Epstein Barr Virus and Autoimmune Disease - Paula Owens, MS

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Epstein Barr Virus and Autoimmune Disease

Epstein Barr Virus and Autoimmune DiseaseEpstein Barr Virus (EBV) is one of the most common viruses. It’s a member of the herpes group of viruses including HSV 1 and 2, Varicella zoster virus (shingles, chicken pox), Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Pseudorabies virus. A common factor of these viruses is their stress on the immune system, and their ability to remain dormant in the body for life even after the initial infection.

Epstein Barr Virus

Infection with Epstein Barr is inevitable in humans. Estimates are that 95% or more of the population carry antibodies to Epstein Barr virus. Those infected with EBV during adolescence or young adulthood may develop infectious mononucleosis (mono). Although symptoms of mono usually clear up after a couple months, EBV will remain dormant in the body for the rest of a person’s life.

Epstein Barr virus is normally spread through saliva and other bodily fluids. During pregnancy, the virus can be transmitted to the unborn baby. It can be spread unknowingly by daycare workers, teachers, grandmas, and college students.

Epstein Barr is a key player in autoimmune disease and chronic illness. It is a contagious, highly infectious, opportunistic disease allowed by a weak immune system; it can be contracted from an infected carrier, overuse and abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.

Periodic reactivation of Epstein Barr may occur, but usually doesn’t cause symptoms or illness in healthy individuals with strong immune function. But, if you’re experiencing a vast amount of stress, or you’re pregnant, or have a weakened immune system, EBV and other viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) can become problematic. CMV is spread by direct contact of body fluids, such as saliva, blood, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. CMV is the most common virus transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn child.

Most people have been exposed to Epstein Barr by age 40. Many people don’t realize they have been infected because they never feel sick.

But, in those with compromised immune function, reactivation of a dormant EBV infection tends to create more severe problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, MS, thyroid disorders, mitochondrial damage, Lyme, schizophrenia, pleurisy, development of autoimmune diseases, cancer and increased risk of Hodgkin’s disease.

Epstein Barr Virus and Autoimmune Disease

Gut dysbiosis, underlying infections (both, viral and bacterial), leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and toxin overload are major factors in autoimmunity.

People with autoimmune conditions have an elevated microbial load, disrupted microbiome, mitochondrial dysfunction from toxin exposures, and nutritional deficiencies. As the pieces to the autoimmune puzzle are identified, the root causes can be addressed systematically by peeling away the layers of the onion, and building a strong foundation through diet, nutrition, toxic exposure elimination, lifestyle and environment interventions.

A viral protein found in EBV-infected human cells may activate genes associated with an increased risk for autoimmunity. [Nature Genetics] The Epstein Barr Virus attacks the beta cells of the pancreas leading to type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune conditions.

Studies have shown high viral loads of active EBV in a high percentage of patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune hepatitis, MS, autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s and Grave’s), inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), and other chronic autoimmune diseases. [Autoimmune Dis. 2012]

A longitudinal study determined that the strongest known risk factor for multiple sclerosis is infection with EBV. Compared with healthy controls, the hazard of developing MS is approximately 15 times higher among individuals infected with EBV in childhood, and about 30 times higher among those infected with EBV in adolescence or later in life. [Expert Rev Neurother, 2013; 13(12 Suppl): 3-9]

5 Categories of Viruses

Dr. Alex Vasquez, a researcher, and a doctor of naturopathic medicine, chiropractic and osteopathy classifies five categories of viruses:

Epigenomic viruses are often common viruses like herpes, Epstein Barr, cytomegalovirus (CMV), human papilloma virus (HPV), etc. Most of the population contain these viruses although the immune system keeps them inactive unless a major stressor occurs and they become active. This group exists outside of our DNA.

Endogenous viruses are sometimes called human endogenous retroviruses that are embedded in our DNA. Science tells us we may not have the full virus, but there are fragments of the virus such as the capsule that can cause inflammation.

Bacteriophages are another category of viruses that don’t infect us directly but target the bacteria in our gut. The bacteria in our gut have a major influence on both inflammation and our immune response. In both lupus and Crohn’s disease, researchers found almost twice as many bacteriophages in the gut compared to a normal population.

Viral transactivation refers to the process where if one virus is activated it can create a domino or cascade effect activating other silent viruses. The body has many dormant viruses that our immune system keeps in check. However, when one virus is activated other dormant viruses can be activated and now the body is fighting multiple viruses at once.

Bacterial immune-suppression is based on the fact that some bacteria and fungi have immunosuppression functions, and as the immune system is suppressed previously protected or silent viruses become active. The combination of these viruses and bacteria create a type of poly-dysbiosis. Viruses add to the total microbial load that will create a total inflammatory load.

Natural Solutions for Epstein Barr Virus

Immune suppression and the link to Epstein Barr Virus

Any compromise in immune function can reactive the Epstein Barr virus. Therefore, the best natural solution to preventing reactivation of Epstein Barr is a strong and healthy immune system, which requires limiting, avoiding and correcting the various factors that compromise immune function such as . . .

  • Poor quality foods, ultra-processed foods, non-organic foods, and nutritionally-void diets
  • Deprivation of sunlight and low vitamin D levels exacerbate the CD8 genetic deficiency and impair control of Epstein Barr infection
  • Stressful life events such as divorce, loss of a job, moving, or death of a loved one
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Chronic physical, emotional and psychological stress
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Food allergies, food sensitivities
  • Prior mononucleosis infection or hepatitis infection not completely resolved
  • Methylation problems; impaired detoxification
  • Toxic chemicals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, chronic drug use (Rx, OTC and street drugs) and heavy alcohol use
  • Mercury poisoning from amalgam dental fillings or vaccines
  • Toxic emotions and negativity weaken the immune system
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Dysbiosis, gut bugs, leaky gut, congestive bile and poor digestive health. 80% of the immune system resides in the gut. Underlying parasite, fungi, yeast, Candida overgrowth, oral infections and bacterial infections are one of the main reasons why people are still sick with chronic viral infections (Epstein Barr, CMV, hepatitis or Lyme) after treating it for years. Dysbiosis adds to one’s total microbial load.
  • A 1997 study in the Journal Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology reported that EBV can be reactivated by electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

The four main strategies to prevent viral infections

  1. Anti-viral
  2. Anti-viral replication
  3. Immune boosting targeted nutrition support
  4. Cell system support

Nutrients to build immunity and slow the replication of viruses

With chronic EBV, other viral infections and challenging autoimmune conditions, aggressive therapies are often required short term followed by a maintenance protocol and overall lifestyle plan.

The goal is to build up cellular reserves long before the total microbial load reaches the threshold where inflammation overwhelms the entire system and a latent viral infection is reactivated and autoimmunity expresses itself.

  • Vitamin D (an emulsified form of vitamin D). Higher vitamin D levels are correlated with lower EBV IgG antibody levels.
  • Vitamin A
  • Thymus gland
  • Bio-FCTS, which has viral replicating inhibitory effects
  • Zinc and selenium
  • Curcumin
  • Lithium orotate
  • Omega-3s
  • Probiotics, sporebiotics, post-biotics and prebiotics
  • Proteolytic enzymes
  • Multi-vitamin and mineral complex to support immunity
  • L-glutamine powder
  • Reishi mushroom extracts
  • Liver, bile and gallbladder support
  • High dose vitamin C and vitamin C IV support
  • Sunlight – exposure to sunlight every single day and avoiding artificial light at night
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a sulfur-containing antioxidant and precursor to glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant made by the body.

NAC is one of the most cost effective ways to boost systemic glutathione levels. It is a potent antioxidant and immune booster with the ability to fight colds, the flu and a host of viral infections. NAC has powerful anti-viral replication properties. Those with active acute systemic viral infections require higher doses of NAC.

Lifestyle medicine prevents reactivation of Epstein Barr and other viral infections

Uncomplicated Epstein Barr infections rarely require more than supportive therapy and a healthy dose of lifestyle medicine that includes. . .

  • Using food as medicine; clean filtered water
  • Good sleep; avoiding screens 3 hours before bedtime
  • Sunlight exposure, especially early in the day; reset the natural circadian rhythm
  • Managing inevitable stressors
  • Breathing exercises
  • Strengthening vagal tone
  • Daily activity, exercise
  • Optimizing digestion and GI health, eradicating dysbiosis, supporting the microbiome
  • Reducing exposure to toxic chemicals, EMFs, and WiFi
  • Detoxing heavy metals
  • Correcting nutrient deficiencies with targeted nutrient therapy
  • Soul food and medicine for the mind (awareness of one’s thoughts, words, emotions and relationships) and how they impact healing and overall health
  • Alternative therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen, chiropractic, acupuncture, cold water immersion

For those with chronic reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus, the power to regain control of your health and feel better is in your hands. By making healthier choices and awareness of the immune suppressors and the profound impact that lifestyle medicine has on your overall health, you will strengthen your immune system so you can live in harmony with microbes like EBV.

Corticosteroids, prescription antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, and antihistamines are ineffective and have not shown clinical benefit compared to placebo for the routine treatment of mono.

High Energy Soup Recipe

This “High Energy Soup” is often helpful in restoring adrenal function, especially during active/chronic viral infections. It is high in minerals, calming and alkalizing to your system.

  • 4 cups organic greens beans
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup spring or filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons of raw, organic honey
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup organic chicken or veggie broth
  • Celtic sea salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and simmer on low heat for one hour or until veggies are tender.

Epstein Barr Virus: Test to Assess

  • CBC Blood Test can be ordered online through direct access testing. The blood chemistry pattern seen with a chronic virus is an increased lymphocyte >39 especially in conjunction with decreased neutrophils <40, which indicates a need to rule out viral infections
  • Comprehensive viral panel – viral antibody tests can be ordered online.
  • The EBV (Epstein Barr) PCR Qualitative test is also used as a screening for Epstein-Barr Virus. This test looks for the genetic material of the virus. PCR testing can be more sensitive than standard antibody testing for EBV. In cases when antibody tests for EBV fail to produce definitive results, a PCR test may be more useful. Results for this test are qualitative, meaning they provide a positive or negative response.

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