The Autoimmune Solution Pillar IV: Heal Your Infections and Relieve Your Stress

March 20th, 2015

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In The Autoimmune Solution,  I walk you through the four pillars of my protocol for preventing and reversing autoimmune disease. This is part four of a four-part series on each pillar. Read the other parts here:

Pillar I: Heal your gut.

Pillar II: Get rid of gluten, grains, and legumes.

Pillar III: Tame the toxins.

Pillar IV: Heal your infections and relieve your stress.


When I see a patient who has not experienced full reversal of their symptoms after simultaneously addressing Pillar I (Heal Your Gut) and Pillar II (Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes), I know we’ve got more work to do. Once Pillar III (Tame the Toxins) has been addressed, and I’ve determined that toxins aren’t the issue, I turn to the next piece of the puzzle: underlying infections and stress.


Autoimmunity and Infections

In Pillar I, I talked about gut infections such as Candida overgrowth and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). But some infections associated with autoimmune disease are caused by viruses. Some common culprits I see in my clinic are:

Herpes simplex (HSV): This is the virus that gives you cold sores and/or genital herpes. It’s very common: about 90% of Americans have one or both types of HSV, although they might not show symptoms. 

Epstein-Barr (EBV): EBV is the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis. 95% of all US adults contract this virus by age 40. You’ve likely had mono at some point, even if you don’t remember, because it’s often misdiagnosed as the flu or strep throat.

EBV is the infection that has been studied the most extensively in connection with autoimmune disease, and it has been strongly correlated with multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), lupus, fibromyalgia, Graves’ disease, and Sjögren’s syndrome. 70% of healthy children test positive for EBV–in children with lupus, the rate of EBV infection is closer to 99%. 100% of people with MS test positive for EBV.

Whether or not you have an autoimmune disease, it’s very likely you’ll test positive for one or both of these infections. What’s more is that if you have an autoimmune disease, you will have a higher “viral load,” or a higher level of the virus in your blood, making it more likely that the infection will be retriggered.

Several bacterial infections are also associated with autoimmunity. Yersinia is associated with autoimmune thyroid conditions, and Klebsiella infections have been implicated in rheumatoid arthritis. These are the few infections with which I do recommend antibiotics to my patients–for a full list, see The Autoimmune Solution. When a patient isn’t getting better on the first pillars of The Myers Way®, I always consider the possibility that they could have another bacterial infection: Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Spirochaetes, and it shares many similarities to autoimmune diseases. Many people are misdiagnosed with autoimmune disease or another inflammatory condition, like chronic fatigue syndrome, when the underlying issue is actually Lyme. Of course, it’s also possible to have both Lyme disease and autoimmunity at the same time, which is why it is so crucial to be properly tested. It’s estimated that 50% of those who test negative to Lyme on conventional tests are false negatives, meaning they have actually been infected with Lyme. If you suspect you may have Lyme disease, I recommend a test called iSpot Lyme or Igenex which are more accurate than conventional testing. Any practitioner should be able to order it for you. I list more resources in The Autoimmune Solution for those who suspect Lyme disease.


How Do Infections Cause Autoimmunity?

Viruses like EBV and HSV don’t leave your system. When your immune system is healthy, it keeps the viruses in check, but when it is suppressed by stress or illness, the infection can become active once again. Once the virus is active, the inflammatory immune response damages tissue, which then causes more inflammation and a bigger response from the immune system. Autoimmune disease develops from that chronic state of inflammation.


The Stress Connection 

Stress can be emotional, mental, or physical; it can come from physical injury, sleep deprivation, exposure to toxins, leaky gut, or eating a diet full of inflammatory foods. The relationship between stress and infections is complex. I walk you through the science in The Autoimmune Solution, so I recommend going there if you want to dig in a little deeper. I want to highlight a few points here to help you understand the effect of stress on the body.


How the Body Responds to Stress 

Stress isn’t just a feeling. It’s an actual release of hormones that your body produces when it’s met with a challenge. The number one stress hormone is cortisol.

Think of the hormone cortisol like a chemical messenger. When you’re in a stressful situation, cortisol tells your immune system to gear up for a challenge. Your immune system responds by producing inflammation, and then cortisol signals your immune system to calm down when the danger has passed.

This system works really well when you encounter acute stress that happens suddenly and then passes. But too many of us are dealing with chronic stress: constant sleep deprivation, poor diets, long hours at work, problems in our relationships, the list goes on and on. When you have constant stressors in your life, your immune system never really gets to turn off. Your inflammatory immune response is activated for too long and eventually goes rogue, attacking your own bodily tissues. Pretty soon, your stress hormones try to suppress the response but go overboard, leaving you with a weakened immune system. Simultaneously, your body is inflamed and you are vulnerable to infections, including latent infections like EBV and HSV that never left your body in the first place. Each time these viruses are activated–when you have symptoms of mono or an outbreak of HSV–they replicate and damage more of your cells.

This begins a vicious cycle where the infection becomes active, it destroys tissue and provokes an even greater immune response, your body releases cortisol to calm it down, which triggers more infection, and so on.


Heal Your Infections, and Relieve Your Stress 

Addressing your infections and relieving your stress are necessary steps to get your immune system back to proper functioning:

Support your immune system with the other pillars of The Myers Way® that I outline in The Autoimmune Solution. Heal your gut, get rid of gluten, grains, and legumes, and tame the toxins to strengthen your immune system. A healthy immune system is your best defense against a reactivation of latent infections.

Decrease your viral load. Although infections like EBV and HSV don’t leave your body, you can take certain supplements to decrease your body’s viral load. This will make reactivation less likely. The two supplements I recommend are monolaurin and humic acid.

Adopt daily stress-relieving strategies. Our bodies were designed to handle acute stress. It may stress you out to sit in a long meeting, or to have an unpleasant phone call with an ex-spouse, but try to leave that behind you once you’ve left the situation. Let go of the stress once the challenge has been overcome, and allow your immune system to calm down. It does take practice, but it makes a big difference! In The Autoimmune Solution I give a long list of different ways to relieve your stress. Here are a few of my favorites:

    • Breathing: When you find yourself overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to connect with your breath. Concentrate on breathing in and out until your anxiety has calmed.
    • Dance: Just moving your body can help you literally “shake off” your stress.
    • Music: Amazingly, half an hour of listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels.
    • Gentle exercise: Try yoga, or a long walk in a natural setting–changing your environment can also help you get away from your stress.

Addressing your stress is just as big a part of your recovery from autoimmune disease as the first three pillars. For many, it’s the missing piece of the puzzle when they’ve done everything else right, but still aren’t seeing full resolution of their symptoms. You can find even more stress-relieving strategies and resources in The Autoimmune Solution.


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  • Brenda

    Thank you for this explanation on viruses. I had mono several times as a teen / 20 something and I had no real idea what I could be doing to keep it in check. I’ll be checking out those supplements soon!

  • Guest

    How common is it to have a false positive test for Lyme? I’ve tested positive twice, but the doctor ruled it out and I’ve been diagnosed with seronegative reiters disease.

    • It’s estimated that 50% of negative Lyme results are false negatives–meaning the person really does have Lyme.

  • Elaine Egidio

    I am trying to order these products as I had mono as a young adult
    However it is taking me to amazon, is this where I buy your product

    • Some of the products (like humic acid) are available on our store, others like my book and monolaurin are available on Amazon.

  • Cathy

    I am wondering if your book The Autoimmune Solution can help with candida overgrowth? And does the book tell the reader what tests you recommend for different stages and conditions of the healing process? Can the reader in turn take these test recommendations to their physician? I find most MD’s do NOT know what tests to run and or how to implement diet and supplements towards healing?! ;-/

    • Hi Cathy, yes I talk about Candida overgrowth extensively in my book!

  • Rebecca Schmidt

    Hi I have purchased your book and i am on Day 3. I am following the diet and all supplement protocols (inflammation/gut/SIBO/parasites) based on the tests in the book but i have one point of confusion. i know i have acute/reactivated EBV along with my Sjogren’s and EDS. do i start on day 1 fighting the infection with the luaricidin or do i wait 30 days and then start? i am concerned on overloading the system or starting prematurely i.e. b4 i build up my gut/immune system. i really , really appreciate your help. 🙂

    • Hi Rebecca! I see many, many patients experience 80% of healing by addressing the first pillars of my program (Heal the Gut and Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes). I recommend starting there, and then delving into the next pillars. You can also set up a wellness coaching session with my RD who can guide you through the process!

      • Rebecca Schmidt

        Thank you so much for your response! what a wonderful thing. I will definitely consider making a phone consult with your RD. Best, Rebecca

  • Amy,
    The timing of this post was perfect! I’ve had HSV for over a month now. I’ve never had cold sores before in my entire life, but I just can’t get rid of this infection. I’m using the over-the-counter Abreva because the symptoms were so bad and so painful and none of my home remedies were working. I’ve been taking lysine now for many weeks.

    My lips clear up, but if I eat anything that does not agree with me, they immediately flair up. It’s been somewhat of a blessing as I now know that chili powder and all nuts are inflammatory for me.

    I’m on an HPA Axis reset plan through Lynda Buitrago at Glen Depke’s office in CA. I’m also seeing a chiropractic neurologist, and am taking 5000mg of fish oil from Phamax per day along with high doses of human strain probiotics (also pharmax). I’m also taking silver hydrosol and aloe before each meal along with digestive enzymes and HCL pepsin.

    I take SO many supplements per day. At least 20-30. I can’t believe that I’m missing anything.

    I don’t know if I have an autoimmune disease but I suspect I do, and my chiro-neuro believes that I am making antibodies to my cerebellum (brain).

    My body just can’t seem to shake this infection and you’re the only one who has ever connected it with an autoimmune condition. Do you really believe that the supplements you listed will help me that much? Or would you go for more of an intravenous drip of heavy doses of vitamins at this point (via my naturopath)?

    I eat zero gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, and tolerate very few foods. I live off of bone broth, chicken, a little rice, vegetables and some fruit.

    Any insight you have would be much appreciated as I feel like you gave me this great information and I’m just not sure what to do with it. Thanks in advance!
    Alison (I’m a fellow blogger, BTW!

    • Wow, Allison–that is so interesting that because of this, you’ve been able to identify food sensitivities such as chili and nuts! I’ve had success with the supplements mentioned above, and I don’t do IV vitamins here at my clinic so I don’t have much experience with their effectiveness. I will say if you are interested in some extra guidance, I’d recommend setting up a Wellness Coaching session here with our RD LD. It’s not the same as becoming a patient, so it’s a little more flexible and can be a great adjunct to the treatments you are already undergoing. Wishing you great health!

  • Anita

    If one has HSV, should Monolaurin and Humic Acid be taken every day for the remainder of days of life on earth?

    • I doubt it–When the other factors are addressed and the immune system is stronger, I don’t see why it would need to be taken every single day for the rest of your life

  • Rob

    Perfect time for me to thank you for sharing Your Auto Immune Summit with everybody. Thank you.

    I honestly believe that almost any network could swap you in for one of their regular news broadcasters and nobody would know it wasn’t your day job. I thought you did a really great job!

    I can’t remember the name the Naturopathic Dr who was a guest on your summit but I did follow the advice he gave to some of his patients regarding anti-virals. Even while following a no gluten/dairy etc.etc etc. I would still tend to break out with HSV about every 2-3 months. I went heavy on the humid acid and monolaurin for about two months. As he said might happen, I had a big initial break out right away and then a smaller one a few weeks later. Both healed unusually faster than normal. Die off!? It’s been about 5-6 months since and I’ve been free and clear the whole time. I feel like it WAS the humid acid/mnlrn as I’ve been really lax on my diet since x-mas without any flares. I’m going to do a maintenance dose in a month or so in the hopes that I can get get rid of this for good.

    • Hi Rob! I’m so glad you found the summit helpful!! I believe the speaker you’re referring to is Antony Haynes.

  • Gillian

    Can burning mouth syndrome be considered an autoimmune disorder?

  • Gillian

    And are keloids that formed after surgery and grow as thick skin under my finger nails also autoimmune disorders?

  • Kasheena Shropshire

    Hi Dr. Myers. I listened to the Auto immune solution. Very impressive and well written. There were a few things I want to actually visually see. The audio version doesnt seem to allow me to see the book and listen to it. I can only listen to it. Is this to be expected?

  • robin Brown

    I have had Sjorgens for many years and want to try your food plan to reverse or manage my symptoms. I am already thin and am afraid with this diet I will lose weight. I also use xylitol mints for my dry mouth and don’t know of any healthy alternatives. If you have any insights i would greatly appreciate your advice.

    • Rebecca Schmidt

      I have Sjogrens and am very thin. I started her 30 day plan two weeks ago. I lost 7 lbs and got way too thin. So I supplemented by adding a weight gainer shake bc I had to and I eat a whole avocado per day. Gained 3 lbs back so I am heading in the right direction. I do feel much better on the diet. My dry mouth got worse the 1st 2 weeks but now much better this week 🙂

      • robin Brown

        Thank you so much for your reply.are the ingredients in the shake fine for the diet, the ones I see on line have a lot of unhealthy ingredients. Also have you come across anything healthy to suck on for dry mouth?

        • Rebecca Schmidt

          Hi Robin, sorry for the delay :/ The shake i use is called MRM Weight Gainer on amazon. It is all natural and has 350 calories per serving. 2 shakes gives you 700 extra calories per day which is a big jump! she does not have whey as approved but i had to make a choice between unhealthy weight or manage my weight with something i know i don’t react to. she has a shake also, it seems tho it also has ingredients that aren’t used for the 1st 30 days. I am towards the end of the 4th week and I feel so great 🙂 I have other thoughts and such on Sjogrens and diet as i have done many and it would be great to have a ‘sjogren’s buddy’ to support each other in the process, if you are interested. if you would like that, you can reach me at frauleinschmidt at gmail dot com. also, i have only tried one dry mouth drop called Salese and it didn’t work for me. i ordered the stress losenges she recommended to give it a try. i can let you know 😉 Best of luck..

          • robin Brown

            Hi rebecca, I responded to your email but I am not sure if you received it? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]

    • Hi Robin, I would definitely recommend my program in The Autoimmune Solution–it’s the same program I use for my patients in my clinic. Also, you may find this article on Sjögren’s helpful:

      • robin Brown

        Dr. Myers, can you let me know which protein powder for smoothies you recommend when following the diet from your book the autoimmune solution. thank you

  • Jeff Borden

    Hello, Dr. Myers:

    Thanks so much for all the great information you provide for free. You’re truly a blessing to so many people.

    Have you had much experience/success with Lyme disease?

    I was bitten in December of 2014 and sent the tick to LabCorp for testing. While I waited for the result, I started a 10-day course of Doxycycline. After a few days, the lab reported the tick was infected. So, after I finished the initial 10 days of Doxycycline, I had a 16-day break and then took another 15-day course.

    Before the bite, I had already been dealing with extreme fatigue, joint and muscle aches, unusual sensations in my chest, and some seemingly neurological-related matters. Now, after the bite, I’m having more issues and finding it difficult to tease-out whether or not the tick bite is related. I never got the EM rash, but I understand that not everyone (that’s infected) gets it.

    I’ve been to many Doctors — my Primary Care Physician, Rheumatologist, Cardiologist, Osteopathic, Chiropractic, Integrative, and Functional Medicine.

    Not surprisingly, every test I’ve had through “conventional” channels, my results are always “Normal.” Never mind that I feel terrible and I’m obviously NOT normal. They treat the lab results and not the patient.

    Via the Integrative Doctor, I’ve started taking:

    * 50-gram infusions of intravenous Vitamin C
    * 1,500 mg of Lysine each morning (on an empty stomach)
    * 1,800 mg of Monolaurin daily with food

    I’ve also heard of people using Ozone to help with treating Lyme, though I’ve not tried it.

    I’d welcome any general thoughts you might be able to share.