Did you know, you probably have virus lurking in the shadows? It’s called the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and an estimated 90 percent of us have it. Fortunately, for most of us it lies dormant, like a sleeping giant. Only when something triggers EBV reactivation does this virus rear its ugly head.
Epstein-Barr virus is part of the herpes family and also known as human herpesvirus 4. Usually passed through saliva, EBV is the cause of infectious mononucleosis – also known as “mono” or “kissing disease.” Typically, teenagers come down with this condition and first notice there’s a problem when they experience extreme fatigue. Interestingly, extreme fatigue can also cause reactivated Epstein Barr virus symptoms.
Though there are many conditions where EBV is the cause or a trigger, extreme fatigue is a unifying symptom that occurs in most cases. Symptoms of an active Epstein-Barr virus, include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged spleen
- Swollen liver
- Emotional disturbances and stressors
- Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
How Epstein-Barr Virus Causes Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune conditions are caused when an overactive immune system begins attacking healthy tissue. We are learning more and more, what often sets off the immune system response in the first place can be a variety of infections, including EBV.
CD8+T cells are types of white blood cells your body uses to keep the EBV virus in check. When there’s an impairment or a deficiency of these cells, the EBV virus is free to run rampant. The amount of CD8+T cells you have can be negatively impacted by age, estrogen levels, and vitamin D deficiency, certain medications and treatments, and poor immune system function. This is important because autoimmunity is on the rise and we need a better understanding of its underlying causes.
If you want to know more about What to Do if You Have an Autoimmune Disease, check out my free guide.
So, what can be done to treat Epstein-Barr? If it’s so common, surely there’s a simple explanation or Epstein Barr virus cure? Actually, 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. The most important thing I find is to support the natural immunity and decrease exposures to environmental toxins and other infections. Let’s take a closer look.
Treating the Epstein Barr Virus
There is no known cure for the Epstein-Barr virus, and therefore treatments should focus on returning the creature back to it’s sleeping or dormant state. So, in order to treat EBV the approach needs to focus on getting the virus back in check, not killing it. This means manipulating the condition of your body – the environment where the Epstein-Barr virus lives.
When I discover a patient of mine has Epstein-Barr virus, here are the things I consider:
- Clean diet and proper nutrition – This reduces inflammation and immune system burden. We eliminate gluten, dairy, allergens, and start a plant-based Paleo diet. Sugar is one of the most powerful immunosuppressives so that must be eliminated at all costs.
- Heal the gut – Healing the gut is a priority for anyone dealing with EBV. Toxins can leak through damaged gastrointestinal lining and cause the immune system to overreact. This process is also known as endotoxemia, driven by LPS.
- Eliminate any infections – Check for any coexisting infections and work to treat these. I often think of it as “infectious burden” and work to decrease the load on the immune system.
- Reduce toxic burden – We are bombarded by tens of thousands of chemicals everyday, find out how to Reduce Your Daily Toxin Exposure. It is critical also to decrease total toxic load by eliminating any toxic exposures.
- Optimize detox pathways – This includes supporting the liver, kidneys, and colon and may be supported by various nutritional supplements and other homeopathic drainage remedies.
- Improving sleep habits – This is essential because so many repairing and detoxification processes occur during the deepest stages of sleep. I advise no less than 8 hours per night or as much sleep as required to wake up refreshed without an alarm clock.
- Reduce stress – Stress is a major cause of immune system dysfunction, it could even be what awakened your EBV in the first place. You must work to reduce stress – your health depends on it. Try prayer, meditation or spending time in nature. Self care must be a priority.
- Herbal supplements – Herbs such as Ashwagandha, licorice, St. John’s wort, lemon balm, ginseng, and holy basil may be used for immune system support and for their antiviral and adaptogenic properties.
- Supplements – I use these for suppressing EBV reactivation
- Monolauren: 1800 mg twice daily
- Olive Leaf: 1000-1500 mg twice daily
- L-Lysine: 1000-1500 mg twice daily
- Cat’s Claw tincture: 30-60 drops twice daily
When viruses diminish due to these treatments it isn’t because any of these things attack the virus, but instead they help put your body in a state that isn’t ideal for the virus to reproduce. Hopefully, this strengthens your immune system and returns this typically harmless virus back to it’s benign state.
Other more extreme therapies have have been tried in a few cases, with some success and include:
- Antiviral medication, Acyclovir or valcyclovir
- Immune cell therapy when used in a person after a transplant.
- Bone marrow transplant is an extreme therapy that has been documented in two life threatening cases.
- Cord blood stem cell transplants. This is a new but emerging treatment that may be very successful in tough cases.
Ineffective Epstein-Barr Treatments
Though I prefer to offer solutions to health conditions, I want to briefly touch on some treatment protocols of EBV are not effective because there’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding this virus. In general, the follow treatments only temporarily stop symptoms and only in some people:
- Antiviral therapy such as ganciclovir and vidarabine.
- Immunosuppressive agents such as cyclosporine and corticosteroids.
- Immunomodulatory therapy such as interferon alpha and interferon gamma.
- Cytotoxic chemotherapy such as anthracyclines, etoposide, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, and prednisone.
- Infusions of cytotoxic T and lymphokine-activated lymphocytes.
This isn’t to suggest that your doctor shouldn’t temporarily recommend some of these, however, none of these are by any means a Epstein Barr virus cure and you should proceed with extreme caution.
Find a Functional Medicine Doctor with Experience in Epstein-Barr Treatments
The science surrounding the Epstein-Barr virus is developing daily. If you think you might have a condition due to EBV, it’s important to find a doctor who’s experienced in conditions related to the reactivation of this virus. If you need help finding a functional medicine doctor, I’ve made a helpful guide to get you started – How to Choose a Good Integrative and Functional Medicine Doctor.
The Epstein-Barr virus is a significant condition I wish more people knew about – Share this article to spread awareness of this sleeping giant.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
Author:Dr. Jill C. Carnahan, MD, ABIHM, IFMCP
Dr. Jill is Your Functional Medicine Expert! She uses functional medicine to help you find answers to the cause of your illness and addresses the biochemical imbalances that may be making you feel ill. She'll help you search for underlying triggers contributing to your illness through cutting edge lab testing and tailor the intervention to your specific needs as an individual. She may use diet, supplements, lifestyle changes or medication to treat your illness but will seek the most gentle way to help your body restore balance along with the least invasive treatment possible. Dr. Jill is a functional medicine expert consultant and treats environmental and mold-related illness as well
What triggers EBV reactivation? ›
EBV reactivation is induced by chronic psychological stress with consequent weakening of the cellular immune response and is an important mechanism in the pathogenesis of various autoimmune diseases, cancers and CFS/ME.How do you get rid of Epstein Barr naturally? ›
Although no medicine can cure an EBV infection, you can take these steps at home to ease your symptoms: Get plenty of rest. Drink a lot of water and other liquids to stay hydrated. Suck on lozenges or ice pops, or gargle with warm salt water, to make your sore throat feel better.What does reactivation of Epstein Barr feel like? ›
Reactivated EBV typically looks like a prolonged flu without a significant fever, with symptoms such as: intense fatigue. swollen lymph nodes. muscle and joint pain.What vitamins should I take for Epstein-Barr? ›
Results. Our data provide evidence that high dose intravenous vitamin C therapy has a positive effect on disease duration and reduction of viral antibody levels. Plasma levels of ascorbic acid and vitamin D were correlated with levels of antibodies to EBV.What foods should you avoid with Epstein-Barr virus? ›
Sugary and processed foods will trigger inflammation in the body, worsening symptoms such as a sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue and liver inflammation. High carbohydrate foods (sugar and processed wheat) can also cause your blood sugar to fluctuate, leaving you tired, grumpy and craving sugar.What foods feed Epstein-Barr? ›
When the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) feeds off of its favorite foods such as wheat gluten, dairy products, eggs, and heavy...How do I know if my EBV is active? ›
Diagnosis. Diagnosing EBV infection can be challenging because the symptoms are similar to other illnesses. EBV infection can be confirmed with a blood test that detects antibodies. About nine out of ten of adults have antibodies that show that they have a current or past EBV infection.What doctor treats chronic Epstein-Barr virus? ›
You may be treated by a primary care provider (PCP), such as a family practitioner, an internist, or a child's pediatrician, for Epstein-Barr virus. If the symptoms of EBV become chronic, you may be referred to an infectious-disease specialist or an immunologist (also called an allergist/immunologist).How much lysine should I take for Epstein Barr? ›
Lysine: Lysine is an essential amino acid that is necessary for growth, tissue repair, and the normal production of hormones, antibodies, and digestive enzymes. Take 1 capsule (750 mg) once a day to prevent an outbreak and 3 capsules (3 x 750 mg) during an outbreak.Do eggs feed EBV? ›
To be completely clear, it's a myth that eggs "feed" the Epstein-Barr virus. "There is no evidence that eggs exacerbate EBV," Linsenmeyer says.
Are there any natural antivirals? ›
Due to its already proven antiviral properties and effectiveness, many scientists have started research on neem for discovering drugs against SARS‐COV‐2. Natural bioactive compounds, namely, methyl eugenol, oleanolic acid, and ursolic acid extracted from tulsi and neem act as inhibitors against SARS‐CoV‐2.How do you get rid of EBV forever? ›
There is no known cure for the Epstein-Barr virus, and therefore treatments should focus on returning the creature back to it's sleeping or dormant state. So, in order to treat EBV the approach needs to focus on getting the virus back in check, not killing it.Is reactivated EBV the same as chronic EBV? ›
Rarely, reactivated EBV may cause illness in people who have weak immune systems, such as those who have AIDS. Mononucleosis rarely leads to a serious condition called chronic active EBV infection, which is characterized by persistent illness more than six months after the initial mononucleosis diagnosis.”How long can you live with chronic active EBV? ›
Prognosis. Up to 2019 June, ten patients in CAEBV group died within 5 years of disease onset. The common direct cause of death included hemorrhage, disseminated intravascular coagulation and hemophagocytic syndrome. The average survival time is 21 months.Does vitamin C cure Epstein Barr? ›
In the study, the clinical data demonstrated that the injections of high dose vitamin C have the direct anti-viral activity and can be successfully used for treatment Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection.How can I boost my immune system fast? ›
- Stay up-to-date on recommended vaccines. ...
- Maintain a healthy diet. ...
- Exercise regularly. ...
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. ...
- Get plenty of sleep. ...
- Minimize stress. ...
- One last word on supplements.
Vitamin D repletion may reduce inflammation, complications and length of illness in infectious mononucleosis.Is Vitamin C good for mono? ›
Most of these patients had a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, with the rest being diagnosed as having mononucleosis, fatigue, or EBV infection. Results Our data provide evidence that high dose intravenous vitamin C therapy has a positive effect on disease duration and reduction of viral antibody levels.How do you rebuild your immune system after mono? ›
There are no medications that cure the infection. The only treatment is rest and strengthening your immune system through a healthy diet and appropriate nutrients. Most people recover fully from mononucleosis, although the illness can last several months and produce profound fatigue.How long does reactivated EBV last? ›
Treatment addresses the symptoms of the virus and symptoms should go away after two to four weeks. Once infected with the virus, it lives in your body in a dormant (sleeping) state, which means it can reactivate and wake up if your body triggers it via stress or a weakened immune system.
How long do Epstein-Barr flare ups last? ›
People who get symptoms from EBV infection, usually teenagers or adults, get better in two to four weeks. However, some people may feel fatigued for several weeks or even months. After you get an EBV infection, the virus becomes latent (inactive) in your body. In some cases, the virus may reactivate.How long can you live with chronic active EBV? ›
Prognosis. Up to 2019 June, ten patients in CAEBV group died within 5 years of disease onset. The common direct cause of death included hemorrhage, disseminated intravascular coagulation and hemophagocytic syndrome. The average survival time is 21 months.Is reactivated Epstein-Barr contagious? ›
If EBV is reactivated, the person becomes contagious. A person may be contagious even during the incubation period (see below).What foods feed Epstein-Barr? ›
When the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) feeds off of its favorite foods such as wheat gluten, dairy products, eggs, and heavy...Is reactivated EBV the same as chronic EBV? ›
Rarely, reactivated EBV may cause illness in people who have weak immune systems, such as those who have AIDS. Mononucleosis rarely leads to a serious condition called chronic active EBV infection, which is characterized by persistent illness more than six months after the initial mononucleosis diagnosis.”What doctor treats chronic Epstein-Barr virus? ›
You may be treated by a primary care provider (PCP), such as a family practitioner, an internist, or a child's pediatrician, for Epstein-Barr virus. If the symptoms of EBV become chronic, you may be referred to an infectious-disease specialist or an immunologist (also called an allergist/immunologist).What is considered a high EBV level? ›
According to the manufacturer's recommendations, EBNA-1 IgG levels <5 U/ml were considered negative, levels between 5–20 U/ml were considered equivocal, and levels ≥20 U/ml were considered positive.Do you have Epstein-Barr forever? ›
Most cases of mononucleosis are caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Once you're infected with EBV, you carry the virus — usually in a dormant state — for the rest of your life. Sometimes, however, the virus may reactivate. When this happens, you're not likely to become ill.Why is my EBV IgG so high? ›
If an individual is asymptomatic and negative for VCA-IgG, then that person has likely not been previously exposed to EBV and is vulnerable to infection. In general, rising VCA-IgG levels tend to indicate an active EBV infection, while falling concentrations tend to indicate a recent EBV infection that is resolving.How do I know if I have chronic active EBV? ›
It is diagnosed based on the symptoms, clinical exam, and blood tests that show EBV DNA remaining at high levels for at least 3 months. Some people with fatigue alone are mistakenly thought to have CAEBV. Very specific testing looking for the level of EBV DNA is necessary to diagnose CAEBV.
What organs does EBV affect? ›
EBV infection can affect a person's brain, spinal cord, and nerves.What autoimmune diseases are linked to EBV? ›
Here is the complete list of diseases believed to be associated with EBV:
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
- Celiac disease.
There is no known cure for the Epstein-Barr virus, and therefore treatments should focus on returning the creature back to it's sleeping or dormant state. So, in order to treat EBV the approach needs to focus on getting the virus back in check, not killing it.