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Inflammation | March 23, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Brain, infection


High fever, pounding headache and neck stiffness? It could be a medical emergency.

Meningitis is inflammation of the tissues that line the spinal column and brain. When there is an infection of the meninges, complications can cause permanent disability and even death. Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY if you suspect meningitis.

Where Is The Meninges?

The meninges is a collection of protective tissues that surround the brain and the spinal cord. The tissues includes the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and the pia mater – don't worry, there won't be an exam on this!

Where Is The Meninges?Cerebrospinal fluid, a clear, colourless fluid, fills the space around the meninges and is made up mostly of electrolytes with few proteins and almost no red blood cells or white blood cells.

The meninges is fairly well protected against pathogens and infections because of its position within the isolated spinal column. However, when pathogens or unusual chemicals enter the meninges or the central nervous system, a signal of inflammation is triggered and leads to symptoms of meningitis.

Causes of Meningitis

Meningitis can be caused by:

Bacterial Infection: Sometimes bacteria can reach the closed-off meninges or the central nervous system via the blood, or if nearby tissues are infected, such as a severe inner ear infection or sinusitis. Infection of the meninges can go undetected at first because the cerebral spiral fluid contains very few immune cells to raise an alarm. Once the alarm sounds, inflammation begins and bacterial meningitis presents with symptoms of headache and fever, and a positive result when a doctor tests for neck rigidity.

 Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency. It can lead to death or permanent disability. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you or someone else has meningitis.

The most common bacteria involved in bacterial meningitis are: S. pneumoniae, S. aueras, and N. meningitidis (also known as meningococcus). [2]

Viral Infection: Similar to bacterial meningitis, viruses can infiltrate the meninges through the blood or central nervous system. Herpes simplex virus type-2 may sneak its way into the meninges during a reactivation of latent infection and may cause reoccurring meningitis. Other possible viral infections in the meninges include coxsackieviruses and echoviruses, West Nile virus, varicella-zoster virus, HIV-1 and HIV-2.

Viral meningitis is generally less severe than bacterial meningitis, but still presents with a headache, fever and a positive result from neck rigidity tests. Seek medical attention IMMEIDATELY even if you believe you have viral rather than bacterial meningitis. [3]

Non-infectious causes: Non-infectious causes of meningitis also tend to cause less severe symptoms than bacterial meningitis, and are far less common. Anything that causes an increase in white blood cells or inflammation in the meninges can cause non-infectious meningitis. Some causes include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and it can even be a side effect from using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.  [1]

Causes of MeningitisNOTE: All causes of meningitis present with similar symptoms.

The only way to determine the cause is through medical testing. Treat ALL suspected cases of meningitis as a medical emergency and seek treatment IMMEDIATELY.

Symptoms of Meningitis

The most common symptoms of meningitis in adults are:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Neck stiffness. This particular type of stiffness can be confirmed by a medical professional by performing an  movement test.

Other possible symptoms of meningitis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Feeling unwell
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Non-blanching rash – that means that the rash's red spots do NOT turn white when the skin is pressed. To test the rash, press against it with a cold glass tumbler – look through the glass to see if the red spots turn white. If they remain red, it may indicate meningitis caused by meningococcus bacteria. Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY.

Young children may experience:

  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor feeding
  • Non-blanching rash (as discussed above)
  • Bulging of the fontanelle (in children under 6 months)
  • Leg pain
  • Cold extremities
  • Abnormal skin colour [1][2][3]

Natural Therapies to Support Meningitis Recovery 

IMPORTANT: Natural therapies are NOT adequate to treat meningitis. This serious condition requires IMMEDIATE medical attention. Improper treatment of meningitis can result in permenant disability and death.

The following may help to strengthen the immune system along with, or after, medical interventions. Speak to your doctor before taking ANY supplements.

Bed Rest

Natural Therapies to Support Meningitis Recovery Bed rest is essential for proper recovery from meningitis.

Your medical team will you know how long you should rest for. Generally, at least 1 – 2 weeks of convalescence in bed is recommended to give the body enough time to heal and prevent complications. [1]



Antibiotics are used to fight off bacterial meningitis. As a side effect, antibiotics may also destroy some of the beneficial bacteria that promotes gut health, resulting in symptoms of constipation and a decline in immune defences. Probiotics – the “good” gut bugs – can help to repopulate the gut after antibiotic treatment and strengthen the immune system [4].

CAUTION: There are cases where high doses of Lactobacilli probiotics have caused meningitis and sepsis [5]. Talk to a qualified integrative doctor and your physician before taking probiotics after or during meningitis.

To err on the side of caution, get your probiotics from fermented foods and beverages like greek yoghurt, kombucha, kim chi, tempeh and sauerkraut.
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HydrationThe immune system needs a lot of fluid during recovery from serious illness like meningitis. Taking in extra water can help to keep the bowels moving and prevent constipation during antibiotic therapy, too. Stay hydrated with plenty of water, low-sodium broths, soups, and even ice blocks. Natural electrolyte drinks or coconut water can help to quickly rehydrate the body in cases of mild dehydration – a recent study even showed that coconut water may have a very mild antibacterial action! [6]

Vitamin C

Studies have shown a link between vitamin C levels and meningitis. As a potent antioxidant, immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory nutrient, vitamin C may help to clean up any residual or opportunistic infections, and could relieve some symptoms of inflammation. It can also act as a laxative to treat antibiotic-induced constipation. [7][8]

If your doctors advise against taking vitamin C supplements, ask if food sources are safe – it's easy to boost your intake of vitamin C with kiwi fruits, red capsicums and lemons.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have a high affinity for the brain and central nervous system. They are able to reduce inflammation throughout the body, and have been shown to protect the brain and neuronal membranes against oxidative stress. There are no studies of the effects of taking omega-3s in meningitis recovery, but other evidence suggests that these fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation and strengthen the meninges to fight off recurrent infections [9].

Speak to your doctor before taking fish oil. Dietary sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids include flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


[1] Greenlee, J. E. (2017) Overview of Meningitis. Merck Manual Online Database Professional.

[2] Greenlee, J. E. (2017) Acute Bacterial Meningitis. Merck Manual Online Database Professional.

[3] Greenlee, J. E. (2017) Viral Meningitis. Merck Manual Online Database.

[4] Kechagia, M., et al. (2013) Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review. ISRN Nutr., 2013, 481651.

[5] Land, M. H. et al. (2005) Lactobacillus sepsis associated with probiotic therapy.

Pediatrics., 115, 178–181.

[6] Rukmini, J. N., et al. (2017) Antibacterial Efficacy of Tender Coconut Water (Cocos nucifera L) on Streptococcus mutans: An In-Vitro Study. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent., 7:2, 130 – 134.

[7] Hemilä, H. (2017) Vitamin C and Infections. Nutrients, 9:4, 339.

[8] Carr, A. C. & McCall, C. (2017) The role of vitamin C in the treatment of pain: new insights. J Transl Med., 15, 77.

[9] Dyall, S. D. (2015) Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Front Aging Neurosci., 7, 52.

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