can be caused by stealth infections
  2. Why most people have a sub-clinical immunodeficiency and why that matters
  3. Preventing immunodeficiency from occurring in the first place
  4. How high cytokine levels - which are intertwined with an immunodeficiency - wreak havoc on the body
  5. Examples of pathogens causing a stealth infection
  6. How to test for stealth infections
  7. Resolving stealth infection through lifestyle changes, supplements, sleep, and more
  8. Finishing thoughts: the 30,000 feet (over)view



Keep reading:

Unexplained Health Symptoms 

Are you dealing with depression, a mood disorder, an autoimmune imbalance, or skin issues? What about sleep issues or fatigue?

Stealth, or hidden, pathogens are most likely one major culprit behind these signs and symptoms.

Oftentimes, we tend to think of infections as causing acute symptoms, such as a fever, achiness, fatigue/malaise, or a headache, only.

But what happens once the acute stage ends? It depends on the status of your immune system:

Immune Deficiency?

It may come as a surprise that most people have a mild-to-moderate immune deficiency.

While an immune deficiency, such as in HIV, proves much more severe, subclinical (not rising to the threshold of meeting traditional diagnostic criteria) immune imbalances can wreak havoc on one’s body (11; 12; 13; 14).

Let’s unpack the concept of viruses a bit more.

Once an individual comes down with a virus, it will be with him or her forever.

The virus will incorporate its DNA into our DNA double-helix. That incorporation means that every time cells replicate, the viral DNA also gets expressed.


The Body's Preventive Mechanism Of Immune Deficiency

However, our bodies have stop gap measures in place to prevent these viruses from being incorporated into you: methylation, balanced immune function, and more.

Methylation refers to the act of adding a methyl group (CH3) to regions of DNA that prevent the expression of the virus.

(More on methylation in this blog post)

However, if someone is deficient in B12, methyl folate, B6, or B2, the methylation process will not work as desired. In short, this results in viral expression and a subsequent "cytokine storm" (8; 9; 10).

A what?

Cytokines are cellular signaling molecules, such as Interleukin (IL) -2, IL-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-alpha), and others.

Immune cells produce cytokines in the presence of pathogens and other situations. If you’ve had a “bug” and experienced a fever, a loss of appetite, a decreased desire for social interaction, then you know how a cytokine storm feels.

Over time, however, cytokines are not fully benign either:


The Effects Of High Cytokine Levels

By creating this inflammatory cascade, many physiological functions become altered.

Those alterations include but are not limited to energy production, hormonal balance, and brain health. Inflammation, from any source, causes damage to the mitochondria, which are in charge of cellular energy production.

Cytokines interfere with hormone levels by increasing aromatase—the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen—and by activating the stress response.

Remember, stress--of any kind—activates the hypothalamus—pituitary—adrenal (HPA) axis, which strains the cortisol production pathway.

In addition, cytokines may penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB), the protective shield surrounding your brain. This process may lead to the activation of your microglial cells, cause inflammation in the brain.

That neurological inflammation may result in decreased focus, memory issues, mood imbalances, and ultimately, brain degeneration (15; 16; 17; 18).

Hence, you don't want excessive cytokine levels in the long run.

So let's look at how stealth pathogens can cause such a cytokine storm:


Stealth Infection Examples

What are some examples of stealth pathogens?

Viruses, such as HHV-6 (human herpes virus-6), CMV (cytomegalovirus), EBV (Epstein-Bar Virus), Coxsackie B Virus, and bacteria, such as Mycoplasma, Lyme, etc. serve as common culprits behind mysterious health symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, mood imbalances, and autoimmune disorders (1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7).

Candida and Mold also serve as common hidden infectious components.

How to solve those problems?

Well, while some general interventions will improve overall health, specific therapies may be needed for other pathogens.


Testing For Stealth Infections

How do I know if I have any of the above-mentioned pathogens? IgG and IgM titers can be tested for all of the infections that I mentioned.

A lab known as Medical Diagnostic Laboratories can test for multiple forms of each pathogen using several techniques. Of course, a positive IgM test indicates a currently active infection.

And most people believe that an elevated IgG test indicates a past infection. Sometimes, this scenario proves true. However, if IgG levels are greater than 3-4x the top of the normal range, a currently active infection should be considered.

So let's move on and discuss actual solutions:


Solutions To Stealth Infections

Let’s discuss several actionable items that will help to lower one’s viral count and help to silence viral expression.

In general, more generalized treatments should be employed in the beginning while gradually moving to specific therapies.

For example, a discussion of viral pathogens would not be complete without a discussion of immune function in general.

Below is a shortlist of variables that play a role in overall immune balance:

  1. Whether you were breastfed or bottle-fed
  2. Whether you were born vaginally or via C-section
  3. Any childhood or adulthood trauma experienced
  4. Current stress level and/or the presence of long-term stress
  5. Nutrient status
  6. Sleep quality and quantity 
  7. Exercise habits
  8. Level of social support

If you need additional strategies to support your immune system, check out strategies such as meditation and improving digestion, and taking targeted supplements to improve immune function.


Again, before aggressively addressing a specific pathogen, overall immune balance must be the focus.

Addressing any prior trauma with a medical professional, eradicating and modifying your stress response, improving your nutritional status, and optimizing sleep proves to be but a few ways of improving immune function.

Optimizing your body temperature may be the most important of all variables.

Two mechanisms exist to change the function of a protein—change the pH or change the temperature.

When body temperature drops only slightly, every biochemical reaction slows down.

Causes of low body temperature prove to be outside the scope of this article. But, in short, addressing the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) and thyroid hormone levels must be considered.

Other methods of improving immune function include, but are not limited to, supplemental colostrum, zinc, hormonal optimization, specifically DHEA, growth hormone, thyroid hormones, plus testosterone, and far-infrared sauna use.

Specific anti-microbial nutrients exist with few, if any, side effects.

General antimicrobials—those that target bacteria, viruses, yeast, etc.—include colloidal silver, Carnivora, Chinese Skullcap, grapeseed extract, Lauricidin (glycerol monolaurate) all have proven efficacy.

Clinically, the best results have been seen by combining 2 or 3 of the above-mentioned nutrients for a specific period of time. Remember that resistance often develops to nutraceuticals, as well as prescription antimicrobials.

You must remember that the above variables (sleep quality and quantity, nutrient status, etc.) must be addressed in order for the specific therapies to work optimally.

A colleague of mine once said “you can’t kill your way to health!”. He meant that one must approach these situations with the goal of returning the body to a state of homeostasis or balance.

Now you know the basics of countering stealth pathogens. Let's consider the big picture in the conclusion:


Finishing Thoughts: A Wide Array Of Health Strategies Matters

Most people are not living as the best versions of themselves.

Poor dietary habits and a number of other imbalances, including stealth infections, cause this problem.

Whether you are fighting fatigue, addressing an auto-immune imbalance, suffering from poor sleep, or you’re battling a mood disorder, a high probability exists that a pathogen—a virus, a bacteria, or yeast—is contributing to your symptoms.

And this is where the current “healthcare system” causes the most frustration.

For example, clinicians assume if you are dealing with depression, then it is a brain issue. Or if you’re dealing with insomnia, it is caused by a brain issue. However, you must remember that the site of your symptoms is not always the source of your symptoms. 

The human body is an integrated whole and creating the preconditions for proper immune function, such as sleep or high-quality nutrition, are essential. Only after that should you consider targeting individual pathogens.



This blog post was written by Dr. Tim Jackson Dr. Jackson is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Orthopedic Rehabilitation, and a Functional Medicine provider. He holds a B.S. Degree in Health Science and Chemistry from Wake Forest University. He serves clients in over 15 countries through his telehealth practice at www.healyourbody.org and has helped thousands over the last 8 years.  

Dr. Jackson is the creator of the “The Heal Your Hormones” boot camp for neurosurgeon Dr. Jack Kruse’s membership community and has contributed to the book “Diagnostic Testing and Functional Medicine” by Ameer Rosic. He has been featured in The Huffington Post, the “Bulletproof Executive” and “Ben Greenfield Fitness” podcasts, on multiple health and medical summits, and in two health documentaries.

He serves on the medical advisory board for Greensmoothiegirl, a site with several million annual visitors and for Your 2nd Half, a foundation that helps athletes with their career transitions. Dr. Jackson is available to comment on various functional medicine and wellness-related topics such as digestive health, energy and fatigue, autoimmune disorders, and mold toxicity. 

Make sure to read his guide on optimizing sleep quality to start following his advice!


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