The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and Autoimmune Connection
August 29th, 2018
Chances are, you’ve heard of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) that causes mononucleosis, also known as the “kissing disease”. In fact, there is a very strong chance you contracted this virus in childhood or adolescence without even knowing it or being diagnosed! What you may not be aware of is the strong correlation between EBV and autoimmune conditions.
What’s more, EBV can remain dormant in your body for years before reactivating, which can then trigger or worsen autoimmune conditions.
The good news is that by discovering this missing puzzle piece in your health story, you can send EBV back into dormancy, remain symptom-free, and reverse your autoimmune condition naturally.
Let’s take a look at what EBV is, how it may be playing a role in your autoimmune condition, and how to support your immune system so that this tricky virus remains at bay.
What Is the Epstein-Barr Virus?
The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is part of the herpes family, which is the same group of viruses that can cause cold sores, genital herpes, chickenpox, and shingles. EBV is found in your saliva glands. It is most known for causing mononucleosis, also known as mono or the “kissing disease”. It can spread like wildfire through body fluids such as saliva, and also through sexual activities, organ transplant, and blood transfusion.1,2
You may be surprised to know how extremely common EBV is. Up to 95% of US adults have picked up the virus by age 40. Most acquire it much earlier, as children, teenagers or young adults as half of all children have it by age 5.3
You may be scratching your head right now if you can’t recall having mono. The truth is that while most people have EBV, many have never developed mono or have never shown any symptoms of it. There is a high chance that you were simply misdiagnosed with the flu or strep throat.
If you are among the 95% who have antibodies for EBV, it means that you’ve been exposed to the virus and it remains within your body for the rest of your life.
How EBV Can Trigger Autoimmunity
As I write in my New York Times bestseller, The Autoimmune Solution, EBV is one of the few infections that has been extensively studied in regards to its connection to autoimmunity. It has been correlated with various autoimmune conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). The correlation between EBV and MS and lupus is particularly significant. One hundred percent of people with MS have EBV, while those without the virus don’t seem to develop MS. Meanwhile 99% of children with lupus have EBV, whereas only 70 % of those without lupus have it.
It is still not known how exactly EBV and other infections can trigger autoimmune disease. It seems that there are multiple factors involved. There are three leading theories that explain the connection:
- Molecular mimicry: This happens when your immune system attacks the infection. It may accidentally attack your tissues as well because it mistakes it for the structurally similar infection.5
- Bystander activation: When this happens, the virus invades your organs. As a response, your immune system sends immune cells to kill the infections. However, it ends up injuring your own tissues in the process. This creates inflammation that leads to the cycle of further immune response.6
- Cryptic antigens: This could be called the ‘hijacking theory’ because the infection essentially hijacks your cells’ DNA to hide from your immune system. Though your immune system can still identify the virus, it ends up attacking your cells along with the virus.7
A recent study has also found a connection between EBV, your genes, environmental factors, and autoimmunity. It turns out that EBV-infected human cells may turn on certain genes that can cause autoimmune conditions. As immune cells called B lymphocytes get activated to fight viral infections, virus proteins can bind onto the human genome and increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. The virus may also be able to take control over your immune system through these proteins.8
You may wonder why 95% of the population has EBV, yet far fewer people have an autoimmune condition.
One way to explain this is the autoimmune spectrum. Even if you don’t have an autoimmune condition, you may be at risk of developing one depending on your health history, diet, lifestyle, genetics, and environment. More often than not, autoimmune conditions go undiagnosed for many years because of seemingly unrelated symptoms and by simply getting lost in the conventional medical system. Lastly, after the initial infection, EBV goes dormant and may or may not be triggered later on.
Testing for Underlying Infections
Your doctor can order a test for EBV antibodies to see if you’ve had the infection. Conventional medical testing includes both a complete EBV acute panel and a chronic infection panel to ensure reliable results.9
It is also possible to check for the presence of the virus, however, the emphasis is generally on acute and chronic infections to understand whether or not the virus is actively replicating.
For the most comprehensive test for EBV and other common infections that have been linked to autoimmunity, I recommend my infection panel on mylabsforlife.com. Along with an Epstein-Barr Virus Antibody Panel and EBV DNA, this test also checks for Lyme disease antibodies, the Herpes virus (HSV ½ IgG and HSV 6 antibodies), cytomegalovirus antibodies, and chlamoydophila pneumoniae antibodies, all of which play a role in the development of an autoimmune condition.
You can order this test for yourself online and book a Wellness Coaching session with my registered dietitian to have your results reviewed.
The Conventional Approach to Treating Latent Viral Infections
Conventional treatment for EBV includes antiviral drugs, as well as steroids and immunosuppressive drugs. Unfortunately, antivirals and other conventional treatment are not very effective for treating chronic EBV.10
More importantly, these harsh medications can cause harmful side effects, leaky gut, and other complications. The true solution to overcoming autoimmunity is to support rather than suppress your immune system so that it can regain optimal function and stop attacking your body’s own tissues.
Fortunately, it is absolutely possible to send EBV into dormancy, remain symptom-free, and reverse your autoimmune condition in the process.
If you are someone who has EBV and is dealing with autoimmunity, I understand how you feel. The effects of EBV have not escaped me either. I developed mono during adolescence and it most certainly contributed to my developing Graves’ disease during medical school.
It was only after receiving harsh treatment and ablating my thyroid that I discovered a natural way to reverse autoimmunity (including taming my EBV) and regain full health. It became my mission to help others to reverse their autoimmunity naturally. Since then I’ve helped thousands of patients at my clinic and tens of thousands more around the world to overcome autoimmune conditions by addressing underlying infections, such as EBV, gut imbalances, diet, and lifestyle factors.
How to Tackle EBV Naturally
Lysine: Lysine is an essential amino acid that is necessary for growth, tissue repair, and the normal production of hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. Take 1 capsule (750 mg) once a day to prevent an outbreak and 3 capsules (3 x 750 mg) during an outbreak.
Lauricidin: Lauricidin is used to treat infections (including the cold, the flu, herpes, and EBV), to boost your immune system, and to treat chronic fatigue syndrome. Start with ¼ teaspoon 2 – 3 times a day working up to 1 teaspoon 2 – 3 times a day.
Humic Acid: Humic acid can fuel your body with an abundance of minerals and fight viruses effectively.11 Start with 1 capsule (750 mg) twice a day working up to 2 capsules (1500 mg) twice a day.
Stress weakens your immune system, making latent infections more likely to activate. In today’s modern world, most of us are dealing with chronic stress due to our busy schedules and never-ending commitments. While stress may not be fully avoidable, the key to minimizing its impact on your health is to learn to manage and relieve your stress, allowing your immune system to calm down and your body and mind to regain balance.
Adopting daily stress-relieving strategies can make an enormous difference in your life. Though it takes regular practice, it makes a huge difference.
Here are a few of my favorite stress-relieving strategies:
Breathing: Take a moment to connect with your breath and focus on deep, steady breathing. Counting your breaths helps you tap into your brain’s “emotional control regions,” which can tame your flight-or-flight response during emotionally stressful situations.12
Dance: Moving your body can literally ‘shake off’ your stress. Dancing is a free movement that creates joy and freedom. Turn on your favorite song and dance your stress away.13
Music: Even just listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels. Playing your favorite song can enhance your happiness and calm your mind.14
Gentle exercise: Yoga, tai chi, gentle swimming and walks in nature can help you lower your stress levels, be present, and connect with yourself and your surroundings.
Meditation: Meditation is one of the simplest ways to reduce stress and bring inner peace. Even 5 or 10 minutes a day can help. You can use mantras, guided meditations, body scanning, mindfulness techniques, visualizations, or other methods of meditation for the same stress-busting benefits.
Now that you understand the connection between the Epstein-Barr Virus and autoimmunity, you can address the root cause of your symptoms and overcome chronic health issues. Adding in some key supplements and relieving your stress are two of the most important steps you can take to recover from infection and autoimmune disease. You can find more resources and tips on tackling EBV and reversing autoimmune disease in my Autoimmune Solution Program and my book, The Autoimmune Solution.