The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) & Autoimmune Connection
You may have heard of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) which causes mononucleosis, also known as the “kissing disease.” 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.
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 with supplements and stress relief practices to keep this tricky virus 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 most known for causing mononucleosis, 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 common EBV is. Up to 95% of US adults have contracted the virus by the age of 40. Most acquire it much earlier as children, teenagers or young adults. 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 regarding its connection to autoimmunity. It correlates to various autoimmune conditions, including chronic fatigue, lupus, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). The correlation between EBV and MS, and EBV 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 not known how exactly EBV and other infections trigger autoimmune disease. There may be multiple factors involved. Three leading theories that explain the connection are:
- 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 a cycle of immune responses.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 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 of 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 get lost in the conventional medical system. Lastly, after the initial infection, EBV becomes 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 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.
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 pneumonia antibodies—all of which play a role in the development of an autoimmune condition. You can order this test for yourself online and find a registered dietitian near you to have your results reviewed.
The Conventional Approach to Treating Latent Viral Infections
Conventional treatment for EBV includes antiviral drugs, steroids, and immunosuppressive drugs. Unfortunately, antivirals and other conventional treatments are not very effective for chronic EBV.10
These harsh medications also 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 certainly contributed to the development of Graves’ disease during medical school.
After harsh treatment and a thyroid ablation, I discovered a natural way to reverse autoimmunity, tame my EBV, and regain full health. It became my mission to help others reverse their autoimmunity naturally so that they don’t experience what I did. I’ve helped thousands of patients at my clinic and tens of thousands more around the world overcome their autoimmune conditions by addressing underlying infections such as EBV.
How to Tackle EBV Naturally
You can support your body with supplements to protect your immune system and discourage the development or exacerbation of autoimmune conditions. These supplements are the ones I recommend to keep EBV in check and address other underlying infections.
- 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.
- Lauricidin: Lauricidin is used to treat infections including the cold, the flu, herpes, and EBV. It helps to boost your immune system and combat 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 avoidable, you can minimize its impact on your health by managing and relieving your stress, allowing your immune system to calm down and your body and mind to regain balance.
Adopting stress-relieving strategies can make a huge difference in your life. With regular practice, you will see the results. 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 fight-or-flight response during emotionally stressful situations.12
- Music: Even the simple act of listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels. Playing your favorite song can enhance your happiness and calm your mind.13
- Gentle exercise: Yoga, tai chi, and walks in nature will help you lower your stress levels and be present. Connecting with yourself and your surroundings is an excellent tool for relaxation.
- Meditation: Meditation is one of the simplest ways to reduce stress and bring inner peace. Even 5 or 10 minutes a day can help. Other methods of meditation include mantras, guided meditations, body scanning, mindfulness techniques.
- Adrenal Support: This supplement is a tool to support your adrenal glands while you address the root cause of your stress. Adrenal Support promotes a balanced physical and emotional response to stress with adaptogenic herbs, Vitamin C, L-Tyrosine, and key B vitamins in their most bioavailable forms.
Now that you understand the connection between the EBV and autoimmunity, you can address the root cause of your symptoms. Key supplements and stress-relief are two of the most important steps 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.
For more information
I had the pleasure of speaking with Izabella Wentz about how infections contribute to autoimmunity. Together, we discuss the importance of testing for, identifying, and treating the infections that exacerbate symptoms of autoimmunity.
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