Immune | February 19, 2018 | Author: Naturopath



Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening response to an infection in the blood. Your body sends a flood of chemicals into your bloodstream to fight the threat. This leads to widespread inflammation which, over time, can slow blood flow and cause damage to organs. Sometimes sepsis can progress to severe sepsis or septic shock. 

While sepsis refers to the widespread inflammatory response in the body, septicaemia is a medical term used to define the bacterial infection in the blood. While both terms may be used interchangeably—their definitions are technically different.


SepticaemiaWe all have a range of bacteria that live harmlessly in the body but if they reach the blood and the immune system is too weak to fight back this can lead to septicaemia. An infection in the blood usually occurs in someone with a pre-existing medical condition—such as a lung infection.

The bacteria usually involved include Escherichia coli, Pneumococcus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. In the right conditions, these bacteria multiply rapidly and release harmful toxins. Roughly 1 in 4 cases of septicaemia is fatal—particularly in the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.

Other terms used to describe septicaemia include blood infection and bacteraemia.

Symptoms of sepsis

If you have symptoms of sepsis you already have a serious infection and should seek medical attention immediately.

Early signs of sepsis include:

  • Fever
  • Feeling unwell
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate

Severe sepsis

Sepsis can be upgraded to severe sepsis if you exhibit one of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased platelet count
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abrupt change in mental status
  • Decreased urine output
  • Abnormal heart pumping function
  • Diarrhoea and nausea

Septic shock

If your blood pressure plummets and doesn’t respond to simple fluid replacement following severe sepsis this is a life-threatening condition referred to as septic shock. It’s a sign that your heart and circulatory system are beginning to fail—slowing blood flow to all your organs.

How does sepsis start

There are many different infections that can cause sepsis. Some possible causes include meningitis, a urinary tract infection, a skin infection called cellulitis, and peritonitis (an infection in your bowel).
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Infections can start in the hospital from intravenous lines, surgical sites and from bedsores. In fact, sepsis is common in people admitted to the hospital for other reasons.

Some of these infections result from "superbugs," which are types of bacteria that are resistant to many different antibiotics—MRSA is one example. These infections and the resulting sepsis are very difficult to treat.
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Medical treatment and early intervention is essential. You may be admitted to a monitored hospital bed or intensive care unit. Intravenous antibiotics are usually administered, along with IV fluids, oxygen and medicines to stop your blood pressure from dropping.

Recovering from sepsis

Support healthy immunity

If you have been given the ok from your doctor you could consider taking some nutritional and herbal medicines to support your body during and after an infection. Vitamin C, zinc, selenium garlic, echinacea, andrographis, propolis and turmeric are supplements which can help to fight off bacteria, provide antioxidant support and reduce inflammation. So far studies point towards zinc, selenium and propolis supplementation as playing a therapeutic role in preventing and treating sepsis.

Take probiotics

Probiotics support healthy immune system function by fighting off invading bacteria that can lead to infection.

Unfortunately, healthy bacteria levels are wiped out during antibiotic therapy—leaving the immune system even more compromised.

When safe to do so probiotics can be safely administered and help to speed up the healing process and prevent complications.

Rest your body

During a severe infection your body will be fatigued and depleted. This is a very vulnerable time as your immune system is still compromised and susceptible to another infection. It’s important to allow the body to physically rest to build up it’s strength again. In conjunction with rest, eating a nutritious diet will speed up repair. Make sure you’re eating fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and protein sources such as eggs, meat, fish and nuts. Easy to digest meals such as food that is steamed or pureed in a soup might be easier to digest.

Preventing sepsis

Don’t abuse antibiotics

One of the main causes of sepsis is the bacteria’s ability to resist antibiotics due to us as a society taking to many of them. Antibiotics are important for serious infections but are not the proper treatment method for viral infections such as the common cold or flu.

Wash your hands

Cleaning our hands regularly with warm soapy water is the most effective way to remove germs from our hands.

Proper hand hygiene is the most important factor in preventing the transmission of infections—especially antibiotic resistant infections.

Proper wound care

Even a tiny cut can lead to sepsis if it is not adequately cleaned and cared for. This can also include removing catheters and IV lines if they are no longer necessary.

Take a probiotic

Just as probiotics are important to take after antibiotics they can also be used as a preventative measure. One 2017 study found that pre-term infants who were administered a probiotic had a significantly reduced risk of developing late-onset sepsis. Lactoferrin, a normal component of human milk and colostrum, yielded similar results in clinical trials.

Another study in adults found that probiotic supplementation before and after colorectal surgery reduced the incidence of post-operative infectious complications such as sepsis.

Take home points

  • Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection
  • Medical attention should be sought immediately
  • There are preventative and treatment measures which include taking a probiotic, washing your hands and taking nutrients to boost immunity  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Mertens K, et al. Low zinc and selenium concentrations in sepsis are associated with oxidative damage and inflammation. Br J Anaesth. 2015 Jun;114(6):990-9

Korish AA, Arafa MM. Propolis derivatives inhibit the systemic inflammatory response and protect hepatic and neuronal cells in acute septic shock. Brazil J Infect Dis. 2011 Jul-Aug;15(4):332-8

Pammi MSuresh G. Enteral lactoferrin supplementation for prevention of sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jun 28;6:CD007137

Liu ZH, et al. The effects of perioperative probiotic treatment on serum zonulin concentration and subsequent postoperative infectious complications after colorectal cancer surgery: a double-center and double-blind randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;97(1):117-26

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