Most people think that once you’ve had mono, you will never hear from it again. I recently found out that the Epstein-Barr virus I had, was now reactivated. Initially when I found out I had EBV, it was after the fact. After giving birth to my daughter 14 years ago, I had presented to my doctors office with complaints of fatigue and swollen lymph nodes in my neck. My provider brushed it off and told me that my fatigue was due to being a new mom and that I needed to try and rest more and manage my stress. A year later upon getting a blood test due to fatigue that would not go away, my provider asked me, “when did you have mono”? I said, “I’ve never been diagnosed, but maybe it was when I came a year ago and was told that I was tired due to being a new mom.” Obviously, I was not happy and wondered how many other people had this same issue or had never even realized they had been infected with EBV or mono.
I gave birth to my second child last year and recently started experiencing the same feelings and fatigue I had with my daughter. Again, (I went to my OB/GYN (different provider altogether) who yet again brushed it off as not getting enough sleep and the stress of being a new mom again at age 38. After attempting to improve my sleep with the help of my family I still wasn’t feeling optimal, just slightly more rested. My mental health started to deteriorate again and it was causing problems in my relationship. This time I decided to see a Naturopath to get a full hormone panel and have them re-check my EBV antibodies.
Low and behold…my sex hormones, stress hormones, inflammation markers, and nutrients were all out of wack. Oh yeah and the EBV…was definitely reactivated! The only “normal” result I had was surprisingly my thyroid panel. My provider said my ability to handle stress was shot and immune system was essentially shutting down. She said this would continue to get worse if I didn’t make some significant changes soon. I felt so validated and that I was not crazy or lazy (like people had been making me feel). I could now address the real issues.
According to the CDC, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), also known as human herpesvirus 4, is a member of the herpes virus family. It is one of the most common human viruses. Most people will be infected with EBV at some point in their lives. EBV can cause infectious mononucleosis, also called mono, and other illnesses. What most people don’t know is that EBV can be reactivated and lead to numerous health issues later in life.
Epstein-Barr virus spreads from person to person through bodily fluids, most notably in saliva. This is why mononucleosis, one of the most well-known EBV infections, is known as the “kissing disease.” The infection usually does not cause any signs or symptoms to appear. However in teenagers and young adults, at least a quarter of EBV infections will cause mononucleosis, which can trigger fatigue, headache, fever, severe sore throat, emotional disturbances, mental stressors and swollen lymph nodes. Most people who have infectious mononucleosis will have it only once in their lifetime. Rarely, however, mononucleosis symptoms may pop up months or even years later.
Once you have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus, you carry the virus for life, but typically in a dormant state. Occasionally, however, the virus may be reactivated. When reactivated, EBV may cause illness in people who have weakened immune systems. Sometimes reactivated EBV can lead to a serious condition called chronic active EBV (CAEBV) infection, which is characterized by persistent symptoms and a viral infection that lasts long after the initial mononucleosis diagnosis.
Chronic active Epstein–Barr virus (CAEBV) disease is a rare disorder in which people are unable to control the viral infection. The disease is progressive with elevated levels of EBV DNA in the blood and infiltration of organs by EBV-positive lymphocytes. People will often experience fever, lymphadenopathy, splenomegaly, EBV hepatitis, or pancytopenia. If left untreated, these patients develop progressive immunodeficiency. Less common symptoms included pneumonitis, central nervous system disease, and periphery neuropathy.
Eventually people may succumb to opportunistic infections, hemophagocytosis, multiorgan failure, or EBV-positive lymphomas. The only proven effective treatment for the disease is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. This is not a disease to be taken lightly, so why is nobody talking about it?
In a study released by the National Institute for Health in 2018, it shows that an EBV protein has now been shown to “switch on” risk genes for autoimmune diseases. EBV may trigger some cases of Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel disease, Type 1 Diabetes, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Celiac disease. The study shows that a protein produced by the Epstein-Barr virus, called EBNA2, binds to multiple locations along the human genome that are associated with these seven diseases. The study also shows how environmental factors, such as viral or bacterial infections, poor diet, pollution or other hazardous exposures, can interact with the human genetic blueprint and have disease-influencing consequences.
Unfortunately not many doctors are aware of the ongoing issues this virus can cause and therefore do not regularly screen for the antibodies, nor would they bother to even ask if the patient has ever had EBV. Little research is available on this topic and the reach of this virus appears to be widespread. The science behind the disease is very complex and can be hard to understand as it deals with viral proteins, DNA, RNA, numerous immune system cells and how genes are expressed. There are many factors that impact this virus and the devastation is can cause. Blogger Elizabeth Rider tells her story about reactivated EBV and the book The Medical Medium, which hypothesizes that autoimmune conditions can in fact be caused by chronic viruses. Needless to say, this is now on my wish list.
The bad news is that EBV does not have a cure…yet. EBV is most often encountered in early childhood, so avoiding the virus is nearly impossible. There are a few things that can help alleviate symptoms and reduce how the virus wrecks havoc. According to an article by NCBI, “Immunosuppressive agents, such as corticosteroids and cyclosporine, are often used to temporarily reduce symptoms in patients with CAEBV. However, the underlying disease must also be treated and these agents have not been successful in curing patients with CAEBV.
Immunosuppressive agents can inhibit the immune response to EBV and may allow virus-infected cells to proliferate further. Immune cell therapy has been successfully used in the treatment of EBV lymphoproliferative disease that occurs after solid organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.” There are several other medical options, but most do not seem to make a big impact and a standard treatment approach has not been established .
Dr. Jill Carnahan out of Colorado, has a great list of things on her website to treat a reactivation of EBV. She mentions that, “the best way to tackle Epstein-Barr is similar to how we deal with an imbalance of gut microbes — manipulate the environment so balance is restored.” Things like eating a clean diet and proper nutrition, healing the gut, improving sleep habits and reducing stress can help treat the symptoms. Additionally, many herbs and supplements can boost your immune system and help prevent the virus from reactivating. These herbs and supplements include; zinc, ashwagandha and ginseng to help buffer stress and aid the immune system. Cat’s Claw tincture and L-Lysine to help suppress the virus.
Intravenous vitamin C therapy has also been shown to boost the immune system. You can even get an IV in the comfort of your own home with companies like Advanced Mobile IV Therapy (based in Arizona). Strengthening your immune system is key to helping your body return this virus back to it’s dormant state.
Blood ozone treatment can be a good alternative therapy to consider. It is a procedure by which ozone is mixed into the blood to increase the body’s cytokines. This will damage the cell walls of the virus and shut down its replication. Ozone can also boost your immune system itself. Since all viruses can encode themselves into our DNA, we cannot completely percent eliminate them. However, we can decrease their numbers and let the immune system reset back to a healthy balance.
If you feel like something is wrong and it seems like nobody believes you or brushes your symptoms off, get a second opinion. Keep looking for answers and make certain your healthcare provider is looking at the big picture…not just your symptoms.